According to the Associated Press, LaMar joined the Marines and served for four years after graduating high school in 1986. Following a decade of working as an electrician and with an armored truck company, LaMar joined the Army in 2007 despite relatives’ efforts to talk him out of the decision. His brother-in-law Gilbert Alvarado told the Sacramento (Calif.) Bee that LaMar “wanted to go back.”
“He wanted to fight for his country,” Alvarado said.
According to Military Times, LaMar was assigned to 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas and died Jan. 15, 2011 in Mosul of wounds sustained when an Iraqi soldier from the unit with which he was training shot him with small-arms fire. Also killed was Sgt. Michael P. Bartley.
LaMar was a “great guy with a big heart” who loved his family, according to his brother-in-law, LaMar died on his wedding anniversary. His next leave was set to start Jan. 30, 2011, and he would have seen his three-month-old daughter for the first time then.
Kittle donated the two tickets to LaMar’s wife, Josephine, who will be bringing her and Mick’s son to the game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Feb. 2 in Miami.
“The work I do with the USAA and the TAPS organization is something I really have kind of fallen in love with,” Kittle said (via the Sacramento Bee). “I have a lot of family in the military, so it’s something that I just respect, and the sacrifice that they give is the ultimate sacrifice. So if I can ever give back and make a family’s day or just make them smile a little bit, then I’ve just done a little part in their lives.”
The Salute to Service’s mission is to be a year-round effort to Honor, Empower and Connect our nation’s service members, veterans and their families. It is grounded in deep partnerships with nonprofits and organizations that support the military community in the United States and across the world. In partnership with USAA, the NFL expands Salute to Service off the field to honor and recognize our military by bringing players and team personnel to military bases, hosting thousands of service members at NFL games and events, and enlisting NFL fans to show military appreciation. Learn more about the Salute to Service and their NFL experience at Super Bowl LIV, here.
There are many joyous things about the holiday season, but this time of year can also bring on stress, depression, and other challenges. For veterans or their family members, the unique experiences of the military and transitioning back to civilian life can make enjoying the season difficult.
Here are a few things to keep an eye out for as the holiday season approaches — as well as healthy tips for managing these challenges.
The holidays are typically times spent with family members and friends. But veterans transitioning back to civilian life — or even those who returned home years ago — might find themselves avoiding the people and activities they would usually enjoy.
“I’m a pretty extraverted, amicable person, but I didn’t want anything to do with anybody. I didn’t want to talk with anybody,” says Bryan, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. Sometimes a vicious cycle can develop: The more time you spend alone, the less you feel like people will understand you. And the less you feel like people understand you, the more time you want to spend alone.
“You can’t isolate yourself,” says Bryan. “You have to surround yourself with good people that want to see you do better. Take advantage of the programs they have at the VA or the nonprofit organizations that are there to help veterans out.”
Feelings of guilt can sometimes lead people to withdraw, become irritable, or feel like life has lost meaning. These behaviors can strain personal relationships, especially during the holidays, when most people spend a lot of time with family members and friends. But if you’re having trouble forgiving yourself — for something you did or did not do — talking with your family members and friends is actually a positive first step.
If you notice yourself withdrawing from loved ones, here are a few ways to begin breaking a pattern of isolation. If these actions feel overwhelming, start with small steps.
Identify the thoughts and feelings that make you want to be alone.
Reach out to your family members or friends, even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing. Research shows that spending time talking with family members and friends improves your mood and your health.
Connect with veterans’ groups or participate in clubs or hobbies focused on something you like.
“Isolation and withdrawal [are] not going to get you the end result that you need,” says Marylyn, a U.S. Army veteran. “You want to get back to enjoying your life, the things you like to do, and be able to explore new things. So you’re going to eventually have to talk to someone and connect with someone.”
Whether you’re walking through a crowded shopping mall or attending a large party with loud noises, you may find yourself in situations that make you uncomfortable during the holidays. Your military training taught you the importance of being observant and alert when you need to be — and being in that state of high alert in civilian life may be stressful.
“When you’re in large crowds or there’s a lot of chaos, you have to keep an eye on everything because you don’t know where a potential threat is,” says Casey, a U.S. Army medic. “After you see things like a life or death matter, your No. 1 goal is ‘I’m always going to protect myself.'”
