For Megan Dursky, a registered nurse working in pediatrics in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, keeping perspective during COVID-19 has helped her perform to the best of her capabilities.
“When I do get scared – I think about how I would hope my child/nephew/niece would be taken care of when they are ill,” Dursky said. “What sort of treatment would I want for them? I then try to provide that for my patients.”
Megan and her husband, Trevor. Photo courtesy of Megan Dursky.
Dursky, whose husband Trevor serves in the Iowa National Guard, shares that when she first heard about the novel coronavirus, it seemed far away.
“Like many Americans, I did not think it would affect me personally, especially since I live in a rural area of the United States. I brushed it off for the most part and went about my normal routines of life. As I started to hear about how it was affecting Italy and began reading and seeing pictures of healthcare providers there — I started feeling uneasy — fearful of the unknown or what was to come.”
Almost immediately, Dursky began noticing changes in her day-to-day protocols at work.
“Things began to change in my workplace on a daily, and sometimes hourly, basis,” she shared. “Some of us wore paper masks while conducting patient care — others thought this was maybe a little over the top. We began to have daily, sometimes twice daily huddles to discuss new guidelines/procedures to implement. My work inbox began to fill with COVID-19 updates and our patients’ families began calling with questions regarding the outbreak. Things really sunk in when positive COVID-19 cases began to pop up locally in our communities and further PPE and protocols were put into place. By this point, our office was in the process of establishing a specialized clinic to receive patients with possible COVID-19 symptoms.”
Dursky, left, in PPE. Photo courtesy of Megan Dursky.
While the threat of insufficient PPE looms and seeing stress on her co-worker’s faces happens more regularly, Dursky admits that working with families has sustained her in such an emotional and uncertain time.
“My favorite part of being a nurse is connecting with my patients and their families,” she said. “A high point for me is being able to educate them on ways to protect their families, keeping them as healthy as they can be during this difficult time. Providing reassurance that we will be available in the clinic to take their calls and questions; even as other services of the community are shutting down.”
While the nature of her job is to reassure the community, the thought of work coming home with her is never far from Dursky’s mind.
Megan and Trevor Dursky with their family. Photo courtesy of Megan Dursky.
“I’m fearful of contracting the virus myself and bringing it home to my family,” she shared. “Trying to serve patients while protecting those closest to me in my home. Every time you grab a door handle and then rub your forehead without thinking only moments later, have you just made a potentially life-changing mistake?”
Through it all, she says that nurses are truly there for patients.
“Without you — we would not be essential,” she said. “A smile from my patient can clear the day’s troubles from my mind and make everything we do worthwhile.”
We Are The Mighty will be featuring different heroes on the front lines of the battle with COVID-19. From health care workers to teachers, kind neighbors, grocery store employees and other mission essential personnel, if you know someone going above and beyond, please email us to feature them: email@example.com.
US service members in South Korea face the possibility of quarantine if they recently returned to their posts from mainland China, US Forces Korea announced Sunday as the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China continues to spread.
A 14-day self-quarantine has been put in place for US military personnel who returned to South Korea from China between Jan. 19 and Feb. 2, USFK said in a statement. There are already 15 cases of the coronavrius in South Korea, where around 28,500 US troops are stationed.
“The 14-day quarantine, which equals the incubation period for the novel coronavirus, begins from the date the individual(s) returns to S. Korea, regardless if they display symptoms or not,” the statement explained.
“USFK continues to stress the overall risk to USFK personnel remains low, but that the quarantine measures implemented are out of an abundance of caution to mitigate risk to the USFK population,” USFK further stated.
Gen. Robert Abrams, US Forces Korea commander, tweeted Sunday that “we are taking all appropriate measures to prevent any potential spread of the virus.”
“Key for everyone is to follow standard hygiene protocols, and if not feeling well—get screened ASAP!” the commander added.
This past week, the US government declared a public health emergency as the Wuhan coronavirus spread. The death toll has surpassed 300, and the number of infected is over 14,000. On Saturday, the Department of Defense announced it was preparing four military facilities to house up to 1,000 quarantined individuals should such an action be necessary.
There are already 195 people, evacuees from Wuhan, quarantined at March Air Reserve Base in California.
From the Marine Corps to the medical field, Onur Yenigun has exemplified a commitment to service in remarkable ways. A first generation American, Yenigun was the child of a Turkish immigrant and though he always knew he wanted to be a doctor, first, he wanted to give back to his country.
He served in 1st Battalion 5th Marines after telling his recruiter he “wanted to get his butt kicked.” After his service, he used the G.I. Bill and graduated with highest honors from UC Davis, before attending medical school at UC San Francisco.
Now, he’s in his third year of residency in the ER of Stanford Hospital, fighting on the front lines of a new threat: COVID-19. I had the chance to talk with him about the virus, what it’s like for our medical professionals right now, and why it’s still important to “flatten the curve.”
Here’s what he had to say:
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B_Fr6D8hBjo/ expand=1]Onur Yenigun on Instagram: “I’ve seen those pictures – folks so beat by the daily grind that they’re passed out and photographed by a passer-by. Sure, it happened to…”
Yenigun: It keeps changing because we’re learning new things all the time. Our overall volume is down. There are fewer patients — but the ones that do come in are sicker. People who are sick keep waiting it out at home because they’re afraid to go to the hospital so when they do come in, they’re really sick.
And then there’s more overall fear in the hospital. I used to greet my co-workers with a hug and now we can’t do that. We’re a close-knit family and that camaraderie means a lot to me, so it’s really hard to not be able to high five everyone. One of the interesting things about it, though, is that usually our [attending physicians] are the ones doing the teaching, but due to the nature of the virus, we’re all learning together. We’re growing together and I like that aspect.
WATM: What would you say to citizens who are putting off health treatments because of the virus? When should people go to the hospital?
Yenigun: People should call their doctor for advice. A lot of out-patient visits are shut down, but physicians are still pretty accessible and they can give medical advice.
Anyone with serious symptoms should come in, but if someone feels like their symptoms are manageable at home then they can safely do that. It is risky to come to a hospital if someone doesn’t need to be there — not just because of COVID-19.
