4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange - We Are The Mighty
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4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange

VA Secretary David Shulkin suggests he favors expansion of Agent Orange-related health care and disability compensation to new categories of ailing veterans but that factors, like cost, medical science, and politics, still stand in the way.


Shulkin told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on March 21, 2018, that he made recommendations to White House budget officials in 2017 on whether to add up to four more conditions — bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinson-like tremors, and hypertension (high blood pressure) — to the VA list of 14 illnesses presumed caused by exposure to herbicides used during the Vietnam War.

Also read: VA begins awarding compensation for C-123 agent orange claims

“I have transmitted my recommendations to the [White House’s] Office of Management and Budget. I did that by Nov. 1, 2017, Shulkin said. “And we are in the process right now of going through this data. In fact, we met with [OMB officials] on March 26, 2018. They asked for some additional data to be able to work through the process and be able to get financial estimates for this. So, we are committed to working with OMB to get this resolved in the very near future.”

Shulkin didn’t say which of the four conditions, if any, he wants added to the presumptive list, if and when cleared by the White House.

At the same hearing, the VA chief was asked his position on Blue Water Navy veterans of the Vietnam War who also suffer from illnesses on the VA presumptive list but aren’t eligible to use it to facilitate claims for care and compensation.

They “have waited too long for this,” Shulkin agreed, but then suggested the solution for these veterans is blocked by medical evidence or swings on the will of the Congress.

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange
Barrels of Agent Orange being stored at Johnston Atoll.

“I would like to try to find a way where we can resolve that issue for them, rather than make them continue to wait,” Shulkin said. “I do not believe there will be scientific data [to] give us a clear answer like we do have on the Agent Orange presumptive” list for veterans who had served in-country. “For the Blue Water Navy… epidemiologic studies just aren’t available from everything I can see. So, we’re going to have to sit down and do what we think is right for these veterans.”

Vietnam veterans who served even a day in-country who have illnesses on the presumptive list can qualify for VA medical care and disability compensation without having to show other evidence that their ailments are service-connected.

Shulkin said VA “recently” received the last report of the National Academy of Medicine, which found a stronger scientific association than earlier studies between certain ailments and herbicide exposure. In fact, however, the VA has had the report, Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2014, for two years.

More: 5 life lessons today’s troops could learn from Vietnam vets

It was written by a committee of medical experts that reviewed medical and scientific literature on select ailments and herbicide exposure published from Oct. 1, 2012, through Sept. 30, 2014. Released in March 2016, the report found evidence to support raising the strength of association between herbicide exposure and bladder cancer and hypothyroidism. The report upgrades the link from “inadequate or insufficient” evidence to “limited or suggestive” evidence of an association.

In years past, VA decided that for some ailments, such as Parkinson’s and ischemic heart disease, “limited or suggestive evidence” was enough to add these illnesses to the Agent Orange presumptive list. For others, including hypertension, a more common disease of aging, VA deemed it wasn’t enough.

This last NAM report, however, looked again at cardiovascular conditions and herbicide exposure. It didn’t upgrade the link to heart ailments but it did affirm limited or suggestive evidence that hypertension is linked to herbicide exposure.

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange
U.S. Army Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over agricultural land during the Vietnam War.

It also studied whether Parkinson’s-like symptoms should fall into the same limited or suggestive category as Parkinson’s disease itself. The 2016 report found “no rational basis” to continue to exclude Parkinson-like symptoms from the same risk category. Parkinson’s disease itself was added to presumptive list in 2010.

VA secretaries under both the Obama and Trump administration reacted more slowly on the last NAM perhaps, by law, they could. Congress in 2015 let a portion of the Agent Orange law expire, language that required the VA Secretary to decide on new presumptive conditions within 180 days of accepting a NAM report.

The impact was immediate. Though a senior VA official tasked with reviewing this last NAM report said then-VA Secretary Bob McDonald would make his decisions within three months, it didn’t happen. McDonald left it to his successor. Shulkin waited more months and, in July 2017, vowed to decide by Nov. 1, 2017 OMB blocked an announcement, however, presumably over projected costs.

Related: A Vietnam veteran is returning to thank the doctors who saved his life

Cost has been a factor, too, in Congress not passing legislation to extend VA benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans diagnosed with illnesses on the presumptive list. Budget analysts a few years ago estimated a cost of $1.1 billion over 10 years.

Also, NAM did conduct a review of medical and scientific evidence regarding Blue Water Veterans’ possible exposure to herbicides and concluded in a May 2011 report that “there was not enough information… to determine whether Blue Water Navy personnel were or were not exposed to Agent Orange.”

Blue Water Veterans remain ineligible to use the Agent Orange presumptive list. A lone exception is granted for veterans with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Vietnam veterans with this ailment may be granted service-connection without showing inland waterway service or that they set foot in-country.

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange

In every session of Congress, going back years, Blue Water Navy bills have been introduced. They would, if passed, “include as part of the Republic of Vietnam its territorial seas for purposes of the presumption of service connection for diseases associated with exposure [to] herbicide agents while in Vietnam.”

The current House version of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (HR 299), introduced in January 2017 by Rep. David Valado (R-Ga.), has 327 co-sponsors. Yet prospects of passage remain dim. Valado reminded Shulkin at a mid-March 2018 hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Committee that, six months ago, Shulkin said he was seeking more recommendations from “subject matter experts” on the issue and would be ready to update Congress in the coming months.