This experience of feeling on edge is also called hypervigilance, a symptom experienced by some veterans who have returned from war or experienced traumatic events during their time in the military. Hypervigilance is a state of being on very high alert — constantly “on guard” — to possible risks or threats.
“It takes a long time to shed that alertness,” says Casey. “Once it’s there and you depend on it to stay alive, it’s really hard to lose it once you’ve been back.” Talking to your family and friends can be a first step. Turn to them whenever you are ready.
A war hero in Afghanistan became a local hero in New York City earlier this week when he rescued a baby from a smoking car – and he did it even though he has no legs.
Matias Ferreira, a Marine who lost both his legs to an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan, was just two days away from getting married to his sweetheart when he heard a frantic mother crying for help on a busy road in Queens.
The mother was trapped in her driver’s seat after her car plowed into a median pole and needed to get her child out of the smoking car.
Thinking of his own 11-month-old daughter, the 26-year-old Ferreira jumped out of his pick-up truck and sprinted over – on two prosthetic legs – to the car.
“With the Marines, you are taught to be prepared and act,” Ferreira, who was leaving his wedding rehearsal at St. Mary Gate of Heaven Parish when he heard the screams, told the New York Daily News.
He added: “Instinctively you just react, you don’t freeze, and thankfully we were able to make a difference.”
While his brother and future father-in-law helped free the frantic mother, Ferreira squeezed himself into the backseat of the car and rescued the baby from her car seat.
“We didn’t know if the car was on fire or anything else,” the Uruguayan-born Marine said. “We knew we had to get them to safety.”
The three men stayed on the scene until firefighters and paramedics arrived on scene.
“I didn’t hear the baby crying, so I got kind of concerned,” Ferreira added. “Then I saw her open her eyes, and it kind of reassured me she was doing better.”
Ferreira lost both legs from the knees down and broke his pelvis in January 2011 when he stepped on an IED while fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Despite his injuries, he still competes in sports and rides a motorcycle.
“The prostheses were the last thing on my mind,” Ferreira said of the rescue. “It doesn’t have to be a Marine. It doesn’t have to be a firefighter. It just has to be someone with a good heart.”
As if Robert Rudolph Remus wasn’t already a badass wrestling name on its own, upon becoming one of the now-WWE’s most beloved Superstars, Remus chose the stage name “Sergeant Slaughter.” It was appropriate at the time, even wearing his character’s trademark Smokey Bear-style campaign hat: Remus was not only a United States Marine, he was also a Drill Instructor.
Remus will now be known as “Sergeant Slaughter” until the end of time, his beloved character has transcended wrestling into areas even Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson hasn’t been able to invade. The WWE’s NCO is not only one of the Superstars that turned wrestling into mainstream entertainment worldwide, his definitive strong chin is also in the G.I. Joe universe, as well as the WWE Hall of Fame. Getting there was tough going, though.
The man we know as Sgt. Slaughter started his wrestling career way back in the early 1970s, when wrestling was little more than a regional patchwork of stunts and characters, far removed from the international spectacle we know of it today. That all changed when Vince McMahon consolidated wrestling and updated its stodgy image over the course of some thirty years or more. Sgt. Slaughter came to the then-WWF in 1980 as a villain – a “heel” in wrestling terms. But it wasn’t until just before 1984 that Remus’s character found the popularity we know of today.
He’s so popular, he still comes around the ring.
It was at this time a heel known as the “Iron Sheik” emerged as the World Champion. The Sheik is arguably one of wrestling’s greatest villains ever – and every great villain needs a hero. Or in the world of wrestling, a “face” – also known as a babyface, one of the good guys. Enter America’s Drill Instructor: Sgt. Slaughter. His feud with the Iron Sheik catapulted the two to mainstream stardom, making Slaughter the second most popular face, second only to Hulk Hogan. It was the pinnacle of his wrestling career. He would take a heel turn in the days of the 1991 Gulf War, sympathizing with the Iraqis and feuding with Hulk Hogan, even losing the World Championship as a result.
Still, it’s a long way from Parris Island to Madison Square Garden and Sgt. Slaughter packed both.
