Keanu Reeves has not only earned respect from the operator community for his tactical dedication, he’s also managed to charm his way into the hearts of everyone who isn’t dead inside. And then, of course, there’s the fact that he’s the face of multiple fandoms from The Matrix to John Wick to Bill & Ted.
He’s such a good guy — and he’s so good at what he does — that it’s just plain fun to adore him, which made this year’s Comic-Con@Home all the more delightful. While celebrating the 15th anniversary of Constantine and the upcoming release of Bill Ted Face the Music, Reeves really brightened up the doldrums of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s nothing like…I mean, I can’t feel or laugh or do anything like the way that working on Bill Ted and working with Alex [makes me feel]. That doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world for me. So to partner up and work on the craft side of it and get to play, get to play these characters that Chris [Matheson] and Ed [Solomon] have created….there’s no other place where I can laugh like this,” he shared.
Everything Reeves says is incredibly genuine and is he single?
Reeves gushed on and on about his favorite moments from Constantine. “Getting to work with such extraordinary artists…” he beamed. “Production design was great. And the crew! Peter Stormare, as I’m bleeding out, and he’s leaning in to me! Philippe Rousselot was the cinematographer. Throwing down with Tilda Swinton as she’s choking me…”
Steve ‘Frosty’ Weintraub complimented Reeves for how awesome and gracious he is to the crew. He then asked Reeves how he stays grounded, and of course even Reeves’ response was, well, grounded. “That’s kind of you to say, Steve. I don’t know. I love what I do and I like going to work and I like being creative. We’re all in it together. Go play and have some fun.”
Elon Musk is pushing SpaceX’s more than 7,000 employees to not waste any time after its first crewed space launch.
A little over a week ago, the rocket company successfully sent two astronauts to the International Space Station on an historic mission that may last nearly four months. But now the CEO is directing SpaceX to quickly switch gears, according to an internal email first obtained and reported by CNBC.
Musk told SpaceX employees to work full steam ahead on Starship, a reusable rocket designed to one day land on the moon for NASA and take up to 100 people at a time to Mars.
“Please consider the top SpaceX priority (apart from anything that could reduce Dragon return risk) to be Starship,” Musk wrote in the email, according to the report.
SpaceX did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for confirmation and comment on the email.
But Musk has said the company may need to build about 20 large prototypes before SpaceX can attempt to launch one into orbit.
To the moon, Mars, and beyond
In hopes of speeding up Starship’s progress, Musk’s email alluded to incentivizing employees from the company’s Los Angeles headquarters and Florida facility to “consider spending significant time” in Boca Chica, Texas, where Starship’s production complex is. (Business Insider previously reported the rocket company was hiring a project coordinator to help run a “SpaceX Village” with 100 rooms, lounge parties, volleyball tournaments, rock climbing, and more.)
Before a high-profile presentation about Starship from Boca Chica, Musk received pressure in September from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. Bridenstine tweeted about his excitement for Starship but said it was “time to deliver” on sending astronauts to space using the older Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 system.
Now that Behnken and Hurley are in orbit, Musk appears intent on putting SpaceX’s full force into Starship. The system is in the running with NASA to land astronauts and supplies on the moon in the mid-2020s.
On Friday, Musk also confirmed that he still hoped to launch the first crew to Mars in a Starship vehicle in mid-2024 — ostensibly as the start of an effort to populate the red planet.
In 1917, artist James Montgomery Flagg created his most famous work, a recruiting poster for the U.S. Army featuring a white-haired, white-whiskered man in an old-timey (even by the standards of the day) top hat, coat, and tie in bold red, white, and blue colors. Inspired by similar recruiting posters in Europe at the time, the poster was adapted to appeal to everyday Americans, along with their sense of individuality and patriotism. It has become one of the most enduring symbols of the United States military.
And it’s basically a portrait of Flagg himself.
And that’s how you achieve immortality.
Flagg’s stock in trade was creating cartoons, illustrations, and drawings for publications of all sorts. He worked for advertising firms, newspapers, book publishers, and other creators who required illustrations such as Flagg’s. He was commissioned to create the cover for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper in 1916. It was a weekly publication that pioneered the use of early photography to illustrate American life during its 70-plus year run, and he used himself as a model. Hearkening back to the early days of the magazine, he chose to depict himself as an older gentleman in an outdated, if colorful outfit.
The headline of that week’s issue was “What Are You Doing For Preparedness?” He decided to make the poster a reference to a then-famous recruiting poster for the British Army, one that depicted the famous Field Marshal Lord Herbert Kitchener, pointing at the viewer and telling them they’re wanted in the British Army, using the likeness of Uncle Sam in the place of Kitchener.
As for the origin of Uncle Sam, the true origin is disputed. A resolution from Congress in 1961 declared that an Upstate New York meat inspector named Sam Wilson was the original Uncle Sam. Wilson was a Continental Army veteran from Troy, New York, who provided rations to the Army during the War of 1812. It’s not known whether Wilson’s appearance was the inspiration for the rest of Uncle Sam’s appearance, but Flagg’s depiction of himself as Uncle Sam certainly stood the test of time.
Flagg’s painting was reused again as a recruiting tool during World War II, and the notoriety from his work earned him a place as one of the top illustrators of the day, working for the best magazines and newspapers who could afford work like his. He even went on to paint portraits of famous Americans that would end up in the National Portrait Gallery, such as Mark Twain and boxer Jack Dempsey. Flagg died in 1960, the year before Congress decided to honor Sam Wilson as the true “Uncle Sam.”