“Have you come to a decision on Blue Water Navy veterans?”

Also read: This is what the average ‘doc’ carried on patrol in Vietnam

“I am aligned with you that these veterans have waited too long,” Shulkin said, “and this is a responsibility that this country has. And, as our veterans get older, it’s unfair.…I believe it is imperative upon us to resolve this issue.

“I also believe,” Shulkin continued, “that there will not be strong scientific data to help resolve this,” in other words to justify benefit expansion. “This is going to be an obligation that we feel as a country, that these veterans shouldn’t be waiting any longer. And I am on the side of trying to find a way to resolve this for the Blue Water Navy veterans.”

Shulkin said his staff is “working hard to look at offsets” which means cuts to other parts of the VA budget to pay for Blue Water Navy benefits, or to find “other ways to be able to do that. And it is a high priority for us.”

Reminded by Valado that “with these types of cancers, time is of the essence,” Shulkin replied, “Absolutely.”

The Senate version of Blue Water legislation, S 422, was introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), has 49 co-sponsors and, so far, equally dim prospects of passage.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The ballsy way the DEA took down ‘El Chapo’

By 2010, when a Drug Enforcement Administration agent named Drew Hogan arrived in Mexico City with his family, the Mexican kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman had been on the run for nine years.

The Sinaloa cartel chief had slipped out of a prison in southwest Mexico during the first weeks of 2001 — some say while hiding in a laundry basket.


Once on the ground in Mexico, Hogan picked up the trail “by looking at the details,” he said.

“It was in the details — in the numbers,” he told NBC’s Today show in an interview on April 4, 2018, about his latest book, Hunting El Chapo.

“The phone numbers don’t lie,” Hogan said. “And I was able to pair up with a crack team of Homeland Security investigative agents, and we began intercepting members of Chapo’s inner circle and starting to dismantle layers within his sophisticated communications structure until we got to the top, where I had his personal secretary’s device, who was standing right next to him, and I could ping that to establish a pattern of life to determine where he was at.”

The search for Guzman led authorities to his home turf in Sinaloa state, in northwest Mexico.

Sinaloa, where Guzman was born and got his start in the drug trade, is considered a cradle of Mexican drug trafficking, producing figures like the Guadalajara cartel chiefs Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, and Rafael Caro Quintero; the Sinaloa cartel chiefs Guzman, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, and Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno, aka “El Azul”; and others, like the Juarez cartel chief Amado Carrillo Fuentes, aka “the Lord of the Skies,” and members of the Arellano Felix family, who ran the Tijuana cartel in the 1990s and 2000s.

Hogan’s search eventually led to Mazatlan, a resort town in southwestern Sinaloa state. There, Guzman had lived what Hogan described as an unremarkable lifestyle.

“I was surprised with the way that he lived,” Hogan said. “He almost afforded himself no luxury — same plastic tables and chairs in every safe house that was designed the same way.”

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange
Drew Hogan, a former Drug Enforcement Administration agent, on the ‘Today’ show.

(NBC)

After 13 years on the run, however, Guzman had begun to let his guard down, venturing out of the rugged Sinaloa mountains to relax in Mazatlan and nearby Culiacan, the state capital.

Several of his associates were captured or killed in the first weeks of 2014.

Near the end of February 2014, Mexican marines stormed a house belonging to Guzman’s ex-wife, but they struggled to knock down a steel-reinforced door, allowing Guzman time to escape.

A few days later, they launched another raid targeting the elusive kingpin.

“We were at the Hotel Miramar,” Hogan said, and Guzman was on the fourth floor. “The Mexican marines went inside and started banging down doors. I was standing outside. I was worried about our perimeter. I was worried about him escaping us again. And I heard excited radio chatter: ‘They got him. They got him. They got the target.’

“My vehicle was first in. I drove it down to the underground parking garage, and that’s where they had him,” Hogan continued. “They were just standing him up. I got out of my vehicle, ran right up to him, I’m wearing this black ball cap that I had taken out of his closet … in Culiacan — my only souvenir of the hunt — wearing a black ski mask, and I ran right up to up to him, jumped into his face, and said the first thing that came to my head.

“I screamed, ‘What’s up, Chapo?!'”

Guzman’s capture was heralded in Mexico and abroad and held up by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto as a hallmark achievement of his efforts to combat criminal groups and drug-related violence in the country.

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange
Enrique Peu00f1a Nieto, President of Mexico.

But Guzman’s time in prison was short-lived. In July 2015, the Sinaloa cartel chief again slipped out, this time through a mile-long tunnel dug from a partially constructed house to the Altiplano maximum-security prison and right up to the shower in Guzman’s cell.

“It was pretty predictable,” Hogan said of Guzman’s escape. “This tunnel that went underneath the prison was the same types of tunnels that went underneath the safe houses, were the same types of tunnels that are at the US-Mexico border.”

Numerous security lapses were discovered in the aftermath.

Altiplano had the same layout as the prison Guzman broke out of in 2001. (A former Mexican security official who joined the Sinaloa cartel is suspected of stealing the prison plans.)