Retired Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills went out on a foot patrol on April 10, 2012. It was his third tour in Afghanistan. He woke up on his 25th birthday to find that he’d stepped on on improvised explosive device, or IED, and that he’d suddenly become a quadruple amputee.
David Vobora was an NFL athlete who’d been dubbed “Mr. Irrelevant” after being the last draft pick of the season in 2008. While playing for the Seattle Seahawks, Vobora blew out his shoulder. It would ultimately force him to retire from the NFL at just 25 years old.
In the intervening years, Mills and Vobora forged an unlikely friendship.
“I had 25 good years with my arms and legs, and now I got the rest of my life to still keep living and pushing forward,” Mills said during an interview on “The Ellen Degeneres Show” yesterday.
“Something was missing,” Vobora, who is now a personal trainer, said. He noted that his work with professional athletes and wealthy clients was failing to fill a void in his life.
When Vobora met Mills, “I just knew I had to work with him.”
Mills talks about his predicament with lots of humor. When thanked for his heroism, Mills somewhat shrugs and replies, “I didn’t do more than anyone else. I just had a bad day at work, you know; a case of the Mondays.”
His wife, with whom he is expecting their second child, is equally humorous. “I’m in it for the handicapped parking,” Mills quotes her as having said shortly after his leg had to be amputated.
Everybody always says the same thing when you announce you’re expecting: “Better catch up on your rest!” Or, “Sleep in while you still can!” Or even worse, “I’m your carefree single friend who stays out until two AM and then goes to brunch!” All of them also think they’re sharing a secret, as if they’re frontline soldiers watching new recruits get rotated to the front. These people are incredibly annoying. Or maybe they’re not. Who knows, you’re in a groggy, sleep-deprived haze.
How you deal with sleep deprivation defines your first years as a parent. If there’s anyone who knows a thing or two about propping up sagging eyelids, it’s John McGuire. A Former Navy SEAL, he not only survived Hell Week — that notorious 5-day suffer-fest in where aspiring SEALs are permitted a total of only four hours of sleep — but also the years of sleep deprivation that come with being a father of five. McGuire, who’s also an in-demand motivational speaker and founder of the SEAL Team Physical Training program, offered some battle-tested strategies on how to make it through the ultimate Hell Week. Or as you call it, “having a newborn.”
Get Your Head Right
It doesn’t matter if it’s a live SEAL team operation or an average day with a baby, the most powerful tactic is keeping your wits about you. “You can’t lose your focus or discipline,” McGuire says. In other words, the first step is to simply believe you have what it takes best the challenge ahead. “Self-doubt destroys more dreams than failure ever has.” This applies to CEOs, heads of households, and operatives who don’t exist undertaking missions that never happened taking out targets whose the Pentagon will not confirm.
Teamwork Makes The Lack Of Sleep Work
“In the field, lack of communication can get someone killed,” says McGuire. And while you might not be facing the same stress during a midnight diaper blowout as you would canvassing for an IED, the same rules apply: remain calm and work as a team. Tempers will flare, but the last thing that you want, per McGuire, is for negativity to seep through.
One way to prevent this? Remind yourself: I didn’t get a lot of sleep but I love my family, so I’m going to really watch what I say. At least that’s what McGuire says. And when communicating, be mindful of your current sleep-deprived state: “If you are, you’ll be more likely say something along the lines of, ‘Hey, I’m not feeling myself because I didn’t get enough sleep,'” he says.
Put The Oxygen Mask On Yourself First
The more you can schedule your life – and, in particular, exercise – the better, says McGuire. And this is certainly a tactic that’s important with a newborn in the house. “It’s like on an airplane: You need to place the oxygen mask on yourself first before you can put one on your kid.” Exercise reduces stress, helps you sleep better, and get the endorphins pumping. “You can hold your baby and do squats if you want,” he says. “It’s not as much about the squats as making sure you exercise and clear the mind.” Did your hear that, maggot!?
Don’t Try To Be A No-Sleep Hero
McGuire has heard people say that taking naps longer than 20 minutes will make you more tired than before you nap. Tell that to a SEAL (or a new dad). McGuire has seen guys sleep on wood pallets on an airplane flying through lightning and turbulence. He once saw a guy fall asleep standing up. The point is, sleep when you can, wherever you can, for as long you can. “Sleep is like water: you need it when you need it.”