People’s primary care doctors are still a really good resource.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B_DWDYhhRcy/ expand=1]Onur Yenigun on Instagram: “Behind these doors lies a convention center turned medical facility with over 200 cots, neatly lined and ready to accept and care for the…”
WATM: What treatments have been effective for patients with COVID-19?
Yenigun: Supportive therapy is still the most effective right now. There are a lot of drug and vaccine trials and antivirals being studied right now but if you were to come into the hospital today with COVID, the major things would be supportive treatments: administer oxygen, control fevers, monitor symptoms, and intubate when necessary.
WATM: Is your hospital doing proning?
Yenigun: Proning is something that has been around for so long. Proning has been an effective treatment for patients with bad lung diseases like ARDS [acute respiratory distress syndrome], which is what we call the syndrome these patients are getting with bad COVID. It’s not always effective, but in certain cases it can improve outcomes.
WATM: What kind of recovery rate are you seeing for COVID-positive patients?
Yenigun: The majority of patients I see are healthy enough to be discharged and they go home to get better. I don’t know the exact percentage, of course. I have seen some very sick people who end up in the ICU. Most of them have been elderly or they’ve had risk factors that we know lead to more serious infections. The big four that we know about are diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and lung disease, so when we see COVID patients at higher risk then we monitor more closely.
WATM: What does the hospital do to help prevent COVID-19 from spreading to patients/staff?
Yenigun: Even just to get into our hospital, staff members have to get their temperature checked. People with fevers have to go home. We also have very strict policies with regards to our PPE [personal protective equipment].
For patients, we can see many who are less critical in a drive-through outside and they will “iPad in” — we can tell a lot about a person from looking at them. Looking at you, I can tell that you’re breathing comfortably, that your color is good, that you can talk easily. I can tell that you don’t have a bad respiratory condition. We could swab you, you could go home, you could call in and get results.
For patients who are “persons under investigation” or that we think might have COVID in the hospital, we try to place them in negative pressure rooms. We also have HEPA filters in the rooms that are purifying the air. Anytime we go into those rooms, we wear full protective gear: gloves, N95 masks, goggles.
We’re fortunate now to have a rapid test so we can quickly determine who has COVID and who doesn’t so we’re able to separate COVID-positive patients from other patients.
WATM: Why is social distancing and “flattening the curve” important?
Yenigun: I don’t really like the term “social distancing” — I prefer “physical distancing” because I don’t think anyone should be forced into complete isolation, distancing themselves from the people they care about most in their social circles because that’s going to lead to a whole host of issues surrounding mental health.
It is important, however, to reduce the number of infections at any one time. The whole point of flattening the curve isn’t necessarily to reduce the number of infections — it’s to reduce the number of infections at once.
The worst thing we could do is have everyone go out and spread this thing like wildfire; suddenly everyone would present critically ill, flooding our emergency department. Many would need to get intubated, we would run out of ventilators, the ICU would fill, and then people would die in the waiting room. That’s our biggest nightmare — we don’t want people to die.
The whole point of distancing is to provide time for this virus to trickle through the population. The people who are going to get sick will get sick, but it will be manageable for hospitals. We’ll be able to take care of them and save as many lives as we can.
That time will also give us the opportunity to run these clinical trials and develop vaccines.
WATM: Have you seen any cases of reinfection?
Yenigun: I haven’t seen any reinfections. There has been talk about reinfections overseas, but we haven’t seen anyone personally who has gotten sick, gotten better, then gotten sick again here.
WATM: Are you worried about getting the virus?
Yenigun: I’m not too worried about my own personal well-being. I don’t think I would get critically ill. I’m more worried about the fact that I interact with multiple people and patients every day. I don’t want to pass it on to other people.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B-it1Q1Bc10/ expand=1]Onur Yenigun on Instagram: “I remember driving home from work last night wishing I had a way to spend my day off that would in someway contribute to the community. I…”
WATM: What is life like for doctors and nurses right now? What’s your work-tempo like and how is morale?
Yenigun: Work hasn’t necessarily increased because we’re able to manage the patients as they come in. I’ve personally been able to volunteer with Team Rubicon to staff a convention center here we’ve turned into a medical respite. I’ve had a lot of 24-hour days, but this is what I love and I’m happy to do it.
As far as morale, our community has really come together. We’ve been getting donations of food and snacks and letters from grateful locals. We had a great Black Rifle Coffee Company donation — shout out to those guys. Our staff has Zoom social hours. I put together a Zoom work-out for nurses and staff. We’ve found ways to come together.
WATM: What can people do to support hospitals and people in the medical field?
Yenigun: Everyone in health care would really appreciate it if everyone can just take measures to stay healthy. That’s what’s going to get us through this in the long run — that’s how we’re going to end these lockdowns. Wash your hands. Stay healthy. If you feel like you just have a cold, stay home. Unless you become afraid that you cannot manage the symptoms, you might be safer at home.
WATM: What are the benefits of taking an antibody test?
Yenigun: If you have been exposed, even if you were asymptomatic, you should have developed antibodies. In most cases, when you have antibodies for an illness you’re most likely protected from it. We can’t say that for sure about COVID-19. Antibody testing is interesting from an epidemiological perspective, but it might not necessarily mean anything conclusive for individuals yet.
WATM: Finally, and this is arguably the most important question, there’s an article about whether COVID-19 could be spread through farts…would you like to comment on that, Doctor?
Yenigun: Oh god…
WATM: I just want people to stay safe.
Yenigun: Do I think it could be…spread through a fart?
Yenigun: They have isolated the viral RNA in stool but that doesn’t necessarily mean it could be passed fecally…still, this is probably where common sense and courtesy come in.
WATM: Thank you for that and, sincerely, thank you for your continued service.
I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me, too! Thank you.
As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on the world, the list of negatives grows and grows. People are out of work and stuck at home, many businesses have closed, and schools have shut their doors, many for the remainder of the school year. Everything has stopped…everything except the growing number of ill people and the medical professionals and supplies needed to care for them.
The shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic is staggering, but fortunately, many have stepped up to help mitigate this problem in a variety of ways, including a growing list of companies in the defense industry.