The Marine Corps’ Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is officially ready to deploy and support missions of the naval expeditionary force-in-readiness worldwide.
Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Combat Development and Integration declared the JLTV program — part of the Light Tactical Vehicle portfolio at Program Executive Officer Land Systems — reached initial operational capability, or IOC, on Aug. 2, 2019, nearly a year ahead of schedule.
“Congratulations to the combined JLTV Team for acting with a sense of urgency and reaching IOC early,” said Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James Geurts. “Changing the speed in which we deliver, combined with coming in under cost and meeting all performance requirements, is a fine example of increasing Marine Corps capabilities at the speed of relevance which enables our Marines to compete and win on the modern battlefield.”
The JLTV, a program led by the Army, will fully replace the Corps’ aging High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle fleet. The JLTV family of vehicles comes in different variants with multiple mission package configurations, all providing protected, sustained, networked mobility that balances payload, performance and protection across the full range of military operations.
A Joint Light Tactical Vehicle displays its overall capabilities during a live demonstration at the School of Infantry West, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Feb. 27, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Timothy Smithers)
“I’m proud of what our team, in collaboration with the Army, has accomplished. Their commitment to supporting the warfighter delivered an exceptional vehicle, ahead of schedule, that Marines will use to dominate on the battlefield now and well into the future.”
Several elements need to be met before a program can declare IOC of a system, which encompasses more than delivery of the system itself. The program office also had to ensure all the operators were fully trained and maintenance tools and spare parts packages were ready.
“IOC is more than just saying that the schoolhouses and an infantry battalion all have their trucks,” said Eugene Morin, product manager for JLTV at PEO Land Systems. “All of the tools and parts required to support the system need to be in place, the units must have had received sufficient training and each unit commander needs to declare that he is combat-ready.”
For the JLTV, this means the program office had to fully field battle-ready vehicles to the Marine Corps schoolhouses—School of Infantry East at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; School of Infantry West at Camp Pendleton, California; The Basic School at Quantico, Virginia; and the Motor Transport Maintenance Instruction Course at Camp Johnson, North Carolina—and to an infantry battalion at II Marine Expeditionary Force. The program office started delivering vehicles to the schoolhouses earlier this year and started delivering vehicles to the infantry battalion July 2019.
A Joint Light Tactical Vehicle displays its overall capabilities during a live demonstration at the School of Infantry West, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Feb. 27, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Timothy Smithers)
On Aug. 2, 2019, Lt. Col. Neil Berry, the commanding officer for 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, notified Morin and his team of the unit’s combat readiness with the JLTV. On Aug. 5, 2019, The Director, Ground Combat Element Division at CDI notified PM LTV of its IOC achievement. The JLTV is scheduled to start fielding to I MEF and III MEF before the end of September 2019.
According to LTV Program Manager Andrew Rodgers, during the post-acquisition Milestone C rebaseline of the JLTV schedule in January 2016, IOC was projected to occur by June 2020.
Rodgers says that detailed program scheduling, planning and, most importantly, teamwork with stakeholders across the enterprise enabled the program office to deliver the vehicles and reach IOC ahead of schedule.
The Marine Corps’ Joint Light Tactical Vehicles has achieved initial operational capability.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Timothy Smithers)
“It was definitely a team effort, and we built up a really great team,” said Rodgers. “In terms of leadership, our product managers’ — both Gene Morin and his predecessor, Dave Bias — detailed focus and ability to track cost, schedule and performance was key. Neal Justis, our deputy program manager, has significant prior military experience working for the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, so having him on board knowing how to work the Pentagon network was a huge force multiplier.”
Rodgers is quick to note that, although the team has reached IOC, this is really only the beginning of the JLTV’s future legacy.
“We are really at the starting line right now. Our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will see JLTVs in the DOD,” said Rodgers. “We’ll easily still have these assets somewhere in the DOD in the year 2100. Welcome to the start of many generations of JLTVs.”
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
The Daytona 500 is known as the Great American Race.
Well, the Great American Race just had a driver make a Great American Entrance.
The United States Air Force has had a partnership with Richard Petty Motorsports for several years now. As part of their partnership, they decided that they were going to make a mark this weekend in Daytona.
The other was one of the best paintjobs a racecar has ever had.
Bubba Wallace is a fan favorite among NASCAR fans. He finished second at the Daytona 500 in 2018 and 3rd at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2019. While he has had ups and downs in his short career, he is talented and a lot of people are rooting for his success. He is young, personable, and just an overall nice guy. He also does some pretty cool things.
The Air Force Wings of Blue demonstration team decided to help him make a grand entrance at the legendary racetrack on the days before the race. Wallace did a tandem jump out of a C-17 Globemaster and landed about 50 yards from the start/finish line of the 2.5 mile track.
After his lap, Wallace said, “I guess I can now say that was the coolest thing I’ve done. I’ve been able to go with the United States Air Force a couple of times in a fighter jet, F-15 F-16, and I didn’t think that could be beat. I’m still trying to decide if skydiving beat that, but jumping with the Wings of Blue was incredible.”
He continued, “I wasn’t nervous at all, which was kind of surprising because I’m about to jump out of a perfectly good C-17 aircraft, and that was cool, by the way; that thing is awesome. I didn’t get nervous. I went straight to scared crapless when we just walked off the back of the airplane. I wanted to back out right then and not do it then. The adrenaline rush that I got at that moment. I don’t know another feeling, another moment in my life that can describe that. Incredible. I couldn’t really see coming down, I had to hold my goggles. Once I did that, it was incredible; pulled the chute, super quiet ride. (Instructor) Randy did awesome, gave me the ride of my life.”