Know Your Limits
Lack of proper sleep effects leads to more than under-eye bags: your patience plummets, you’re more likely to gorge on unhealthy foods, and, well, you’re kind of a dummy. So pay attention to what you shouldn’t do as much as what you should. “A good leader makes decisions to improve things, not make them worse,” says McGuire. “If you’re in bad shape, you could fall asleep at the wheel, you can harm your child. You’ve got to take care of yourself.”
Embrace The Insanity
It would be cute if this next sentiment came from training, but it’s probably more a function of McGuire the Dad than McGuire the SEAL: Embrace the challenge because it won’t last long. Even McGuire’s brood of five, which at some point may have seemed they may never grow up, have. “You learn a lot about people and yourself through your children,” he says. “Have lots of adventures. Take lots of pictures and give lots of hugs,” he says. It won’t last forever — and you’ll have plenty of time to sleep when it’s over.
Russia has positioned a considerable naval armada in the Mediterranean near Syria after accusing the US of plotting a false-flag chemical-weapons attack in rebel-held areas — and it looks as if it’s preparing for war with the US.
A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, recently said the US had built up its naval forces in the Mediterranean and accused it of “once again preparing major provocations in Syria using poisonous substances to severely destabilize the situation and disrupt the steady dynamics of the ongoing peace process.”
But the Pentagon on Aug. 28, 2018, denied any such buildup, calling Russia’s claims “nothing more than propaganda” and warning that the US military was not “unprepared to respond should the president direct such an action,” CNN’s Ryan Browne reported. Business Insider reviewed monitors of Mediterranean maritime traffic and found only one US Navy destroyer reported in the area.
International investigators have linked Syria’s government to more than 100 chemical attacks since the beginning of Syria’s civil war, and Russia has frequently made debunked claims about the existence or perpetrators of chemical attacks in Syria.
Anna Borshchevskaya, an expert on Russian foreign policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Business Insider that Moscow was alleging a US false flag possibly to help support a weak Syrian government in cracking down on one of the last rebel strongholds, crackdowns for which chemical attacks have become a weapon of choice.
“Using chemical weapons terrorizes civilians, so raising fear serves one purpose: It is especially demoralizing those who oppose” Syrian President Bashar Assad, Borshchevskaya told Business Insider, adding that Assad may look to chemical weapons because his conventional military has weakened over seven years of conflict.
Since President Donald Trump took office, the US has twice struck Syria in response to what it called incontrovertible evidence of chemical attacks on civilians. Trump’s White House has warned that any further chemical attacks attributed to the Syrian government would be met with more strikes.
Russian Akula-class submarine Vepr (K-157).
Looks like war
This time, Russia looks as if it’s up to more than simply conducting a public-relations battle with the US. Russia’s navy buildup around Syria represents the biggest since Moscow kicked off its intervention in Syria with its sole aircraft carrier in 2015.
But even with its massive naval presence, Moscow doesn’t stand a chance of stopping any US attack in Syria, Omar Lamrani, a military analyst at the geopolitical-consulting firm Stratfor, told Business Insider.
“Physically, the Russians really can’t do anything to stop that strike,” Lamrani said. “If the US comes in and launches cruise missiles” — as it has in past strikes — “the Russians have to be ideally positioned to defend against them, still won’t shoot down all of them, and will risk being seen as engaging the US,” which might cause US ships to attack them.
Lamrani said that in all previous US strikes in Syria, the US has taken pains to avoid killing Russian forces and escalating a conflict with Syria to a conflict between the world’s two greatest nuclear powers — “not because the US cannot wipe out the flotilla of vessels if they want to,” he said, but because the US wouldn’t risk sparking World War III with Russia over the Syrian government’s gassing of its civilians.
“To be frank,” Lamrani said, “the US has absolute dominance” in the Mediterranean, and Russia’s ships wouldn’t matter.
If Russian ships were to engage the US, “the US would use its overwhelming airpower in the region, and every single Russian vessel on the surface will turn into a hulk in a very short time,” Lamrani said.