Theodore Roosevelt once said “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are,” and that’s exactly what these companies are doing.
Strike Industries is making surgical mask covers that extend the useful life of surgical masks for front line medical personnel. The cover is a sleeve that holds a standard surgical mask and is made from 50/50 nylon cotton. It includes its own ear (or head) loops that are more durable than those found on standard, disposable surgical masks. SI is selling the masks at their cost, about .
Strike Industry’s Danny Chang explains that disposable surgical masks have three layers; two moisture-repellant exterior layers sandwiching an electrostatically-charged inner layer. He says any fluids or moisture that seep into the mask reduces the electrostatic charge in the middle layer and the loss of the static charge over time reduces the masks ability to filter particles.
Strike’s cover adds another, water-resistant layer to the front and back of surgical masks that extends the life of the mask by reducing the amount of moisture that reaches it from the interior (the wearer’s breath, coughs, and sneezing) and the exterior (spray, splash, and airborne droplets.)
“At a time when supplies for N95 masks and even disposable surgical masks are super low,” says Chang, “this is just another barrier/layer to help. I found out from medical professionals that they are supposed to replace disposable surgical masks if it gets wet or every 2-3 hours, normally.”
Chang warns, “We aren’t saying this mask sleeve/cover is for medical use, but when times are tough, something is better than nothing.” Since masks of all types are in short supply and people are being asked to wear them longer than they are normally meant to be worn, covers that extend the life of a mask seem like a good idea. He says he’s heard some hospitals are even spraying disposable surgical masks with aerosol cleaners to be reused.
KelTec is 3D printing N99 capable masks to supply local hospitals. One of the company’s engineer’s, Toby Obermeit, is working with the Medical University of South Carolina to make improvements to their S.A.F.E. mask design, as well as creating a variety of additional cartridge options. These designs will be publicly available to help fill the immediate needs of healthcare and first responders everywhere. The masks, when used with the correct filters, can be of N99 quality, are reusable, and currently feature replaceable Roomba Filters.
The Original S.A.F.E. Mask design required cutting and gluing a HEPA filter, however the new designs utilize various Roomba Filters, making them much easier to assemble.
“We’ve accomplished a lot.” said Obermeit. “We’ve made improvements to the mask itself, as well as created multiple cartridges which take different types of filters. There is even a mask design that has an integrated filter cartridge.”
KelTec, meanwhile, quickly repurposed their 3D printers for the N99 quality masks to supply local hospitals.
“Caring about each other, our families and neighbors is in our DNA,” concluded Marketing Director Derek Kellgren. “These are difficult times and we have friends, family members, neighbors and customers on the front lines. We’re just glad we can be of some help, given how much they’re helping us and our communities.”
KelTec, known for innovation and performance, is one of the top firearms manufacturers in the world, employing nearly 300 American citizens, many of whom are Veterans.
Mustang Survival is a Canadian company known for its technical apparel solutions for maritime public safety professionals, maritime military, and marine recreational users. They design, engineer, and manufacture life vests, survival suits, and dry suits that are built to withstand even the most rugged marine environments. On April 1st, Mustang Survival launched production of the first 500 isolation gowns. The gowns are a Level 3 certified PPE, fully waterproof, and designed and engineered to bring new levels of safety to frontline healthcare workers.
Increased demand for PPE, there was a need to get ahead of the problem and look to local sources to solve it,” says Mark Anderson, Chair of the BC Apparel Gear Association and Director of Engineering at Burnaby-based Mustang Survival; who, through years of experience in outfitting frontline defenders and public safety teams, is in a unique position to help.
“Our 50 year history of developing innovative solutions for both Military and public safety professionals combined with the unique advantage of being part of a cutting edge design community here in Vancouver provides us with the ability to adjust and pivot our focus on developing a solution,” said Anderson.
On the first day of its effort, over 250 face shields were produced, with plans to further ramp up production and maximize their donations. When asked about their participation, Alix James, President and CEO of Nielsen-Kellerman talked about how impressed she is with the way American sporting goods and outdoor manufacturers have jumped in immediately to help where they could.
The company’s initial effort was to buy the materials and have volunteers from its staff build them. That resulted in around 500 face shields being built and donated to Temple University Hospital and St. Christopher’s Children’s Hospital. But after talking with the hospitals James discovered the need for PPE was much larger than she’d realized. That led the company to source materials for another 10,000 shields in an effort to build and supply shields for as long as they can.
James says that the PPE shortage will eventually ease as large companies with automated manufacturing systems switch gears, but it takes time for these big producers to shift production. So, in the short term, companies with domestic manufacturing are filling the gap.
“And that is the value of investing in preserving our industrial manufacturing base,” says James. “I hope to see us adjust some of our policies in the future to better support American manufacturing – particularly for critical supply chains like medical equipment, drugs and food. We’ve always emphasized keeping defense production on our shores, but this pandemic has really shown us that other areas are important from a strategic standpoint as well.”
Mystery Ranch makes some of the finest packs and load carriage systems on the market, with designs for military applications, wildland fire, mountaineering, and hunting. In light of the COVID-19 crisis, Mystery Ranch has stepped up to provide over 250 masks to their local hospital in Bozeman, MT.
Using the materials they already have on hand, and halting all other production, Mystery Ranch is providing Bozeman Health Deaconess staff with masks that are soft, antimicrobial, and breathable. Mystery Ranch has also donated elastic to the Gallatin Quilt Guild who has been spearheading the project.
Outdoor Research makes a lot of different outdoor gear and apparel, including tactical gloves built to withstand rugged environments. During the pandemic, OR has converted their Seattle factory in order to make personal protective medical equipment. OR has committed to producing upwards of 200,000 masks per day. Outdoor Research will be manufacturing ASTM level 3 masks in April/May, N95 masks by May/June, and will immediately begin producing ASTM Level 1 face masks.
“Our 39-year history of rapidly developing cutting-edge Outdoor, Military and Tactical products provides Outdoor Research the ability to quickly shift to supporting the personal protective needs of the medical community,” said CEO Dan Nordstrom. “Our entire company is fully committed to ensuring that doctors, nurses, health-care workers and first responders have the personal protective equipment they require to effectively care for their patients. We are working with state and local officials to better protect our employees in this environment as we ramp up production in the following days and weeks.”