Reports indicated that a geolocation device Guzman had to wear may have been used by his associates to locate him within the prison. Guzman told Mexican officials his henchmen were able to build two tunnels under the prison after the first one missed the cell.

Sounds of digging under his cell were detected but not investigated, and about 30 minutes passed between when Guzman went out of sight in his cell and when jailers responded to his absence.

“It was coming if they didn’t have him on complete lockdown,” Hogan said.

Guzman’s freedom after the 2015 breakout was brief. He made his way back to Sinaloa, where Mexican authorities picked up the trail, conducting a search that frequently put civilians under fire.

But Guzman was apprehended in January 2016, spending another year in Mexico — a stint marked by more fear about another breakout — before his extradition to the US in January 2017, just a few hours before President Donald Trump took office.

Guzman is now locked up at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan. His trial is set to start in September 2018, in Brooklyn.

Articles

Osprey crash shows how dangerous Marine aviation can be

The Dec. 13 crash of a MV-22B Osprey off the coast of Okinawa is the eighth involving this plane – and the fourth since the plane was introduced into service in 2007. Over its lengthy RD process and its operational career, 39 people have been killed in accidents involving the V-22 Osprey.


Sounds bad, right?

Well, the Osprey is not the first revolutionary aircraft to have high-profile crashes. The top American ace of World War II, Richard Bong, was killed while carrying out a test flight of a Lockheed YP-80, America’s first operational jet fighter.

The top American ace of the Korean War, Joseph McConnell, died when the F-86H he was flying crashed.

That said, the V-22 came close to cancellation numerous times during the 1990s, and killing it was a priority of then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. He failed, and the United States got a game-changing aircraft.

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado)

It should be noted that most of the 39 fatalities happened during the RD phase of the Osprey program.

A 1992 crash near Quantico Marine Corps Base took the lives of several personnel, according to a report by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The July 2000 crash was the worst, with 19 Marines killed when the V-22 they were on crashed during a simulated night assault mission. According to an article in the September 2004 issue of Proceedings, the Osprey involved crashed due to a phenomenon known as “vortex ring state.”

The December 2000 Osprey crash that killed all four on board had a more mundane cause. The plane suffered a failure in its hydraulic system, causing the tiltrotor to start an uncontrolled descent.

Wired.com reported in 2005 that a software glitch caused the plane to reset on each of the eight occasions that the crew tried to reset the Primary Flight Control System. The Osprey’s 1,600-foot fall ended in a forest.

Since entering service in July 2007, the Osprey’s track record has been much stronger.

Counting the most recent crash, there have been four Osprey accidents in the nine years and four months the V-22 has been operational. Two of those crashes, one in April 2010 that involved a special operations CV-22 in Afghanistan and an MV-22 in Morocco that crashed in April 2012, killed six personnel.

The crashes in December 2012 and the one earlier this week, resulted in no fatalities.

Three other personnel died in accidents: A Marine died in October 2014 when a life preserver failed, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. In May 2015, a fire after an Osprey “went down” killed two Marines per an Associated Press report.

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado

Despite the recent incidents, the V-22 has been remarkably safe, particularly in combat.

None have been lost to enemy fire, a distinction that many helicopters cannot boast. The CH-53 series of helicopters, saw over 200 personnel killed in crashes by the time of a 1990 Los Angeles Times report, which came 15 years before a January 2005 crash that killed 31 personnel.

The BBC reported at the time that the helicopter was on a mission near Rutbah, Iraq.

Articles

Sarah Palin is reportedly in the running to take over the VA

The woman who unsuccessfully ran for vice president on the ticket of Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain in 2008 may soon be in charge of the agency tasked with taking care of America’s veterans.


Several news reports indicate former Alaska governor and Republican VP pick Sarah Palin has been in discussions with the Donald Trump transition team in recent days to become the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange
(Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr)

A Palin aide told ABC News that the conservative firebrand had told Trump her “megaphone … can be used in a productive and positive way to help those desperately in need.”

Earlier reports indicated former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, a 30-year Army vet, had been in talks with the Trump camp about the job.

The reports on Palin don’t come out of left field, as the former governor has made veterans’ issues a major subject of her speeches across the country. In 2015, Palin addressed the massive Conservative Political Action Conference with a 30-minute speech devoted entirely to military and veterans issues.

“This bureaucracy is killing our vets,” Palin said of the VA in her CPAC speech. “They wait for months, they wait for years to get treatment at the VA, and they’re losing hope. The VA’s mistakes and coverups have cost the lives of over 500 vets in the last four years — and that doesn’t account for those who took their own lives.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the largest U.S. government agencies, with over 300,000 employees and a 2017 budget of $187 million.

Palin’s oldest son Track served in the Army with a combat tour to Iraq and her daughter Bristol is married to Medal of Honor recipient and former Marine Dakota Meyer

MIGHTY TRENDING

This soldier was killed supporting freedom in Afghanistan

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.


4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange
Soldiers of Delta Company, 3d US Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), finish folding a flag in Arlington National Cemetery, Va., April 17, 2013. Army photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr.

Sgt. First Class Stephen B. Cribben, 33, of Simi Valley, California, died Nov. 4 in Logar Province, Afghanistan as a result of wounds sustained while engaged in combat operations. He was assigned to 2d Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, Fort Carson, Colorado. The incident is under investigation.