Wallace then tweeted video of the jump.
Talk about an entrance! Just your typical Thursday leading into the #DAYTONA500. Grateful for @USAFRecruiting, @RPMotorsports and @USAFWingsofBlue for knocking this off my bucket list!pic.twitter.com/LYGcfmZNIC
Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, a 10th Mountain Soldier who gave his life shielding Polish Army Lieutenant Karol Cierpica from a suicide bomber while deployed to Afghanistan in 2013, was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. James McConville, during a ceremony on Staten Island, New York June 8.
The Distinguished Service Cross is the second highest military honor that can be awarded to a member of the United States Army.
“Every generation has its heroes,” McConville said during his remarks. “Michael Ollis is one of ours.”
Robert Ollis, the father of Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, greets Karol Cierpica, the Polish army lieutenant who Michael Ollis gave his life for on June 8, 2019 outside the Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis Veterans of Foreign War post on Staten Island, N.Y.
(Photo Credit: Sgt. Jerod Hathaway)
Staff Sgt. Ollis’s father and sister, Robert Ollis and Kimberly Loschiavo, received the award from McConville at a Veterans of Foreign War post named in Ollis’s honor.
“Through the tears, we have to tell the story of Karol and Michael,” said Robert Ollis during the ceremony. “They just locked arms and followed each other. They didn’t worry about what language or what color it was. It was two battle buddies, and that’s what Karol and Michael did. To help everyone on that FOB they possibly could.”
The Distinguished Service Cross ceremony, held in a small yard just outside the VFW post, was packed with veterans, friends and Family members who all came to honor him.
Robert Ollis, the father of Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, talks with General James C. McConville on June 8, 2019 inside the Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis Veterans of Foreign War Post on Staten Island, N.Y.
(Photo Credit: Sgt. Jerod Hathaway)
“I was privileged to serve with Michael and Karol when I was the 101st Airborne Division commanding general in Regional Command East while they were deployed,” said McConville. “Their actions that day in August against a very determined enemy saved many, many lives.”
To close out the weekend, a 5 kilometer run will be held to commemorate the memory of Staff Sgt. Ollis and to raise money for veterans.
Glamour, grace, and poise was everything that Hedy Lamarr portrayed when she walked into a room and in film. However, it turns out, Lamarr was not just a pretty face.
She was an avid inventor who created one of the most groundbreaking patents dealing with high-frequency technology that changed the way we fight wars today.
Hedy Lamarr, above, was one of the most glamorous faces of MGM’s golden era.
Everyone knows Hedy Lamarr as one of the most famous starlets of the 1930s who took Hollywood by storm when she appeared in numerous films. The public just couldn’t get enough of her beauty and ate up whatever she had to sell. Hedy was born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler on November 9, 1913, in Vienna, Austria. She immigrated to the U.S. during WWII after she was discovered by an Austrian film director.
A patriot to the core, she made it her duty to visit USOs and help in the war efforts as much as she could. Mostly, this consisted of using her status as a movie star to sell war bonds. She began to think beyond the scope of Hollywood and wanted to be more impactful with her actions.
The original patent that Hedy Lamarr created with George Anheil in 1941.
Already an inventor at heart, with countless inventions set to the wayside, she started to think of how the military could communicate with one another without the enemy obstructing messages or intercepting intel. Lamarr wanted to bring her latest idea to fruition and shared them with a fellow patron of the arts.
Hedy Lamarr and George Anthiel came together to streamline the patenting of a secret communication messaging system.
She enlisted the help of George Anthiel, an Avante-Garde composer, and they constructed a patent for a secret communication system based on manipulating radio frequency intervals between transmission and reception. What was created was an unbreakable code that helped keep classified messages concealed. Ultimately, ‘spread spectrum’ technology was born of this patent and was first used during the Cuban Missile Crisis on Navy ships.
Hedy Lamarr finally gets her story told in the film Bombshell, where her passion for inventing is revealed.
Unfortunately, it took years for Lamarr to get recognition for her invention, and she is often just shrugged off as a pretty face of a bygone era. She was finally honored in 1997, along with Antheil, with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Pioneer Award. In the same year, she was the first female recipient of the BULBIE™ Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award, given to those that impact society through their inventions. Lamarr and Antheil were also inducted into the Inventors Hall of fame in 2014.
What’s even more impressive is that Lamar’s patent was the blueprint of all wireless communications we have today. Yes, that includes technology that is used in cell phones, GPS systems, Bluetooth, and WiFi. All of these technologies have especially benefited the military and our war-fighting capabilities. Lamarr’s ideas live on and continue to benefit not only the military, but society at large.
With heavily tattooed arms, a motorcycle vest, red bandana, and long goatee, Jay Dobyns fit the stereotype for the kind of person who would hang around the street-hardened bikers of the Hells Angels Skull Valley Charter. He would peddle T-shirts for the one-percenter motorcycle club, run errands at ungodly hours, and eventually break bread with individuals who wouldn’t think twice about taking a baseball bat to someone’s head.
Two years in, and the Hells Angels had no idea that Dobyns, who was close to getting his patch, was an undercover agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The patch is sacrosanct to the Hells Angels. After a shootout between the Hells Angels and the Mongols, a rival biker gang, “We found Mongols cuts in vents, stuffed in trash cans, and some were floating down the Colorado River,” Dobyns said. “As far as the Hells Angels and their patches, we didn’t find a single one. The Hells Angels don’t take off their patches for anyone.”