So instead of an epic naval and aerial clash, expect Russia to stick to its real weapon for modern war: propaganda.
The US would most likely avoid striking Syria’s most important targets, as Russian forces integrated there raise the risk of escalation, and Russia would most likely then describe the limited US strike as a failure, as it has before.
Since taking office, President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized NATO over how the alliance is funded and pressured other member states to increase defense spending.
In the process, he has made a number of misleading claims about NATO, distorting how it works and why it exists in the first place.
On July 12, 2018, Trump reiterated his criticism of NATO in a tweet, stating, “Presidents have been trying unsuccessfully for years to get Germany and other rich NATO Nations to pay more toward their protection from Russia. They pay only a fraction of their cost. The U.S. pays tens of Billions of Dollars too much to subsidize Europe, and loses Big on Trade!”
Trump added, “All NATO Nations must meet their 2% commitment, and that must ultimately go to 4%!”
The North Atlantic Treaty was signed by US President Harry S. Truman in Washington, on April 4, 1949, and was ratified by the United States in August 1949.
NATO is an alliance that was formed in the wake of World War II as the US and its allies sought to counter the Soviet Union’s growing influence in Europe and beyond.
The alliance was founded upon the notion of collective defense, meaning an attack on one member state is considered an attack on all of them. This is precisely why NATO, for example, rallied behind the US in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks and has sent many troops to fight and die in places like Afghanistan over the years.
Collective defense requires collective spending
Accordingly, every NATO member state contributes to a relatively modest direct budget: a roughly id=”listicle-2586418750″.4 billion military budget and a 0 million civilian budget.
Overall, the US provides about 22% of this budget based off a formula that accounts for the national income of member states.
Beyond the direct budget, NATO came to an agreement in 2014 that each member state will increase their own defense spending to 2% of their respective gross domestic product by 2024.
At present, NATO has 29 members and few have reached this goal — only five NATO members are expected to meet the 2% target by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the US spends roughly 3.6% of its GDP on defense, as its military budget in 2017 was approximately 8 billion.
There is no penalty for not reaching the 2% goal; it’s simply a guideline, and most member states have increased defense spending even if they haven’t reached that goal quite yet.
Moreover, NATO estimates collective defense spending among all member states will total more that 6 billion in 2018. US defense spending accounts for roughly 67% of this, but it’s also true the US has the highest defense budget in the world by far and this is linked to both its strong economy and internal politics.
President Donald Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stolenberg participate in a joint press conference, Wednesday, April 12, 2017.
(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
Here’s Trump’s big issue with NATO
Trump wants other NATO member states to increase defense spending — and soon.
On July 11, 2018, he tweeted, “What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy? Why are there only 5 out of 29 countries that have met their commitment? The U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025.”
There is an underlying truth to Trump’s criticism of NATO that the US spends a significant amount of money and provides an extraordinary amount of resources and manpower to the protection of Europe and Asia. But the US benefits a great deal from this, and US involvement in NATO has long helped it solidify its role as one of the globe’s leading powers, if not the most powerful country in the world.
Moreover, Trump’s remarks on NATO seem to suggest that Europe must pay the US for protection from Russia, when this is not how the alliance is meant to function. Not to mention, Trump already has a dubious relationship with Russia at a time when much of the world, especially Europe, is concerned about its aggressive military activities.
In this context, Trump’s criticism of NATO has been condemned by politicians on both sides of the aisle in the US as well as by other world leaders and foreign policy experts.
Trump caused a crisis at the NATO summit over the issue of defense spending
Trump reportedly broke diplomatic protocol on July 12, 2018, by referring to German Chancellor Angela Merkel by her first name, and his intense demands regarding defense spending saw NATO leaders enter a special emergency session.
After the session, Trump said NATO member states had agreed to quickly increase spending.
“We’re very happy and have a very, very powerful, very, very strong NATO. Much stronger than it was two days ago,” Trump said in an unscheduled statement.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Looking for a way to get in a great workout? Want to get in a great PT session with your fellow vets and service members? Need to get out of the house while still practicing social distancing?
Dawn your patriotic swag, grab your pack and head to your favorite hiking spot.