Articles

This newspaper legend and veteran Navy officer savaged a reader for questioning his patriotism

Benjamin C. Bradlee was a legendary newsman who led The Washington Post through the Pentagon Papers Affair and the Watergate Scandal, stories that cemented the publication’s world-class status. He set the standard for excellence in journalism and organizational leadership. He also had a legendary sense of humor.


4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange

He studied at Harvard, where he was a member of the university’s Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps detachment. Shortly after graduating in 1942, he was sent to the Pacific Theater as a newly-minted ensign. At 20 years old, he was made officer of the deck. At 21, he was, as he put it, “driving a ship around the Pacific Ocean.” He chose the Navy for a reason.

“That was such a “good war,”  he told the U.S. Naval Institute’s Naval History magazine. “And serving in the Navy was such a guarantee of action. You weren’t going out to the Pacific Ocean in a destroyer or cruiser without being in the middle of it all.” He was onboard the USS Philip, a destroyer in the Solomon Islands campaign.

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange
USS Philip (U.S. Navy photo)

In that same 1995 interview, he recalled a time when a reader questioned his patriotism, loyalty, and integrity.

“A guy once wrote a letter to me that started off, ‘Dear Communist,'” Bradlee said. “He impugned my patriotism and certainly impugned my war. I promptly wrote back, ‘Dear A-hole. This is what I did during the war, so don’t give me any sh-t.’ It turned out that he had been in the Marine Corps during the war. We had taken his division to Bougainville and then to Saipan. We had been in some of the same battles. He wrote back, saying I wasn’t such a bad guy after all, and we started a great correspondence.”

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange
President Barack Obama awards the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Ben Bradlee during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Nov. 20, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

His obituary, written by the 50-year veteran Post reporter, Robert G. Kaiser also remembered Bradlee’s patriotism in the same vein:

“Mr. Bradlee’s wartime experience left him an unabashed patriot who bristled whenever critics of the newspaper accused it of helping America’s enemies. He sometimes agreed to keep stories out of the paper when government officials convinced him that they might cause serious harm.”

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange
The President and Mrs. Kennedy with Mr. Mrs. Benjamin C. Bradlee in May 1963. (Kennedy Presidential Library photo)

He became the leader of The Washington Post newsroom in 1965, transforming it in what his Washington Post obituary describes as “combining compelling news stories based on aggressive reporting with engaging feature pieces of a kind previously associated with the best magazines… charm and gift for leadership helped him hire and inspire a talented staff and eventually made him the most celebrated newspaper editor of his era.”

He was almost awarded a Purple Heart for taking a piece of Japanese shrapnel in rear — his rear, not the ship’s — a piece he kept for most of his life.

“It must have hit the deck first or maybe even the stack, then the deck, and then bounced up and hit me in the ass. It was hot when I picked it up. I had it here on my desk, but one of the kids took it to school for show-and-tell and never brought it back.”

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange
(Photo by Miguel Ariel Contreras Drake-McLaughlin)

For his life’s work, Bradlee was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor the United States can give a civilian, in 2013. He died the next year at age 93.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump will meet with Kim Jong Un to end the Korean nuclear crisis

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has invited US President Donald Trump to meet and said his country would refrain from further nuclear and missile tests.


South Korean National Security Office head Chung Eui-yong and National Intelligence Service Chief Suh Hoon arrived to Washington, DC early March 2018 to brief their counterpart, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, on new diplomatic overtures from North Korea.

“Kim Jong-un said he is committed to denuclearization,” Chung said on March 8, 2018. “Kim pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests.”

Also read: Kim Jong Un received a South Korean delegation for the first time

“And he expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible,” Chung continued.

Chung said Trump “appreciated” the briefing, and agreed to meet with Kim Jong-un “to achieve permanent denuclearization.” The White House said a time and date for that meeting has not yet been determined.

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange
Kim Jong Un

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed that Trump had accepted the invitation. She also emphasized that the US’s strict sanctions against North Korea, which were leveled in part because of the regime’s missile-test activity, will remain in effect.

“We look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea,” Sanders said. “In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain.”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in praised the outcome through his spokesperson: “The May meeting will be recorded as a historic milestone that realized peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Moon reportedly said.

Related: This is why you can’t trust North Korea’s new charm offensive

“In particular, the leadership of President Trump, who gladly accepted Chairman Kim’s invitation, will receive praise not only from people in the South and the North, but also from people around the world,” Moon continued.

Earlier on March 8, 2018, Trump teased that a “major announcement” would be made: “Hopefully, you will give me credit,” Trump quipped, according to ABC News journalist Meredith McGraw.

Trump has periodically indicated an openness to talks with North Korea “at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances.”

Beginning in January 2018, North Korea made several diplomatic moves to indicate a willingness to negotiate with the US and South Korea.

Following its participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics, the North conducted several meetings with officials from the South, including President Moon.

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange
South Korean President Moon Jae-in shakes hands with Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, in Seoul, South Korea in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) February 10, 2018.

In the meeting between South Korea’s envoy and Kim Jong-un, North Korea proposed a summit with Moon in April 2018 — the third such summit between the two Koreas since the Korean War.

Trump said of those developments on March 6, 2018: “I think that they are sincere, but I think they are sincere also because the sanctions.”