Becoming a patched member of the gang is no easy task — and Dobyns had already done a lot more than simply run errands for them in his attempt to be welcomed into the gang.
Dobyns undercover with the Hells Angels.
(Photo courtesy of Jay Dobyns)
At times, he even had to participate in assaults, getting a taste of the vicious world in which the Hells Angels reside.
“My reaction was to fight my way to the victim and take control of the victim, throw my punches, both maintain my cover and protect my persona, and protect the victim from any life-threatening battle damage,” Dobyns said. “It’s one of the elements of tradecraft.”
For the Hells Angels, it was hardly enough.
In 2002, the rift between the Hells Angels and their legendary rivals, the Mongols, hit a boiling point. The two gangs were involved in a big-time gunfight at the Harrah Casino Hotel in Laughlin, Nevada. It was the event that led to Dobyns going undercover.
Dobyns wanted to get a good idea of where the Hells Angels stood against the Mongols, especially with what had happened in Laughlin. “I asked the president of the Skull Valley Charter what I should do if I come across a Mongol,” Dobyns said. “And he said to me, ‘It’s your job to kill him.'”
As time passed, Dobyns sat on the incriminating information from the charter president, continuing to gain more trust with the gang members, all while a series of homicides happened in his wake. One of the murders was particularly brutal. The Hells Angels beat a woman to death in their clubhouse, wrapped her body in a piece of carpet, and cut her head off in the desert.
It was a pivotal moment in the investigation. Dobyns decided it was time for the Hells Angels to see how far he was willing to go to show his devotion and loyalty. If it worked, he was in. If it didn’t, he was dead.
“We took a living, breathing member of our task force, got a Mongols cut, dressed him up in the vest, and brought in a homicide detective to create a crime scene,” Dobyns said. “We used makeup, animal parts, animal blood, and dug a shallow grave. Then we duct taped his hands and feet and threw him in the grave.”
The elaborate ruse needed to be properly documented in order to convince the Hells Angels leadership that it was real.
The fake homicide Dobyns used to get patched into the Hells Angels.
(Photo courtesy of Jay Dobyns)
“I asked the homicide detective to make it look like the victim had been beaten with a baseball bat and shot in the head,” Dobyns said. “Almost Hollywood-style. We photographed it. We took pictures of the crime scene, and we took the bloody mongol vest back to the Hells Angels leadership.”
Dobyns showed the vest to the charter president, the vice president, the sergeant-at-arms and one another member of the gang. “They were either going to believe me, or I was going to get a baseball bat to the back of the head or razor wire to the throat,” he said.
Fortunately, the president didn’t have any plans to dispose of Dobyns. In fact, quite the opposite: They hugged him, kissed him, and welcomed him into the gang.
Convinced that Dobyns had just savagely murdered a Mongol, the gang wanted to immediately get rid of the fabricated proof. “We went out to the desert and burned all the evidence along with the Mongol cut. They helped destroy the evidence of the murder we exposed them to in order to cover up the crime.”
Dobyns now had his patch, but his time in the Hells Angels was coming to an end.
The investigation, code named “Operation Black Biscuit,” concluded with ATF executives citing that it was too dangerous to continue — even though Dobyns argued that they should let him stay and work the case. Regardless, he remains the first law enforcement officer to successfully infiltrate the cold and callous world of the Hells Angels.
Those who aspire to one day become a U.S. Air Force aviator must first meet several requirements, including height, before they are considered for pilot training. For those who fall outside of the Air Force’s height requirements, height waivers are available.
“Don’t automatically assume you don’t qualify because of your height,” said Maj. Gen. Craig Wills, 19th Air Force commander. “We have an incredibly thorough process for determining whether you can safely operate our assigned aircraft. Don’t let a number on a website stop you from pursuing a career with the best Air Force in the world.”
The current height requirement to become an Air Force pilot is a standing height of 5 feet, 4 inches to 6 feet, 5 inches and a sitting height of 34-40 inches. These standard height requirements have been used for years to ensure candidates will safely fit into an operational aircraft and each of the prerequisite training aircraft. “We’re rewriting these rules to better capture the fact that no two people are the exact same, even if they are the same overall height,” Wills said.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Nick Harris (left) and Capt. Jessica Wallander, instructor pilots with the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base, Okla., stand side-by-side to illustrate the varying standing heights of Air Force pilots to dispel the myth that there is one height standard for all Air Force pilots.
(US Air Force photo)
“Height restrictions are an operational limitation, not a medical one, but the majority of our aircraft can accommodate pilots from across the height spectrum,” Wills said. “The bottom line is that the vast majority of the folks who are below 5 feet, 4 inches and have applied for a waiver in the past five years have been approved.”
The waiver process begins at each of the commissioning sources for pilot candidates, whether the U.S. Air Force Academy, Officer Training School or Reserve Officer Training Corps. For those who do not meet the standard height requirements, anthropometric measurements are completed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, or at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
“We have a great process in place to evaluate and accommodate those who fall outside our published standards,” Wills said. “If an applicant is over 5 feet, 2 inches tall, historically they have a greater than 95% chance of qualifying for service as a pilot. Applicants as short as 4 feet, 11 inches have received waivers in the past five years.”
Anthropometric measurements include sitting eye height, buttocks to knee length and arm span. The anthropometric device at Wright Patterson AFB is the only device accepted by the Air Force when determining waiver eligibility. A specialty team conducts the measurements at U.S. Air Force Academy.
Maj. Gen. Craig Wills, Nineteenth Air Force commander, stands side-by-side with a Nineteenth Air Force pilot to illustrate the varying standing heights of Air Force pilots to dispel the myth that there is one height standard for all Air Force pilots.