Versacarry, based out of Texas, is known for its premium leather holsters and other accessories ranging from belts to mag pouches. Effective immediately, Versacarry has chosen to use part of its manufacturing capacity to produce face masks and shields instead of firearms accessories. Versacarry expects to be able to produce in excess of 20,000 units of each product weekly. Versacarry has even placed a contact form on their website so people can request supplies for the organization they work for.
An arm of Smith Optics, its Elite Eye Protection side of the house supplies eyewear and goggles to the U.S. Special Operations community. In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the company is working with a crowdsourced donation program called Goggles for Docs to relieve personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages among front line medical personnel across the U.S.
The effort is supported by volunteers and donations to provide ski goggles to health care workers that lack eye protection while treating COVID-19 patients. Smith is currently sending new and used goggles to fulfill hospital requests, and encourages those with time or an older set of goggles to contribute by visiting gogglesfordocs.com.
In the United States military, the Purple Heart is a revered, if unwanted, military accolade bestowed upon those individuals who have been wounded in action with the enemy. The Military Order of the Purple Heart describes it as “awarded to members of the armed forces of the U.S. who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those killed in action or die of wounds received in action. It is specifically a combat decoration.”
The Purple Heart traces its lineage all the way back to the Revolutionary War when it was called the Badge of Military Merit. After World War I, renewed interest in reviving the Badge of Military Merit led to the establishment of the modern Purple Heart. When the new Purple Heart was authorized in 1932, it superseded the short-lived Army Wound Ribbon and the wear of Wound Chevrons – devices on the sleeve that denoted the number of times someone had been wounded in combat.
Two million Purple Hearts have been awarded since it was created. The men below earned more of them per individual than any others.
1. Staff Sgt. Albert L. Ireland – Marine Corps
Staff Sergeant Albert Ireland has the distinction of being awarded the most Purple Hearts of any individual across all branches of service. During his 12 years of service – spanning two wars from 1941 to 1953 – Ireland was wounded a total of nine times. Albert fought his way across the Pacific with the Marines during World War II, during which time he was wounded five times. During the Korean War, he was wounded four more times, and the last one was severe enough that he was medically discharged.
2. Lt. Col. Richard J. Buck – Army
Richard Buck graduated from West Point in 1951 before being shipped to the Korean peninsula. During his service in the Korean War, Buck was wounded a total of four times. After the Korean War, Buck stayed in the Army and eventually joined Special Forces before being deployed to Vietnam. There, Buck was again wounded four times, bringing his Purple Heart total to eight for his career. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1970.
3. Maj. Gen. Robert T. Frederick – Army
Major General Frederick began World War II as a Lieutenant Colonel tasked with raising the 1st Special Service Force. With this force he would fight in the Aleutian Islands, North Africa, and Italy before being promoted to Brigadier General and taking charge of the 1st Allied Airborne Task Force. During his time with 1st Special Service Force, he was wounded numerous times. At Anzio he was wounded twice in the same day. Frederick was once again promoted and took command of the 45th Infantry Division until the end of the war. Major General Frederick ended WWII with eight Purple Hearts, two Distinguished Service Crosses, and a Silver Star. He retired in 1952.
4. Col. David H. Hackworth – Army
Colonel Hackworth was awarded eight purple hearts over the course of the Korean and Vietnam wars. During the Korean War, Hackworth served with several elite units – 8th Ranger Company, 25th Recon Company, and the 27th Wolfhound Raiders – before earning a battlefield commission and volunteering to serve another tour, which he completed with the 40th Infantry Division. During his time in Korea he was awarded three Purple Hearts. During the Vietnam War, Hackworth served multiple tours in Vietnam in multiple capacities but was well known for creating the Tiger Force with the 101st Airborne and revitalizing the demoralized 4/39th into the ‘Hardcore Recondo’ Battalion. There he received another five Purple Hearts. Col. Hackworth also holds the record for the most Silver Stars with ten awards.
5. Capt. Joe Hooper – Army
Joe Hooper enlisted in the U.S. Army as an Airborne Infantryman in 1960. He was stationed at a number of locations before being assigned to D Co., 2nd Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment just prior to that unit’s deployment to Vietnam. On February 21, 1968, Hooper’s actions outside of Hue earned him the Medal of Honor as well as one of his Purple Hearts. Hooper would serve a second tour in Vietnam from 1970-71, during which time he received a direct commission to 2nd Lieutenant. During his tours, Lt. Cooper received eight Purple Hearts, the Medal of Honor, and two Silver Stars as well as numerous other awards.
6. Col. Robert L. Howard – Army
Robert Howard enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1956 and by 1967 found himself assigned to Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) in Vietnam. Howard served a total of 54 months in Vietnam. During one thirteen month tour, he was recommended for the Medal of Honor on three separate occasions, but due to the covert nature of the operations, two were reduced – to the Silver Star and Distinguished Service Cross. He was awarded the Medal of Honor and a Purple Heart for actions in December 1968. In the remainder of his time in Vietnam, Howard was given a commission to 2nd Lieutenant and wounded a further seven times giving him a total of eight Purple Hearts for his career. He retired as a Colonel in 1992.
7. Col. William L. Russell – Army
William Russell first enlisted in the 153rd Infantry Regiment of the Arkansas National Guard during World War II, seeing action in the Aleutian Islands before being given a direct commission. After Advanced Infantry Officer Training, he was assigned to I Co., 330th Infantry Regiment, 83rd Infantry Division. During his time with the 83rd Infantry Division, he earned a Silver Star, was nominated for the Medal of Honor, and was wounded seven times, earning him the nickname ‘The King of the Purple Hearts.” After WWII, Russell returned to Arkansas before being called up to participate in the Korean War where he led the 937th Field Artillery Battalion into combat. Russell retired from the military in 1965 with the rank of Colonel, having been awarded eightPurple Hearts.