More: South Korea’s special ops wants to kill Kim Jong Un with suicide drones

“I hope they are sincere. We’re going to see and find out,” Trump said.

Kim Jong-un’s apparent verbal commitment to denuclearization, if he follows through with it, would be a significant victory for the US. Denuclearization is the key precondition for diplomatic engagement, as outlined by the Trump administration.

“Our condition is denuclearization,” US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said to reporters in late February 2018. “Our policy has not changed. We have talked about this policy since day one of this administration; and that’s maximum pressure, but it’s also the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

US officials remained cautious on March 8, 2018. Hours before Chung’s announcement, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US was “a long ways from negotiations.”

“I think it’s – we just need to be very clear-eyed and realistic about it,” Tillerson said during a press conference from Ethiopia.

Japan, a country that has often witnessed North Korea’s missiles flying overhead, announced that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be visiting Trump in April 2018 to discuss the recent developments with North Korea, Japan’s Kyodo News reported.

Articles

101-year-old British D-Day vet breaks skydiving record

A 101-year-old D-Day veteran has become the oldest person in the world to skydive.


Bryson William Verdun Hayes completed a tandem skydive from 15,000 feet (4,500 meters) with members of his extended family on Sunday at an airfield in Honiton, southwestern England.

Among those jumping were Hayes’ son, grandson, great-grandson and great-granddaughter.

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange
Bryson William Verdun Hayes broke the Guinness World Record for oldest skydiver by three days. (AP photo via NewsEdge)

At the age of 101 years, 38 days, Hayes broke the Guinness World Record held by Canada’s Armand Gendreau, who jumped in 2013 at 101 years, three days.

When he landed, Hayes said he was “absolutely over the moon” at the achievement. The jump raised money for the Royal British Legion, a veterans’ organization.

Hayes said he had wanted to try skydiving when he was 90, but was talked out it at the time by his late wife. He jumped for the first time last year at 100.

Hayes served in the British Army during World War II, and was awarded France’s Legion of Honor for his heroic actions.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Celebrities and veterans teamed up to raise millions to fund mental healthcare for post-9/11 vets

On October 19, 2018, a crowd of over 700 guests gathered at Pier Sixty at Manhattan’s Chelsea Piers for one reason: to help provide mental healthcare to the men and women who fight for our freedoms. During their 6th annual gala, Headstrong, an organization that provides cost-free, stigma-free, and bureaucracy-free mental healthcare to post-9/11 military veterans, put on a fun-filled event — and raised over $2 million in the process.


Headstrong is making a huge impact on the veteran community.

“We have served over 750 veterans over 16,000 therapy sessions by 150 best-in-class clinicians in 23 cities across the country. All through private donations. Simply incredible,” said Army veteran and Headstrong Executive Director Joe Quinn.

During the event, three veterans seeking treatment through Headstrong, Amanda Burrill, Derek Coy and James Byler, opened up about their struggles and successes in finding effective mental healthcare. Their stories inspired the hundreds in attendance.

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange

Left to Right: Joe Quinn, Executive Director of the Headstrong Project; Derek Coy; Amanda Burrill; James Byler

Despite the seriousness of the organization’s goals, the night wasn’t without a good dose of levity — after all, it was more than a fundraiser, it was a celebration. World War II veteran and former POW, Ewing Miller, was celebrating his 95th birthday — and he did so by being served cake by actor Jake Gyllenhaal and late night host Seth Meyers.

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange

Left to Right: Seth Meyers, Host of ‘Late night with Seth Meyers’; Jake Gyllenhaal, Actor; Ewing Miller, WWII veteran; CNBC’s Kenny Polcari

Ewing Miller served from 1942 to 1945. On February 5, 1945, his aircraft was shot down — he was the sole survivor. He endured capture by the Germans until he was eventually freed by legendary military leader, General George S. Patton. Ewing earned several decorations during his time in service, including the Purple Heart, the Air Medal with two clusters, the POW Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign medal.

When the lights finally dimmed on the evening’s celebrations, Headstrong had raised over million, which will be used to directly improve the lives of many post-9/11 veterans that are struggling with mental health — and it’s a cause worth championing. Marine veteran and Founder of Headstrong, Zach Iscol, said,

“When you put goal-oriented veterans together with top mental healthcare providers, they get better. The panic attacks go away, the anxiety goes away, the anger goes away, the self-medicating goes away…they blossom,”

To learn more about Headstrong, their initiatives, and what you can do to support veteran mental healthcare, visit their website.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

Thanking those who served is always appreciated. Nearly every single veteran signed on the dotted line to contribute to something bigger than themselves and, when civilians extend their gratitude, the good will is reciprocated — that is, on any day outside of the last Monday in May.

Yes, the gratitude is always welcomed, but Memorial Day isn’t the time. If prompted, nearly every veteran will give a polite response along the lines of, “thank you for your sentiment, but today is not my day.”


Memorial Day is a day that’s often confused with Veteran’s Day (November 11th) and Armed Forces Day (the third Saturday in May). While most countries around the world remember their fallen troops on Armistice Day (which commemorates the signing of the treaty that ended World War I — also November 11th), the United States of America began its tradition of taking a day to remember the fallen shortly after the end of the American Civil War.