(US Air Force photo)
Waiver packages are then coordinated through a partnership between the Air Education Training Command surgeon general and Nineteenth Air Force officials, who are responsible for all of the Air Force’s initial flying training.
“As part of the waiver process, we have a team of experts who objectively determine if a candidate’s measurements are acceptable,” said Col. Gianna Zeh, AETC surgeon general. “Let us make the determination if your measures are truly an eliminating issue.”
The pilot waiver system is in place to determine whether pilot applicants of all sizes can safely operate assigned aircraft and applicants who are significantly taller or shorter than average may require special screening.
“Some people may still not qualify,” Wills said. “But, the Air Force is doing everything that we can to make a career in aviation an option for as many people as possible. The waiver process is another example of how we can expand the pool of eligible pilot candidates.”
From Agent Orange to burn pits, members of the Armed Forces are exposed to harsh environments and chemical toxins. Some of these hazards are known, while other hazards remain unknown. Even after decades of research, diseases associated with Agent Orange are still being added to the list of presumptive conditions recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Yet, many diseases are still unknown. Gulf War Illness, for example, impacts many veterans who return from the Middle East. It may cause various symptoms, such as joint pain. Other environmental hazards that are yet unknown, that could also cause veterans to have pain that is undetectable by medical tests.
Only recently will the VA recognize pain, alone, to be a disabling condition.
Pain is now a VA disability
For many years, the VA did not recognize pain as a disability. To receive disability, the VA required an underlying diagnosis. That is until the Federal Circuit Court heard the case of Melba Saunders.
Saunders served active duty in the Army from 1987 to 1994. During service, she began experiencing knee pain. After discharge, Saunders filed for VA disability compensation for knee pain, hip pain and a foot condition. To develop her claim, the VA sent her for an examination. The examiner noted that Saunders had several limitations due to knee pain, such as the need to use a cane or brace, an inability to stand for more than a few minutes and increase absenteeism due to knee pain. The examiner even opined that the knee pain was “at least as likely as not” due to Saunders’s service in the military.
Unfortunately, the examiner diagnosed Saunders with “subjective bilateral knee pain,” rather than a more definitive diagnosis. The Board of Veterans Appeals denied Saunders’s claim, stating that Saunders failed to show the existence of a present disability because “pain alone is not a disability for the purposes of VA compensation.”
(U.S Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Stephanie Rubi)
Saunders continued to fight this decision, and she appealed it to the court system. After several more years of battle, the Federal Circuit Court finally overruled the determination that pain, itself, cannot constitute a disability sufficient for entitlement to VA disability compensation.
The Federal Circuit Court first looked to the wording of the applicable statute. The court noted that “disability” was not expressly defined. Since there was no definition, the court decided to give the word “disability” its ordinary meaning, for purposes of interpreting the statute, and it defined it to mean “functional impairment of earning capacity.” The court went further and stated that pain alone can be a functional impairment. Therefore, the court stated that a formal diagnosis is not required.
What the ruling means for veterans
The court’s ruling in Saunders v. Wilkie is a win for all veterans. With the VA still doing research on Agent Orange, a Vietnam-era hazard, veterans can expect that it will be many years, likely decades, before the VA fully recognizes conditions associated with hazards such Gulf War Syndrome or Burn Pits. Based upon this new ruling, however, veterans can now claim disability due to pain alone.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Rick Rzepka)
Winning a claim on pain alone will not be easy. The veteran will still want to make sure that symptoms are documented in service. This means, ideally, reporting to a doctor, at least once, prior to discharge to make a record of the pain, shortness of breath, coughing or other symptoms. It may also mean getting statements from people who were aware of the condition during service. The veteran will want to file a claim for conditions very quickly after discharge, and appeal adverse decisions because it is likely that the VA will not readily grant claims despite the court’s decision in Saunders v. Wilkie.
This means that veterans will need to hold the VA accountable by taking the appropriate legal action, and maintaining the fight until the VA follows the law. A large number of cases are granted or remanded when appealed properly.
Overall, Saunders v. Wilkie case rendered another great decision for veterans. When coupled with some of the other very notable court cases that have come out in the last twelve months, veterans have a great tool to obtain the compensation that they deserve. They have sacrificed their bodies to the harshest environments, but the science is still out on the side-effects of exposure to these environments.
This recent decision by the Court allows veterans to seek, and obtain, disability benefits without a need to wait for decades until science has caught up to the symptoms veterans are already experiencing.
This article originally appeared on Military1. Follow @Military1 on Twitter.
Throughout the 1930s pilots around the world were continually trying to push the limits of anything that had been done before in the air. While the likes of Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart are more familiar names in the Western World, the Soviets had their own equivalents such as Mikhail Gromov who, in 1937 along with his two man crew, managed to break the world distance record for non-stop flight, flying 6,306 miles from Moscow to California via a rather dangerous North Pole route. Hailed as heroes upon their return, Premier Joseph Stalin decided the Soviet Union should follow this up in 1938 by having a group of women pilots attempt to set the distance record for non-stop flight for a female crew. The selected trio, who each already held one or more world records for female aviators, were Polina Osipenko, Valentina Grizodubova, and Marina Raskova.