8. Sgt. Maj. William Waugh – Army
William Waugh enlisted in the Army in 1948 and was briefly assigned to the 187th Parachute Regimental Combat Team in Korea before earning his Green Beret in 1954. Waugh deployed to Vietnam with Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha team in 1961. During numerous tours in Vietnam, Waugh was involved in many different operations including multiple combat High Altitude Low Opening insertions. During the Battle of Bong Son, Waugh was grievously wounded and was later awarded the Silver Star and his sixth Purple Heart. By the time Sgt. Maj. Waugh retired in 1972, he had been wounded two more times for a total of eight Purple Hearts. After his illustrious Special Forces career, Waugh continued on working for the CIA during which time, at the age of 71, he participated in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
On March 18, 2020, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein emphasized the importance of protecting the force from COVID-19 while maintaining the ability to conduct global missions.
“We’ve got fighters, bombers, and maintainers deployed working to keep America safe,” Goldfein said during a briefing with reporters at the Pentagon. “We’re still flying global mobility missions and conducting global space operations. So, the global missions we as an Air Force support in the joint force, all those missions continue.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, the U.S. Air Force’s core missions remain unimpeded.
Air Mobility Command continued rapid global mobility operations on March 17, when U.S. Airmen transported a shipment of 500,000 COVID-19 testing swabs from Aviano Air Base, Italy, to Memphis, Tennessee. The mission, which was headed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, utilized Air Force active duty, Reserve and National Guard components to ensure timely delivery of the supplies.
To aid the Italian response to the COVID-19 outbreak, a Ramstein Air Base C-130J Super Hercules delivered a life-saving medical capability, the En-Route Patient Staging System, to the Italian Ministry of Defense. The vital medical capability was transported to Aviano AB via an 86th Airlift Wing C-130J Super Hercules out of Ramstein AB, Germany, on March 20.
The ERPSS is a flexible, modular patient staging system able to operate across a spectrum of scenarios such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. The modular system provides 10 patient staging beds inside two tents, can support up to 40 patients in 24 hours, comes with seven days of medical supplies and can achieve initial operating capability within one hour of notification.
Also, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Airmen assigned to the 56th Medical Group helped minimize the spread of COVID-19 by staffing a drive-thru COVID-19 testing station on March 23.
Airmen assigned to the 56th Medical Group conduct COVID-19 tests March 23, 2020, at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. To minimize the spread of COVID-19, the 56th MDG is utilizing drive-thru services to conduct tests. The 56th MDG is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and working closely with Arizona health officials to decrease the impact of COVID-19 at Luke AFB.
National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are being called upon to assist state and local governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In New York, guardsmen are providing logistical and administrative support to state and local governments, staffing two call centers, assisting three drive-thru COVID-19 testing stations, cleaning public buildings, warehousing and delivering bulk supplies of New York State sanitizer to local governments and helping schools deliver meals to students at home.
The New Jersey National Guard also assisted a COVID-19 Community Based Testing Site at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey, March 23, 2020. The testing site, which was established in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was staffed by the New Jersey Department of Health, New Jersey State Police, and New Jersey National Guard.
Strengthening joint partnerships
The Air Force’s European Bomber Task Force regularly deploys bomber aircraft to the European theater of operations to conduct joint training with allied nations. The task force continues to train with U.S. partners to strengthen relationships and ensure the sovereignty of allied airspace.
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Trevon Gardner, assigned to the 5th Security Forces Squadron at Minot Air Base, North Dakota, poses for a portrait in front of a B-2 Spirit on March 19, 2020, at RAF Fairford, United Kingdom. Gardner deployed to RAF Fairford in support of Bomber Task Force Europe operations, which tests the readiness of the Airmen and equipment that support it, as well as their collective ability to operate at forward locations.
One example of the task force’s continued operations tempo is the recent Icelandic Air Policing mission conducted March 16. The mission involved two U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit aircraft from RAF Fairford, United Kingdom, as well as Norwegian F-35 Lightning IIs and U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagle aircraft.
The Bomber Task Force achieved a new milestone over the North Sea on March 18, when two U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers successfully conducted a fifth generation integration flight with Norwegian and Dutch F-35 Lightning IIs.
A B-2A Spirit bomber assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing, Royal Netherlands air force F-35A and U.S. F-15C Eagle assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing conduct aerial operations in support of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-2 over the North Sea March 18, 2020. Bomber missions provide opportunities to train and work with NATO allies and theater partners in combined and joint operations and exercises.
“The world expects that NATO and the U.S. continue to execute our mission with decisiveness, regardless of any external challenge,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander. “Missions like these provide us an opportunity to assure our allies while sending a clear message to any adversary that no matter the challenge, we are ready.”
Sustaining the training pipeline
A formal memorandum released by Air Education and Training Command on March 18 detailed the command’s designation as a mission essential function of the U.S. Air Force during the COVID-19 outbreak.
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Donald Weaver, 320th Training Squadron military training instructor, leads his flight with a salute during an Air Force BMT graduation Mar. 19, 2020, held at the 320th Training Squadron’s Airman Training Complex on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Due to current world events, the 37th Training Wing has implemented social distancing by graduating 668 Airmen during four different ceremonies at different Airman Training Complexes. The graduation ceremonies will be closed to the public until further notice for the safety and security of the newly accessioned Airmen and their family members due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of AETC, stated that the command will continue to “recruit and access Airmen; train candidates and enlistees in Officer Training School, ROTC and basic military training; develop Airmen in technical and flying training; and deliver advanced academic education such as the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, Air Command and Staff College and Air War College.”
Prior to attending basic military training, potential recruits are required to undergo processing at a Military Entrance Processing Station. MEPS members have virus protocol procedures to observe and take the temperatures of all individuals entering MEPS facilities. Additionally, Air Force recruiters complete a medical prescreen of all applicants which covers all medical concerns including COVID-19.
Although they may be a little quieter, Air Force Basic Military Training graduations will continue to press on at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Graduation ceremonies have been closed to the public until further notice while social distancing procedures have been implemented to further protect the health and safety of Airmen.