This Saturday, March 28, 2020, 23rd Veteran is hosting a Virtual Ruck March that you can participate in from anywhere in the world.
The event was originally supposed to be held in Los Angeles and Minnesota as a fundraiser for 23rd Veteran. However, as we all know, the coronavirus outbreak forced mass gatherings to be canceled or postponed. Yes, even marching one arm’s distance from each other would not be a good thing.
So Mike Waldron, Marine veteran and founder and executive director of 23rd Veteran came up with a great way to still have the event and get people moving, while still keeping smart about social distancing.
“We have lost a lot as a country these past few weeks,” Waldon told We Are The Mighty. “We had to cancel all our fundraising events to help our troops, but we don’t want to give up on them. Join this free virtual event to walk side-by-side with those defending our freedom on the front line.”
The original event had participants in Iraq that included both US and Allied service members so this is also a way to march with them in solidarity. The forward deployed troops will still be participating and will be able to be seen via the event’s Facebook page.
This also brings attention to an amazing nonprofit that helps veterans overcome a lot of the mental and emotional obstacles that we face when we transition out of military service.
23rd Veteran is a program that encourages veterans to overcome their challenges by engaging in rigorous exercise, group outings and therapy in a structured, 14-week program. This program originated from Mike’s own experience as a Marine grunt. He served in the 1st Marine Division with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines from 2000 to 2004. He was in the initial push into Iraq and upon EASing out of the Marines went to college and majored in business. He found a career managing federal buildings when he went through what a lot of us go through years after getting out. He started having panic attacks, anxiety and nightmares which were impeding his life. He initially refused to attribute it to his service in Iraq because, well, it was five years after the fact. Wouldn’t he have had issues before that?
When he got help, he learned, as many of us do, that PTS might not surface until years later. As he got help, he decided to look deeper as to why that delay occurs.
What he found was that your brain changes when experiencing a traumatic event. It makes itself remember the event and files it away. Your brain recognizes that there was a threat and you survived the threat. But the problem that many service members face is that you go from a high threat atmosphere to one that isn’t. However, your brain remembers; it’s called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, which is a protein that affects long term memory.
When your brain sees a threat (even if it isn’t there), it remembers the traumatic event so you can remember it as a survival skill.
Using this knowledge, Waldron created a 14-week program to help veterans who are dealing with mental health issues.
The program starts with a one week excursion out of their town (the program is currently in four cities and growing) and puts them in nature, with just themselves as company. The point is to team build and put them in activities that will engage their bodies and brains.
After that one-week indoc, they go back home and three times a week, work out together in high intensity training. This gets the blood flowing and body moving but also engages the BDNF in your brain. Immediately afterward, the group will go and have some type of outing that will put them in a public spot and force them to face their triggers.
Starting out small and with just the group, the outing eventually moves to more public spots with civilians joining. This process of having vets engage after a high intensity workout allows them to retrain their brain to be accepting of situations instead of triggering a fight or flight reaction that comes with PTS. Vets are then given assignments for each week which help them overcome their triggers and face their PTS head on.
There are only four rules:
No news (local news but not to take in negative)
No war stories
Using advice from personal trainers, positive psychologists and military personnel, Waldron created the 23V Recon playbook which is the backbone for the program. The result has been a resounding success and has led Waldron and his team to seek to expand their program to other cities. Based out of Minnesota, 23V is looking to expand into Los Angeles, which one of the canceled ruck marches was supposed to raise money for.
This is where you come in.
If you want to get out of the house, raise awareness for a great cause and help 23V grow, sign up and march on Saturday. Get outside, put on your pack and take to a trail and show your support. Let others know too, but make sure if you do it together you stay a safe distance apart. Get to stepping!
Dos Equis’ old ads featuring “The Most Interesting Man in the World” were supposed to be hilarious and ridiculous at the same time. But it left many thinking of people they knew who really might fit that man’s mold. I would like to submit the argument in favor of 81-year-old Army veteran, actor, and musician Kris Kristofferson.