And so it was that on Sept. 24, 1938 the three ladies took off from an airfield in Shchcyolkovo near Moscow, in a Tupolev ANT-37, which normally had a range of about 5,000 km or 3,100 miles. Their destination was Komsomolsk-on-Amur over 3600 miles away. Unfortunately for them almost immediately upon departing they encountered a number of issues including a thick layer of clouds and icing conditions which forced them to climb above said clouds, in the process losing all sight of the ground for the duration. Not long after this, their radio stopped working. Without a clear view of the ground for almost the entire flight, Raskova used the stars, a compass, and their airspeed to roughly determine their position as they flew. When the clouds finally broke, they found themselves flying over Tugur Bay in the Sea of Okhotsk, about 500 km or 300 miles directly north of their intended destination.
Low on fuel, they desperately attempted to find an alternate place to land, but the engines died first. With some form of a crash landing inevitable and a navigator no longer having anything to do, Grizodubova ordered Raskova to parachute out of the plane from about 6,500 feet with the hope that it would increase her odds of survival. Of course, decreasing her odds slightly, she chose to leave her emergency survival kit for the other two women, reportedly only taking two chocolate bars with her for rations to trek through Siberia with. When Raskova safely hit the ground, she noted the direction the plane was gliding and began hiking after it.
As for the pilot and co-pilot still aboard, they were forced to make a gear up, dead-stick landing in a frozen swamp near the upper part of the Amgun River, in the end successfully executing what is termed in pilot-speak as a “good landing”- in that all occupants survived and were able to walk away from the wreckage.
As for Raskova, she hiked for a full ten days before finally locating the downed aircraft and her comrades. Not long before she arrived, a search crew located the plane. While this was a good thing for the women, unfortunately two of the search planes collided overhead and killed all 15 aboard as the horrified pilots watched from below. A few days later, the women were picked up via boat.
When they arrived back in Moscow, their harrowing journey, which managed 3,671.44 miles in 26 hours and 29 minutes (though in truth they had flown some 6,450 km or 4,007 miles total), had indeed set the distance record for a straight line, non-stop all-woman crew. That, along with how they handled themselves in such adverse conditions saw them lauded as heroes across the Union, including quite literally being given the “Hero of the Soviet Union” award, among other honors.
Fast-forwarding about three years later in June of 1941, Germany decided to invade. During Operation Barbarossa, almost 4 million troops were thrown at the Soviet Union, and in one fell swoop the Axis managed to destroy approximately 66 airfields and about 80% of the military aircraft in the Soviet Union at the time.
German troops at the Soviet state border marker, June 22, 1941.
With an abundance of pilots and few planes, you might think this was not exactly an ideal environment for female pilots of the era to be given a job- especially not in combat- but two factors saw Stalin convinced establishing all female squadrons was something they should do. First, Raskova wouldn’t stop berating Stalin about it, noting both in the air and on the ground that forgoing using half your populace when the enemy was almost at the doorsteps of Moscow was foolish. Another factor was that among the planes still available were a large number of Polikarpov Po-2’s- an open cockpit two seat 1928 biplane made of wood and fabric, mostly meant for flight training and crop dusting.
Slow and plodding, the Polikarpov cruised along at a breakneck pace of about 68 mph (109 km/hr) and a never exceed if you don’t want your wings to fall off speed of 94 mph (151 km/hr). Combine that with a maximum climb rate of a mere 500 feet per minute (152 meters) while traveling at a speed not that much faster than Usian Bolt while ascending, and these weren’t exactly planes male pilots were itching to fly to the front in…
For reference here, the Luftwaffe were flying such planes as the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Würger, which had an engine possessing about 25 times the horsepower as the Polikarpov, cruised along at 280 mph (450 km/hr), with maximum speeds of 426 mph (685 km/hr), and could climb in excess of 3,000 ft/min. That’s not to mention this plane came equipped with dual 13 mm MG 131 machine guns. The pilots of the Polikarpov Po-2’s, on the other hand, were given hand pistols as their air to air combat weapon… No doubt when in a dog fight, they also were instructed to make “pew pew pew” sounds to increase the effectiveness of their arsenal.
If all that wasn’t bad enough, should one get shot down or the fabric of the aircraft catch fire, which occasionally happened when tracer bullets ripped through them, as weight was at a premium, the pilots weren’t given parachutes… On top of that, the planes themselves did not come equipped with radios or any other such equipment. A map, a compass, a pistol, and their wits were what the stick and rudder Po-2 pilots brought with them on their combat missions.
A damaged and abandoned Po-2 forced to land in Ukraine, and subsequently captured by German troops, 1941.
Now, you might at this point be wondering what possible use these pilots could serve flying these planes into combat other than reducing the Soviet population by a couple hundred pilots. Well, the one marginally potent weapon the planes did come equipped with was bombs- up to six of them, weighing approximately 110 lbs each (50 kg).
Planes few wanted to fly sitting on the ground and Raskova refusing to shut up about it, Stalin ordered her to form three all female squadrons, though the 588th Bomber Regiment, who would come to use the Polikarpov Po-2’s, was the only one to remain exclusively staffed by women throughout the war.
As for the young ladies who volunteered to fly in these death traps, they ranged from about 17 years old to their early 20s. And while you might think the name they’d soon be given would be something along the lines of “Target Practice”, their incredible effectiveness and near non-stop bombardment of the Germans at the front starting on June 8, 1942 and continuing all the way to Berlin, earned them another nickname — The Night Witches.
So just how effective were they? For the approximately four years they were active, they flew close to an astounding 30,000 missions, with an average of about 250 missions each. To put this in perspective, airmen aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress in 1944 had a 1 in 4 chance of surviving to the 25 mission mark for their rotation. But in the case of the Night Witch bombers, some flew near or greater that number in under a week. One, who we’ll discuss shortly, almost managed that number of missions in a single night. Despite the incredible number of missions they flew, over the course of the war, of the 261 women that flew in the 588th, only 32 died, and a handful of those not from combat, but tuberculosis.