In its infancy, the holiday was also called “Decoration Day” and generally fell on or around May 30th — depending on where you lived. It was a time when troops, civilians, family, friends, and loved ones would visit the graves of fallen Civil War troops and decorate them with flowers in remembrance.

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange
It was expanded after WWI to include all fallen troops from all wars.

The date was chosen because no major battles had taken place on that day — instead of honoring those died in a single battle, mourners could remember all who fell. It was also around the time most flowers started to bloom in North America.

After World War I, the country gradually transitioned to using Memorial Day as a way to honor fallen troops from every conflict. The celebration was kept around the same date and, on this day, the nation still decorates the graves of fallen troops with flags and flowers.

The final Monday in May became a federal holiday with the creation of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act and was chosen out of convenience. It gave every American a federally recognized, three-day weekend in order to continue the tradition of honoring those who sacrificed everything for our freedoms.

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange
As pleasant as it is to enjoyu00a0time off and au00a0cookouts are, it turned into a double-edged sword.
(Photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

The convenience of this three-day weekend was noted in a 2002 speech by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who said the change undermined the meaning of the day to the general public. To many, it also marks the unofficial beginning of summer, a time filled with barbecues and trips to the lake.

Now, that’s not to say that these pleasantries should ever stop — Americans enjoying their freedoms is what many troops fought to uphold. It’s important to remember, however, that day has, and always will be, in remembrance of the fallen. It’s a day of solemn reflection most troops and veterans spend thinking of their fallen brothers- and sisters-in-arms.

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange
If a veteran can make it there, this is generally how they spend their three-day weekend. If they can’t, this is where their head is at.
(Photo by Senior Airman Phillip Houk)

To properly thank a veteran this Memorial Day, visit one of the many national cemeteries and join them in placing flags, flowers, and wreaths on the graves of those who deserve our thanks. To find a national cemetery near you, please click here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force is upgrading a Vietnam War-era missile to better target ISIS fighters

The Air Force is seeking more upgraded Maverick air-to-ground missiles, an air-launched weapon in service since the Vietnam era now receiving an upgraded laser-seeker along with new software configurations to better enable it to hit targets on the run, such as ISIS fighters.


The upgraded weapon is currently configured to fire from an Air Force F-16 and A-10 and Navy Harrier Jets and F/A-18s.

“The upgrades are not completed. Raytheon Missile Systems will deliver several hundred upgraded Guidance Control Sections from January-June 2018. In addition, the U.S. Air Force is currently in negotiations with Raytheon for additional upgraded GCS for delivery after 2018,” Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Emily Grabowski told Warrior.

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US military weapons developers have explained that the Laser Maverick (LMAV) E2 seeker upgrade is capable of precisely targeting and destroying a wide variety of fixed, stationary and high speed moving land or sea targets.

The LMAV E2 upgrade program has been implemented as a seeker and sustainment upgrade, she added. The Air Force has been attacking ISIS with the upgraded Maverick through a prior deal to receive 256 missiles from its maker, Raytheon.

Also, there is an existing laser-guided version of the Maverick already in use; the new variant involves a substantial improvement in the weapon’s guidance and targeting systems.

The AGM-65E2, as it’s called, will continue to be used to attack ISIS as part of the ongoing Operation Inherent Resolve, US military officials said. Such a technology is of particular relevance against ISIS because the ongoing U.S. Coalition air bombing has made it virtually impossible for ISIS to gather in large formations, use convoys of armored vehicles or mass large numbers of fighters.

As a result, their combat tactics are now largely restricted to movement in small groups such as pick-up trucks or groups of fighters deliberately blended in with civilians. This kind of tactical circumstance, without question, underscores the need for precision weaponry from the air – weapons which can destroy maneuvering and fast-moving targets.

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Deana Heitzman

As opposed to being a free-fall weapon, the Maverick has a rocket on it; it travels faster and has maneuverability to follow a laser spot on a fast-moving pick-up truck, Raytheon developers told Warrior.

The Maverick uses Semi-Active Laser, or SAL, guidance to follow a laser “spot” or designation from an aircraft itself, a nearby aircraft or ground asset to paint the target.

For the upgrades, existing AGM-65A/B Guidance and Control Sections are modified with a state-of-the-art Semi-Active Laser E2 seeker target. The missiles with upgraded seekers add the capability to self-lase from the delivery platform, address numerous changes in response to parts obsolescence, and add Pulse repetition frequency (PRF) last code hold to ease pilot workload, US military weapons developers told Warrior last year.

The weapon can also use infrared and electro-optical or EO guidance to attack target. It can use a point detonation fuse designed to explode upon impact or a delayed fuse allowing the missile to penetrate a structure before detonating as a way to maximize its lethal impact. It uses a 300-pound “blast-frag” warhead engineered to explode shrapnel and metal fragments in all directions near or on a designated target.

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange
(FLIR screen capture: U.S. Navy)

Raytheon weapons developers told Warrior the Maverick uses a blast but not quite as large as a 500-pound bomb for lower collateral damage.

Also, In the event of a loss of LASER lock, the upgraded missiles are able to de-arm fly towards last seen laser spot; and will re-arm guide to target with laser reacquisition.

Fighter pilots describe the Maverick as a weapon of choice for fast-moving and rapidly maneuvering targets, according to developers.