U.S. Air Force basic military training graduates stand at attention during an Air Force BMT graduation Mar. 19, 2020, held at the 320th Training Squadron’s Airman Training Complex on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Due to current world events, the 37th Training Wing has implemented social distancing by graduating 668 Airmen during four different ceremonies at different Airman Training Complexes. The graduation ceremonies will be closed to the public until further notice for the safety and security of the newly accessioned Airmen and their family members due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
On March 19, the 37th Training Wing implemented social distancing procedures by graduating 668 Airmen using four separate ceremonies at four different Airman Training Complexes. Although the events were closed to the public, provisions were made to live stream the Air Force graduation ceremonies through the USAF Basic Military Training Facebook page.
Remaining ready on the homefront
To prevent the spread of viruses, the Air Force is urging its personnel and their families to continue practicing proper hygiene. This includes washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Also, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands and avoid close contact with those who are sick. Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces should also be done for good measure.
For the Airmen on the flight line, social distancing procedures are rigorously enforced. Additionally, aircrews are having their temperatures taken to ensure aircraft maintain a clean environment that’s safe for their fellow Airmen.
Pat Sheehan, a 32 year-old attending physician in New Orleans, Louisiana, is no stranger to the fast-paced environment of the emergency room.
“The ERs are always the frontlines,” he told We Are The Mighty. “We treat every patient that comes through the doors 24/7/365, whether it’s a gunshot wound or a stubbed toe, great insurance or no insurance, any race, religion, [or] creed.”
When cases of the novel coronavirus began popping up around the country, Sheehan admits that his response was likely similar to many other medical professionals.
“I think I responded how most ER docs did, thinking that this is probably like all of the previous viruses that we were told could become a public health crisis – SARS, MERS, ebola, etc. – and never came to be,” Sheehan said. “I’ll be the first to admit that as an ER doc, I am not a public health expert. We are great at treating the critically ill and/or dying patients within our own emergency department, but we certainly defer to public health officials regarding crises like this. When we started to see things unfold in Seattle [and] NYC, we immediately buckled down and tried to prepare.”
Sheehan works at the second busiest emergency department in the entire state of Louisiana.
“[We see] about 85,000 patients per year, so luckily we have significant resources at our disposal,” he shared. “Our hospital was one of the first to implement an action plan and we actually built an entirely separate triage/waiting room area to siphon off all potential COVID patients from others presenting to the ER. We created several dedicated ‘COVID Shifts’ so that certain doctors and staff members would be treating all of the COVID patients rather than exposing everyone. I’ve certainly been lucky to work at a hospital where administration took the threat seriously and gave us all of the resources we needed.”
While Sheehan takes a ‘head down and treat the patients as they come in’ approach, the weight of the situation is omnipresent.
“Seeing patients dying, not being able to have their family with them at the end, because of a sad, but necessary, no visitor policy,” Sheehan said when asked about a low point of the pandemic.
Even outside the emergency room, he admits coronavirus remains top-of-mind.
“The hardest part is probably worrying about bringing it home to my family,” he shared. “We have a newborn at home, so obviously that’s constantly on my mind. We’re being as careful as we can be, I strip off my scrubs on the front porch and go straight to the shower when I get home. I take my temperature twice a day. Washing my hands constantly. Wearing PPE all the time at work. It’s impossible to be perfect though, so there is always a chance of me getting my loved ones sick.”
Through the crisis, Sheehan has documented his experience on Instagram, creating posts and videos with easy to understand information, terminology simplification and even explanations of how equipment, like ventilators, work.
“More than anything I would just want people to understand how hard ERs work across the country work to treat the sick and dying every day, not just during COVID-19,” Sheehan said. “If you have to wait a few hours or somebody forgets to get you that blanket you asked for, just remember that it might be because in the room next to you staff is trying to revive an unresponsive infant, performing CPR on an overdose, or comforting family of a patient that didn’t make it. We’ll do our best to help you and make you comfortable, but sometimes we just need a little understanding.”
The Polish government has introduced a new app that will require coronavirus patients to take selfies to prove they’re quarantining properly.
Per France 24, the “Home Quarantine” app is intended for people quarantining for 14 days after returning from abroad.
People who’ve downloaded the app register a selfie with the app, then periodically receive requests for geo-located selfies. If they fail to comply, the police will be alerted.
“People in quarantine have a choice: either receive unexpected visits from the police, or download this app,” a spokesman for Poland’s Digital Ministry told the AFP. If a user fails to respond to a request within 20 minutes police will be notified.
France 24 reported that police in Poland fined someone for breaking quarantine 500 zloty (6) on Friday.
British journalist Jakub Krupa tweeted that accounts are being automatically created for suspected quarantine patients.
Krupa tweeted that the purpose of the app isn’t solely to punish people breaking quarantine, saying it also “helps to connect with the social services or request help with urgent supplies.”
The global COVID-19 pandemic has so far dominated the year 2020. The news cycle is filled with statistics, new restrictions, and a suffering economy. The current pandemic is also causing rising symptoms of depression, anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness. A few women decided to change that narrative. They are encouraging others to live in a space of purpose and love.
Victoria Griggs is an active duty Army spouse living in Seattle, Washington – the area of the United States first impacted by the pandemic. She shared that she has a son with a rare blood disorder which requires frequent hospital visits, despite the shelter in place order. Her mom lovingly made her family masks to utilize during their hospital trips. “I took a quick picture and made a Facebook post thanking my mom for the masks and sharing that more could be made for anyone in need. I never dreamed it would turn into what it did,” said Griggs.
Less than 24 hours later, she was fielding hundreds of requests for masks and offers to help make more. She quickly realized that there would need to be a team to make this work and a nonprofit would need to be formed. Marine spouse Jill Campbell and Army spouse Sophia Eng came on board. Then Becky Blank and Ruthi Nguyen, who are civilians, joined in too. All of them realized they had a unique opportunity to make a difference.
Once established as an official nonprofit, they began receiving monetary donations. All of the money raised goes right into the mask making. They are now supporting multiple groups throughout the country with supplies and shipping costs that are sewing masks. They have made over 7,000 masks to date thanks to the efforts of 400 sewers. We Have Masks also has a group volunteering their time working with 3D printers to make tools for mask makers. Every piece that put We Have Masks together is based on a shared devotion to serving others.