A Polikarpov Po-2, the aircraft type used by the regiment.
This bring us to Nadezhda Popova, who managed the record of 18 missions in a single night when she helped chase the Axis as they retreated from Poland. Popova, who started flying at aged 15, was a flight instructor by 18, and decided to join up not long after her brother, Leonid, was killed in the early stages of the conflict. She states, “I saw the German aircraft flying along our roads filled with people who were leaving their homes, firing at them with their machine guns. Seeing this gave me feelings inside that made me want to fight them.”
The Nazis would soon come to regret making an enemy of Popova, who shortly was about to go all John Wick on them for killing her brother. But before that, unfortunately for her, when she tried to enlist, she was turned away, with Popova later stating of this, “No one in the armed services wanted to give women the freedom to die.”
Nevertheless, given her credentials, when the 588th was formed when she was 19 years old, they had a place for her. She would go on to fly an incredible 852 missions during the war, despite, as she stated in an interview in 2009, “Almost every time, we had to sail through a wall of enemy fire. In winter, when you’d look out to see your target better, you got frostbite, our feet froze in our boots, but we carried on flying…. It was a miracle we didn’t lose more aircraft. Our planes were the slowest in the air force. They often came back riddled with bullets…”
On that note, after returning from one mission where she was tasked with dropping supplies to ground troops who were bottled up in Malaya Zemlya, she found 42 bullet holes in her plane, one in her helmet, and a couple in her map. It was then that she joked with her navigator, “Katya, my dear, we will live long!”
In truth, Popova, who became a squadron commander, survived the war, among other honors receiving the Hero of the Soviet Union, the Order of Lenin, and was a three time Order of the Red Banner recipient (awarded for extreme heroism and courage demonstrated in battle), twice awarded the Order of the Patriotic War 1st class… and the list goes on and on- badass. She was a badass basically.
As for her life after, she married an airmen, Semyon Kharlamov, who she met after the two had separately been shot down on Aug. 2, 1942. While she couldn’t see his face as it was covered in bandages, they hit it off as they joked around together during their trek back to safety. They got hitched almost immediately on war’s end. For work after, she continued her pre-war career as a flight instructor, ultimately living to the ripe old age of 91 years old, dying on July 8, 2013.
Going back to the squadron as a whole, given their extreme vulnerability in the air, you might at this point be wondering how these women not only almost all survived, but proved to be so incredibly effective?
Well, given their slow speed, the fact that in a dogfight they’d quickly be made into Swiss cheese by enemy planes, and the fact that they needed to deploy their paltry payloads at extremely low altitudes to actually accurately hit a target, meaning ground based crew could likewise easily turn the pilots of these craft into wreckage riders, flying missions in daylight with any regularity wasn’t really an option if one liked to keep breathing.
Thus, in an era before incredibly accurate terrain mapping and GPS systems to help avoid said terrain, these women voluntarily hopped inside their antiquated pieces of equipment and ascended to the heavens in darkness- the darker the better.
Stealth was their only way of surviving, and they used it to their advantage at every opportunity. Navigating in darkness towards their assigned enemy targets, usually hugging the ground as much as possible until getting close to their targets to avoid being spotted by enemy aircraft, once they located their targets, the women would employ a number of strategies to actually get close enough to deliver their deadly payloads. These included doing things like flying in groups and intentionally having one or two of the planes up high attract the attention and fire from those on the ground, while others would idle their engine and try to slip in closely undetected. Another strategy was to do what is generally considered in aviation 101 as a great way to die, especially in the often frigid environments these women were flying in- cut their engines completely in flight and at relatively low altitudes.
They’d then silently descend onto their targets until almost literally right over the heads of the enemy and finally drop their bombs, kick the engine back to life (hopefully) and get back to base as fast as possible to be loaded back up and sent out again and again to the front line.
Describing this, the chief of staff for the 588th, Irina Rakobolskaya, noted, “One girl managed to fly seven times to the front line and back in her plane. She would return, shaking, and they would hang new bombs, refuel her plane, and she’d go off to bomb the target again.”
Popova would state of this strategy, “We flew in sequence, one after another, and during the night, we never let them rest… the Germans made up stories. They spread the rumor that we had been injected with some unknown chemicals that enabled us to see so clearly at night…. This was nonsense, of course. What we did have were clever, educated, very talented girls…”
Effective, one German soldier would later state in an interview after the war of the Night Witches, they were “precise, merciless and came from nowhere.”
Dedicated to delivering their payloads no matter what, one former 588th member stated that occasionally the bombs would get stuck when trying to drop them just over the target. The solution was simply to have one of the two women in the plane scramble out on the wing and kick it loose, often while under heavy enemy fire- all leading author Kate Quin to note, “You women are crazy. You’re incredibly brave, but my god you’re crazy.”
A sentiment Popova would later echo in her waning years, stating, “I sometimes stare into the blackness and close my eyes. I can still imagine myself as a young girl up there in my little bomber and I ask myself, Nadia, how did you do it?”
Moving on to the nickname the Germans gave them and which they would so proudly embrace once they learned of it, it is widely speculated that this was because of the wooshing sound the planes made as they glided down through the air, like the sound a witch flying on her broomstick. However, there is no primary documentation backing this speculation up at all, despite it being almost universally repeated. And, for our part, we’re just guessing not a single German soldier ever actually had heard the wooshing sound of a witch flying on a broomstick to compare. So allow us to suggest our own alternate hypothesis- that it wasn’t so much the sound that was the inspiration, but, instead, the name “The Night Witches” was actually because these were women, flying at night, on aircraft made of wood, not unlike a witch flying on a broomstick.