In addition to its role against ground targets such as ISIS, the Maverick weapon able to hit maneuvering targets at sea such as small attack boats.

“It has a rocket on it versus being a free-fall weapon. It travels faster and has maneuverability to follow a laser spot on a fast-moving pick-up truck,” McKenzie explained.

Articles

Vet goes from sailor to singer/songwriter

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange


Logan Vath left the Navy in 2012 to be pursue a career as a singer/songwriter. Crowdfunding his first album, Logan started to find success, playing wherever he could, building relationships in the music industry, and keeping up with old friends.

Vath has a unique take on his experience thus far: “I visited a recruiter’s office, and, what happened to me usually happens to most people who visit a recruiter’s office — I joined the Navy,” Vath laughed. “On my 2nd deployment, on the USS Monterey, I was actually performing weekly when the ship would pull in. We were doing ‘Show Your Colors’ tours on the boat and the Captain, Captain Jim Kilby, had me playing in the corner, in my dress uniform during receptions. I was lucky, everyone I’ve ever encountered in the military was always really supportive of my music. I think they all knew that this was what I was going to do at some point, or try to do at the very least.”

He says that what he learned in the Navy wasn’t always directly related to the skill set he maintained in order to perform his duties. “Playing to a crowd of people can teach you a lot about how to win over an audience if the subject matter isn’t something that is totally interesting to them,” he said. “Still to this day I use a lot of humor in shows in between songs just to keep people involved — to let them know that I’m not that sad of a person actually. The music can be, but I think performing on the ships is something that helped build my style.”

As he frequently laid topside, looking up at the stars, Vath admits that his lyrics frequently reference his own experience.  “I think lyrically, things still sneak in from being out there and spending so many nights staring at the stars,” he said. “I think it’s extremely easy to romanticize the ocean and even songwriters that weren’t in the Navy do it frequently. I’ve never written specifically about things that have happened, but I would say there are definitely some themes from my experience.”

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange

However, not every part of his career was a cakewalk. At one point, Vath let on that the ship he was stationed on, the USS Nassau, suffered from a fuel leak and simultaneous air-conditioning snafu off the coast of Africa. “I lived off of powered milk and Red Bull for a while even though they said the water was good,” Vath recounted. “Something in my body would not allow me to drink water that tasted like fuel for some reason, I don’t know why [laughing]. But that lasted a while; that was horrible. I just remember so many horrible, horrible sweaty nights in those racks with no A/C, just in a giant, baking tin-cup.”

Setting out to get out of Nebraska and make his own way, Vath remembers the day he chose what he would do in the Navy. “When I was at the recruiter, they gave me four jobs,” he said. “What prompted my choice of AG, (Aerographer’s Mate), was the recruiter saying, ‘This never comes up; you gotta do this job. You’ll love it.’ So, I signed up and said I’d do it — and he was correct. We had such a small community. The beautiful thing about being an AG, was that when you went out to a boat, nobody really knew what you did, so you can fly under the radar often. You have a lot of things that you have to take care of, but it’s a very isolated, quiet job.”

Vath says the turning point in his life started in boot camp. “The most important part was being cut off from everything,” he said. “That shaped me for so much about life. I always think about that, the most scared I ever was, was surrendering that cell phone after the first call because I had gone from a life of complete connection to nothing. I didn’t have anybody, I didn’t know anybody yet. And I think that that’s really good for people to be put in those situations because so many people aren’t. It’s terrifying to be a situation with no way out. You learn a lot about yourself in that.”

Admitting that maybe his expectations weren’t completely accurate when imagining who he would be as a result of his service, Vath says he thought the Navy was going to be a cure-all. “I thought I was going to become cleaner, faster, more efficient and abandon all my old habits,” he admitted. “That didn’t really happen. What I liked about the Navy, and everyone says you get what you put into it, and that’s so true. If you do it correctly, the Navy allows you to take whatever personality traits you have that are strong and utilize them in a lot of different ways.”

He discovered not only himself, but a new perspective on the world around him as he experience what life in the Navy entails. Says Vath, “I think everything I thought I would get out of the military, I got. It taught me that things can be a lot worse sometimes, things can be a lot better, you don’t always get to do what you want, sometimes you just have to do things that are completely against the way you would do them just because it’s just the way it is. Which I think is a really good skill to have and that people don’t often have it. I anticipated it would make me a harder worker — it did. I anticipated it would make me not take home or family for granted — it did, which is huge for me. I anticipated I would make great friends and see the world — I did. And I anticipated that after four years, I would come out a more rounded individual with better critical thinking and life experience and I did. I am in debt to it for that, as an organization because it gave me a lot of opportunities.”