You might know him from his acting work – most recently portraying the most hardcore President of all time, Andrew Jackson, on the History Channel miniseries Texas Rising. Or maybe you know him as “Whistler” from the Blade movies. Older folks know him as the songwriter behind Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” and as a country music performer in his own right. In 2003, he was presented with the “Veteran of the Year” Award at the 8th Annual American Veterans Awards.
While his father wanted him to continue the family’s military tradition, even he would have to admit that Kris has a pretty great resume. But there are a lot of music stars turned movie stars. It’s what he did before achieving stardom that makes him The Most Interesting Man in the World.
He was a Golden Gloves boxer.
The Golden Gloves meant that Kristofferson was a talented amateur boxer. But to add to his tough-as-nails persona, he also was skilled at rugby and track, and was even featured in Sports Illustrated for his natural talent playing American football.
He had two hobbies that just let him punch people in the face.
He was a Rhodes Scholar.
While studying literature at Pomona College in California, he was selected for a Rhodes scholarship to study literature at Merton College. While there, he continued boxing, performing at the highest levels. Remember: there’s no shame in getting knocked out by Kris Kristofferson. It doesn’t matter if he’s 18-years-old or 81-years-old.
Kristofferson goes Airborne.
He earned a Ranger tab.
The younger Kristofferson was the son of an Army Air Forces officer who went into the service himself as an officer. He was a helicopter pilot who also finished Ranger training and Airborne school. He opted to get out of the Army in lieu of taking an assignment to teach at West Point.
He moonlighted as a janitor… while working on oil rigs.
Kristofferson would sit on oil rigs, flying workers around in Louisiana one week. Then the next week he would moonlight as a janitor in Nashville recording studios so he could drop demo tapes on unsuspecting country music artists like June and Johnny Cash.
In one interview, he recommended having patience if you’re pursuing a career as an artist. Sweeping floors at age 30 might not seem glamorous for a former Army Ranger officer, but ask Kris Kristofferson if it was worth it.
Unfortunately his boozing is what led to him no longer working the controls of helicopters.
All that and he fought forest fires.
One of Kristofferson’s most often-offered pieces of advice is writing from your own experience. As if football, rugby, being an Airborne Ranger, and working on oil rigs weren’t manly enough, he also worked in construction and fought wild fires in Alaska.
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin told a group of veteran advocates that he was cutting funding to a program that addresses veteran homelessness, according to a Dec. 6 report from Politico.
The conversation reportedly happened over the phone, with “advocates for veterans, state officials, and even officials from HUD” reacting to the news from Shulkin in outright anger.
The program, co-sponsored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), allocates $460 million a year to housing homeless veterans. It seems to have been working, too, as veteran homelessness is down 46 percent from 2010.
Nevertheless, Shulkin determined that nearly $1 billion should be moved from “specific purpose” funds to “general purpose” funds. This means moving all of the funding used specifically to ameliorate veterans homelessness.
According to a Sept. 2 memo, the VA believes that money designated to specific programs, like addressing veteran homelessness, transplant programs, amputation care, and women’s health, would be better used in a general fund, leaving veterans hospitals to decide for themselves how to use the money. The memo states that the move is designed to support “the Secretary’s five priorities” and could be used for administrative things, like hiring more VA employees.
The memo does not state how each individual hospital must use its newfound funds. Rather, it simply notes that network directors will have control over how much (if any) to give to specific programs.
The Senate Committee on Appropriations responded to Shulkin’s plans to move the funds with a bipartisan, strongly worded letter signed by every member. In it, the committee reminded the Secretary of Veterans Affairs that his department had previously been extended the privilege of flexibility to move money without review because of its willingness to be transparent. That transparency, the letter argued, would all but disappear should Shulkin divert the specific purpose funds.
The letter closed with what seemed like a warning in the form of a suggestion: Stop, think, and before you do anything, submit to us a detailed “funding allocation plan” in the future.
It didn’t take long for Shulkin to shift gears and reverse his earlier statements. “There will be absolutely no change in the funding to support our homeless programs,” Shulkin wrote in a statement released Dec. 6.
However, Shulkin added, “we will not be shifting any homeless program money to the Choice program.” It is not immediately clear whether the Choice program is where Shulkin suggested the funds would go in his Dec. 1 phone call.