Whatever the case, in the end, for their heroism, almost 1 in 10 of the women of the 588th were honored with the Hero of the Soviet Union award. For reference here, while that award was given out almost 13,000 times over the entire life of the Soviet Union, the badass ladies of the 588th accounted for approximately 1/4 of all women who ever received it.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
For hundreds of years, military cadences have been used as an iconic tool to keep service members upright during formation runs and marches.
Structurally designed to keep each man or woman properly covered and aligned, a cadence helps a formation of troops in PT land each step at the exact same time as everyone else, preventing a massive falling domino effect.
Military cadence is a preparatory song performed by the leader of the formation during the marches or organized runs. Many parts of these running songs are so catchy, they will be forever embedded into our heavy left feet.
Take a listen and let yourself be transported back to the good ol’ days of the little yellow bird and the days of sitting in the back of your truck with Josephine.
1. “Down By The River”
2. “Pin My Medals Upon My Chest”3. “C-130 Rolling Down The Strip”4. “Hey, Hey Whiskey Jack”5. “How’d Ya Earn Your Living?” Cadences tend to cross-breed through the different branches and change words to make them service-specific. We salute everyone for their originality.
These are all words that have been used to describe military kids. They’ve certainly earned these badges of honor, but military kids are still young and in need of strong guidance along the windy road of military life.
And along the way, we parents often hear the chorus of military life echoing in our minds:
Are the kids okay?
Even as we are proud of them for adapting to big challenges and embracing the world’s diversity, we still wonder how our military kids feel deep down inside. And we still hope they know that they can rely on us, talk to us, trust us.
When we’re caught wondering, we can turn to practical strategies that are proven to strengthen relationships between parents and children. Doing so is more productive than wondering and worrying, and the results might just give us the answer to that echoing question.
The next time you’re wondering, give these four strategies a try:
Break out the art supplies
(Photo by Nicolas Buffler)
Engaging in artwork is not only a great way for children (and adults) to express their emotions, it’s also a great way to bond and relax.
Developmental psychologist Richard Rende studied the effects of parents and children engaging in creative work together. Children experienced cognitive, social and emotional benefits, but Rende also emphasized that 95 percent of moms reported that the quality time spent with their kids was one of the most important benefits.
The Cleveland Clinic’s clinical psychologist Scott M. Bea notes that people can feel calmer by coloring in books like the popular mosaic coloring books. He describes this as a “meditative exercise,” which helps people relax and de-stress.
If you can’t stomach complicated projects involving paints and glue, then opt for plain paper and markers or coloring books. The creative activity will be pleasurable, allowing your minds to take a break from worrying about deployments and transitions, and enjoy special time together in the process.
Good conversations don’t have to resemble a session with Freud, but the more you show your kids that you’re focusing on them and nothing else, the better. So leave your phone at home or keep it tucked in your purse or pocket. Do what you have to do to resist its temptation, so that you and your kids can enjoy talking, uninterrupted.
Go for a walk, have a picnic or take your kids out for a “date.” Ask simple questions about school or friends, and follow their lead from there. If a deployment or a PCS is approaching, ask them how they’re feeling about it. If they tell you, great – validate their feelings and help process them. But, if they don’t feel like sharing, that’s okay, too.
Clinical psychologist and developer of Parenting for Service Members and Veterans Peter Shore says, “Recognize and respect when children don’t want to talk, but be available when they’re ready.”
Tell them how you’re feeling, too. Military kids might not realize that their strong, confident parents also get nervous and frustrated (and excited and optimistic!) about major events in military life. Sharing your feelings and talking about how you cope with them will set a good example and build trust.
Create your own traditions
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brad Mincey)
Traditions don’t have to be only about Christmas morning and birthday dinners – you can think outside the box and create traditions that are unique to your family and reflect your unique military life.
These can be as simple as family dinners, family game night or reading before bedtime. But you can also design traditions out of activities your family enjoys or the location where you’re currently stationed. If your family is adventurous, make the first Saturday of every month “Adventure Saturday,” and explore a different part of your current location. If you’re crafty, devote the first Sunday of every month to creating something to decorate your home or send to a family member.
As long as the focus is on the family bonding through that activity (i.e., no screens are on or within reach!), these moments can serve as special, reliable traditions that your children will grow to rely on and value, especially during times of added stress.
Open a book
(Photo by Neeta Lind)
Reading aloud to your kids, even when they’re independent readers, is one of the best ways to build a strong relationship with your child. Research shows that when parents read aloud to their children, the very sound of their voice is calming, and the feeling of being snuggled up on a bed or a couch provides a sense of security. This simple activity can be a welcome balance to the uncertain times of deployment or PCS.
Reading aloud can also prompt important conversations. When you read, pause and empathize with characters, or relate your own experiences to situations that occur in the story. Encourage your children to do the same, and remain open to discussing how stories relate to emotions and experiences in military life.
Reading just about any book will provide you with a great tool to bond with your military kid, but you can find suggestions for age-appropriate books that relate to military life here.
Even if you’re pretty convinced that the kids are, indeed, okay, trying one of these strategies could still reap some valuable rewards. Using the Month of the Military Child as an opportunity to make one of these activities a common practice in your house will show your military kids that you’re proud of them and you love them – something that even the toughest, most adaptable and most resilient kids still need to know.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.