Reminiscing on his first experiences, Vath admits that the part of his service that he misses the most is the ‘firsts’ of everything. “When you hop on your first boat, I remember that feeling of just being overwhelmed; going out to sea for the first time,” he said. “And there’s so many things you get to do like that in the Navy such as the first time you take off from a flight deck. You’ll never get that first feeling back, and so many first feelings that you’re given the opportunity to feel. I miss that a lot. I have goosebumps right now, thinking about coming home on the USS Nassau for the first time and playing ‘City of New Orleans’ by Arlo Guthrie while coming in, getting ready to dock.” He began signing,”‘Good Morning America, How are you?‘” He paused for a moment and took a deep breath, Beautiful song — I’ll always associate that song with that feeling. And you can never get that back.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lg9tsyiVjt4

Once known for a satirical song entitled ‘The Fraternization Song’, Logan chose to remove the tune from the public eye after receiving a lot of publicity for the song’s comedic twist on enlisted-officer relationships in the Navy. Says Vath, “It was kind of a spur of the moment thing. I was playing a show in Charlottesville, VA and there was a big media writeup in Charlottesville and a lot of it focused on the song. I didn’t want to use the military as a novelty. I’m happy to be a veteran and I had such a good time in the Navy, it was nothing but good to me. I have nothing but good things to day about it and I didn’t want to use that in the music. Any fans I gained, I wanted to gain organically. I wanted to earn their respect instead of them listening to be because I was a sailor.”

Logan has recently been working with a record label in Brooklyn, NY to record his next album. Vath declines to pigeonhole his music into a genre, choosing instead to focus on its substance. “I sing about personal experience but not in a storytelling way,” he said. “It’s more drawing parallels of everyday things and trying to view them differently. Putting myself in a genre is hard. People who do what I do usually say Indie Folk, but I’m not sure that that’s where I am.” He takes a sip of his beer and looks up, “Being able to hold a room of 50 people for an hour to an hour and a half and they are genuinely interested in what you’re saying is an incredible feeling. Of course the next time you’re in town, hopefully that number is 75, and eventually you’re moving into a venue that can fit 100. It’s a cool progression to watch. The trend is, for me, that if there is good music, people are going to listen to it; regardless of genre. Good music is good music.”

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange
Brittany Slay is the Editor of American Veteran Magazine and a US Navy veteran, completing a 9 month deployment to Bahrain in 2014. She’s a fan of dark humor and enjoys writing, visiting breweries, and meeting people.

 

 

For more information on Logan Vath, please visit loganvath.bandcamp.com.

And check out American Veteran Magazine at amvets.magloft.com.

Now: This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war

MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin buys WWII tanks for propaganda boost after T-14 program fails

Russia put on an intimidating show of force in 2015 by unveiling the T-14 Armata main battle tank, which represented a bold new design billed as an unstoppable NATO tank killer.

Russia was to make and field 2,300 T-14s by 2025, but as of 2019 only has some 100 on order and less than two dozen operating in tests, The Diplomat reports.

Four years later, Russia has scrapped plans to reproduce the tank that sputtered and stalled in Moscow’s Red Square in the 2015 Victory Day parade, and found an older tank to do its job instead.


Russia on Jan. 10, 2019, announced it had bought 30 WWII-era T-34 battle tanks from Laos, which it said were combat-ready, but would be used in parades and making WWII movies.

As The Drive pointed out, this means Russia will buy more of the 70-year-old tanks than it will of its new T-14, and it indicates how Russian President Vladimir Putin has changed course after failing to modernize his military.

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A Russian Army T-14 Armata tank.

T-14: The NATO killer that died in budget cuts

The T-14 in 2015 cast a menacing figure. Russia, previously crippled by debt and still shrugging off the collapse of the Soviet Union, had updated its main battle tank, something Western countries had only done incrementally.

While the US was adapting its M1 Abrams tank to urban combat against weaker enemies in Iraq, Russia had devised a tank designed to kill other tanks.

With automatic loading, an unmanned turret, reactive and active armor, and a bigger gun than any Western tank, Moscow had announced its focus on a return to the kind of conventional ground war that rocked Europe throughout the 21st century.

But like with many Russian defense projects, the bark proved worse than the bite. In the following years, Russia announced the T-14 wouldn’t see mass production. Instead, Russia would upgrade its capable T-80 and T-90 tanks which were seeing combat in Ukraine and Syria.

While the upgraded T-90 tanks proved effective in those battlefields, they lacked the propaganda boost of a new, unstoppable tank afforded Putin.

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange

A World War II-era Soviet T-34 tank during the 2018 Moscow Victory Day Parade.

Pivot to the past

Putin’s bet on the T-14 as the future face of Russia’s military power failed, but, ever resourceful, Russia has now pivoted to the past.

Soviet tankers with T-34s in the eastern front of WWII fought in grueling battles that eventually saw Adolf Hitler’s Nazi forces overwhelmed and the Soviet flag planted atop the Reichstag in Berlin.

Putin has frequently tried to revise and leverage the Soviet’s hard-fought success in World War II to bolster nationalism and support for his aggressive government, which stands accused of war crimes in Syria and backing separatist forces in Ukraine.

A state-funded film titled “T-34,” which tells the story of a Russian tank crew escaping a Nazi camp, smashed box office records in Russia in January 2019. The Associated Press reported that any criticisms of the film have been silenced.

Now Russia will seek to use the T-34s in other propaganda spectacles, it said.

Russians have every reason to be proud of their country’s massive sacrifice in WWII and the tanks that have operated for seven decades.

But the tanks, be they T-34s or T-14s, won’t lift Russians out of poverty or allow them to enjoy any new opportunities.

Nor will they fight in wars, as they’ve always been pawns in a propaganda game deftly executed by Putin to scare the West with paper tigers and feed the public with empty stories of bygone greatness.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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