Nurses at Kaiser Redwood City with masks generously donated by We Have Masks
On the other side of the country, Megan Brown was doing the same thing.
Her mask making all started as a way to support her fellow Air Force families at her husband’s base in Georgia. Very quickly it morphed into sewing masks for military families and first responders all over the country. Brown was open in sharing that the original idea for Milspo Mask Makers was Sarah Mainwaring’s and she was “lovingly pushed” into doing it alongside her and then eventually leading the cause. They have now made 1,200 masks to date with no end in sight.
“We are challenging the military community to stand in the gap,” Brown said. She went on to explain that her deep faith pushed her to say yes to this. Brown also shared that she couldn’t just organize this, but believed deeply that she had to be making the masks as well. “True leaders do so from the front,” she said. Brown and all of the Milspo Mask Makers are challenging the military community to make 10,000 masks by the time GivingTuesdayNow rolls around on May 5th, 2020.
Back in Seattle, Griggs was watching Brown and her mask makers. She reached out to her on a whim to connect and tell her how much she admired what she was doing. They both discussed their deep desire to bring joy to those in need and a feeling of purpose to those lost. “This is one of the darkest times in our generation. We are all going through what is essentially a group trauma,” Brown shared. Through community building and serving, they both want to help heal that trauma.
So, they’ve joined forces.
We Have Masks will begin to utilize and adopt the hashtag, #MilSpoMaskMakers to help Brown monitor their targeted goal of 10,000 masks. They are actively seeking more people who are willing to sew and support the mask making efforts. Both women encouraged those who can sew to sign up and onboard through the We Have Masks website. Those in need of masks personally or for their community can also utilize the website to request masks. Those who are able to donate to the cause can safely give there as well.
“I can’t wait to model collaboration to this generation of military spouses. It’s about meeting the need together – publicly, lovingly, and well,” said Brown. Griggs echoed that sentiment, explaining that she feels this is such a great space to be in and truly feels like they are making a difference. Together.
In a world currently filled with scenes of loss and unknowns, there can also be deep love and purpose. All it takes is a willingness to serve and the belief in the power of community.
There’s been so much written lately about the heroes on the front lines. The selfless men and women bravely going to their jobs to serve their country and their communities. The ones who are knowingly going to work with patients or customers who could infect them. Yes, we rightfully applaud the truck drivers hauling supplies to replenish depleted stores. We extol the cook at our favorite restaurant who keeps making meals and the employees whose tips have been practically eliminated but still run our orders out to our cars. We watch with sheer amazement and horror as our doctors, nurses and medical staff go into the line of fire lacking basic, necessary protective equipment. We honor you all. We salute you all. We love and respect and are grateful For You All.
But this letter isn’t about that. Nope.
This letter is to you — the spouses of the mission essentials.
You are the ones left behind each morning. The ones left to deal with homeschool and meals and kids unable to play with their friends or understand their math homework that they didn’t quite grasp in a packet.
You are the ones left to carry the emotional burdens of children who are frustrated at a Zoom classroom and don’t understand why they can’t have a sleepover or go see grandma or even play at the park. You are the ones who field countless requests for snacks, a thousand utterings of, “I need help,” and even more declarations of, “I can’t do this.”
You put your own work on hold, your own health, your own sanity to muster one more ounce of patience, one more hug, one more deep breath, all while balancing that other nasty, invisible weight: the burden of your own anxiety. Anxious about the world. Anxious about your spouse. Anxious about their health and your health and your parents’ health and your kids’ health and their screen time and your elderly neighbor’s health and the teachers’ health and your job and your neighbor’s job and the economy and your kids’ education, and given your one hour of free time a week, why you suddenly identify with a character on Tiger King.
Here’s the thing: It’s all too much. And it’s going to feel like you’re failing.
Failing by definition means, “a weakness, especially in character; a shortcoming.” But if we’ve seen anything in this time of pandemic, we’ve seen your strength. Your resolve. Your gracious heart. We’ve seen you stay home and help flatten the curve. We’ve seen you take on additional responsibilities so your mission essential spouse could keep being mission essential. We’ve seen you offer encouragement to your friends on FaceTime when you have none to give yourself. We’ve seen you reassure your exhausted partner that everything will be okay, all the while knowing you will lie awake in the dark in the middle of the night, the echoes of your own fears so deafening you can’t fall back asleep.
We see you. You’re going to be okay. Reframe your measure of success to include a bar that allows for just getting by. Find time for gratitude. Make space for prayer or meditation or simply a silence that isn’t broken by fear or anxiety. We are all in this together and your best is good enough. As my seven year old reminded me yesterday, this is his first global pandemic. Ours too, bud. Ours too.
In the United States, hospitals are facing shortages of medical grade masks, and have taken to social media to ask seamstresses nationwide if they can sew masks for them.
When Sarah Mainwaring, a military spouse and community advocate at Robins AFB heard about the plight of local hospitals, she devised a plan to fulfill the needs of both the military community and healthcare workers due to the (very) limited availability of medical masks. She enlisted the help of her neighbors and fellow military spouses, and they began gathering materials to begin sewing masks. They decided to take their movement public by involving the military community, and thus, Milspo Mask Makers was born.
Milspo Mask Makers is a growing community movement of active duty, guard, reservists, and military spouses that are dedicated to filling the needs of healthcare workers, the surrounding community, and the immunocompromised by sewing masks to help them protect themselves against COVID-19. These masks can be used by healthcare workers in the event of a shortage, or to prolong the life of their medical mask to be able to use it longer.
Through their efforts, the ladies at Milspo Mask Makers were able to come together and sew over 100 masks in their first 24 hours. They have since been joined by other spouses in their local community, and have distributed over 200 masks to date. Sarah has challenged the military community to sew 10,000 masks worldwide and distribute them to those in need. If you or someone you know is making masks, let Milspo Mask Maker know! Use the hashtag #MilspoMaskMaker when you post photos to social media.
Also, be sure to like their page on Facebook to keep up-to-date with their efforts, view tutorials on making masks, and to find out other ways you can contribute to the cause!
Marine Cpl. Salvatore Naimo was awarded the Silver Star on March 17, 2021 — his 89th birthday — for actions that took place when he was a member of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment nearly 70 years ago. In September 1951 Naimo, a rifleman in “Howe” Company, found himself in the midst of bitter fighting along the 38th parallel, fighting for “the Punch Bowl.” High casualties among Naimo’s company meant his heroism was nearly lost to history.
The year 1950 had seen maneuver warfare up and down the Korean Peninsula with the Communist North sweeping aside allied resistance in June 1950 until the desperate defense of the Pusan Perimeter. Gen. Douglas MacArthur regained allied initiative with a brilliant counteroffensive landing Marines at Inchon in September 1950.
With Marines spearheading an Allied sweep North to the Yalu River, MacArthur all but guaranteed victory by the end of 1950 by declaring troops would be “Home by Christmas.” China entering the war in November 1950 once again changed the balance, leading to the fabled “Battle of the Chosin Reservoir” and a mass retreat south by Allied forces on the peninsula. By the summer of 1951, they were increasingly locked in stalemate with the front lines settling along the 38th parallel.
June 1951 began with armistice talks, but they began to fall apart by the end of summer. In August 1951, in an effort to drive the North Koreans and Chinese back to the negotiating table, Naimo, along with some 30,000 other members of the Allied task force, found themselves attacking a mountainous region on the far eastern part of the 38th parallel in what would become known as The Battle of the Punch Bowl.
The operation lasted from Aug. 31 until Sept. 21, 1951, and featured frequent and vicious engagements in mountainous terrain resulting in at least 5,000 Chinese and North Korean dead. On the Allied side, 69 Americans and 122 South Koreans would be killed in action and more than 1,000 Allied troops wounded.
On the morning of Sept. 14, 1951, Naimo and his fellow members of Howe Company were digging into a key ridge atop the Punchbowl, with Naimo’s platoon occupying the far left flank of Howe Company’s position. Suddenly, the Chinese Army began to drop well-aimed and concentrated mortar fire on the Marines, effectively suppressing the company.
With a mortar scoring a direct hit on the position adjacent to his, and critically wounding two Marines, cries for help rang out. Naimo immediately rushed from his position to the aid of his fellow Marines. Picking up the first wounded Marine and rushing back out into the barrage, Naimo proceeded to carry him toward the aid station when another round detonated — this time wounding Naimo and knocking him to the ground. Undaunted, Naimo picked up his fellow Marine and pressed on, reaching the aid station.
“The normal reaction when under fire is fear; that is the reaction. It’s a very difficult and deliberate decision to act, especially to put yourself at risk to save or protect your fellow Marine,” said Col. John Polidoro, chief of staff, US Marine Corps Forces, Central Command, who awarded the Silver Star on behalf of the Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Going against the will of corpsmen and others at the aid station, Naimo ignored his own injuries and again rushed to the aid of another wounded Marine, bringing him to the aid station as well.
It was at this point in the engagement that Chinese forces began transitioning from indirect “prep” fire into a ground attack on Howe Company’s position. Observing Chinese soldiers advancing up the hill, Naimo once again ignored his own wounds and sprang into action. He jumped into a fighting position and began firing his weapon and throwing grenades into the ranks of the advancing enemy. Naimo continued to do this until he was nearly out of ammunition and the Chinese assault broke on Howe Company’s rocky ridge.
“I earned this for something I was trained to do,” Naimo said.
While immediately recognized for heroism by his platoon commander, Naimo waited 70 years before being awarded — two days after this engagement, and before he could submit the paperwork, Naimo’s platoon commander was killed in action.
On his 89th birthday, Naimo, surrounded by family and friends rather than Marines, was presented the nation’s third highest award for valor.
“It doesn’t matter if the Marine’s actions took place yesterday, or 70 years ago, we will always ensure our Marines are recognized for their performance,” Polidoro said.
After thousands of Army retirees responded to a voluntary recall request for those in health care fields to help the service fight the spread of the novel coronavirus, officials quietly issued another call-out — this one to recently separated troops in the Individual Ready Reserve.
On March 29, the Army’s Human Resources Command sent messages to nearly 10,000 soldiers in the IRR asking for volunteers to put the uniform back on, Lt. Col. Emanuel OrtizCruz, an Army spokesman, confirmed to Military.com. The messages went out to those who had served in military occupational specialties including family nurse practitioner; critical care nursing; emergency nursing; nurse anesthetists; generalist nurse; and respiratory specialist, he said.
The newest voluntary recall request was issued just days after President Donald Trump issued an executive order authorizing the military services to recall members of the Selected Reserve and the IRR to active duty in light of the strain the global pandemic is placing on the force.
While each service has slightly different IRR parameters and requirements, troops typically join the IRR for a period of four or five years following the conclusion of their active-duty service. A service member may have a contract that stipulates four years on active duty, but a total mandatory service obligation of eight years; the balance of that service is completed in the IRR. Troops in the IRR receive no pay and don’t need to drill, but may participate in periodic muster events — and they must remain ready for the possibility of involuntary recall by presidential order.
The Army, however, is beginning by soliciting as many volunteers as it can to meet medical provider gaps created as a result of deploying mobile field hospitals to urban regions in the U.S. hardest hit by the virus.
“The U.S. Army is reaching out to gauge the interest of IRR Soldiers who would be willing to assist with COVID-19 pandemic response efforts should their skills and expertise be required,” OrtizCruz said.
It’s not clear how many soldiers the Army needs to fill its staffing gaps and whether it will be able to meet the need with a voluntary recall alone. To date, the service has ordered the deployment of three mobile field hospitals — each staffed with about 330 soldiers — to New York City and Seattle.
Human Resources Command, he said, is still processing and validating requests, and sorting them by specialty. It’s not immediately clear how long it will be before the first volunteers can re-don their uniforms. Lt. Gen. Raymond Scott Dingle, the surgeon general of the Army, told reporters last week that the first step for the service would be to ensure that all volunteer qualifications and certifications are valid and up to date.
“Then once we do that, we will plug them into all of our medical treatment facilities as required in support of the mission,” he said.