Upon further review of the VA’s budget brief, the department does, in fact, plan to cut funding from “certain Veterans’ benefit programs” to offset the cost of money borrowed from the nearly bankrupt Veterans Choice Program, a program designed to offer veterans medical care closer to where they reside.
The brief does not specify which programs will be cut.
It will soon be easier for you to get VA health care in your community without paperwork.
As of January 2020, you won’t have to provide a signed, written authorization for VA to release your electronic VA health information to a participating community care provider.
VA will automatically begin sharing your health information with participating community care providers using the Veterans Health Information Exchange. The electronic system is secure and safe.
This change will make it easier for your health care team to make better decisions about your health care. It can also help you be safer, especially during emergencies.
No action needed
If you are OK with VA sharing your electronic patient information with your community care provider, you don’t have to do a thing. Your information will be shared automatically.
Form needed to OPT OUT of electronic sharing
However, if you do not want to share your information electronically, you must submit VA Form 10-10164 (Opt Out of Sharing).
There is no September 30 deadline to submit your form 10-10164
You can submit your Form 10-10164 at any time. VA will share your information until you submit your form.
If you submitted Form 10-0484 before September 30, you do NOT need to submit Form 10-10164.
You can return VA Form 10-10164 at any VA Medical Center. Just visit the Release of Information (ROI) office. You can also send it by mail. After VA processes your form, your VA health information will not be shared electronically with community providers you see for treatment.
Protection against many common pathogens and environmental stressors is written into our DNA. Our skin responds to sun exposure. Our immune system mounts defenses when we get the flu. Our bodies inherently work to mitigate the potential for harm caused by these health threats. However, these intrinsic responses are not always quick, robust, or appropriate enough to adequately defend us from harm, which is why many people experience sunburn after intense sun exposure or suffer severe symptoms, even death, following exposure to the flu.
Military service members, first responders, and civilian populations face threats far more severe than sunburn and respiratory infections. Pathogens with pandemic potential, toxic chemicals, and radioactive materials can all quickly and powerfully overwhelm the body’s innate defenses. And though significant public and private investment has been focused on the development of traditional medical countermeasures such as drugs, vaccines, and biologics to guard against the worst effects of these health threats, current countermeasures are often limited in their effectiveness and availability during emergencies.
DARPA is looking to make gains beyond the status quo. Inspired by recent advances in understanding of when and how genes express their traits, DARPA’s new PReemptive Expression of Protective Alleles and Response Elements (PREPARE) program will explore ways to better protect against biological, chemical, or radiological threats by temporarily and reversibly tuning gene expression to bolster the body’s defenses against – or directly neutralize – a given threat.
“The human body is amazingly resilient. Every one of our cells already contains genes that encode for some level of resistance to specific health threats, but those built-in defenses can’t always express quickly or robustly enough to be effective,” said Renee Wegrzyn, the PREPARE program manager. “PREPARE will study how to support this innate resistance by giving it a temporary boost, either before or after exposure, without any permanent edits to the genome.”
The program will focus on four key health challenges as proofs of concept for what DARPA ultimately envisions as a generalizable platform that can be rapidly adapted to emerging public health and national security threats: influenza viral infection, opioid overdose, organophosphate poisoning, and exposure to gamma radiation.
“Each of these four threats are major health concerns that would benefit from disruptive approaches,” Wegrzyn said. “Seasonal flu vaccines, for example, are limited in that they try to hit a perpetually moving target, so circulating flu strains are often mismatched to vaccine strains. Programmable modulation of common viral genome sequences could potentially neutralize many more circulating viral strains simultaneously to keep up with moving targets. Combining this strategy with a temporary boost to host protection genes could change how we think about anti-virals.”
PREPARE requires that any treatments developed under the program have only temporary and reversible effects. In so doing, PREPARE diverges sharply from recent gene-editing research, which has centered on permanently modifying the genome by cutting DNA and inserting new genes or changing the underlying sequence to change the genetic code. Such approaches may cause long-lasting, off-target effects, and though the tools are improving, the balance of risk versus benefit means that these therapies are reserved for individuals with inherited genetic disorders with few to no other treatment options. In addition, some indications, including treatment of pain, may only require temporary solutions, rather than life-long responses.
The envisioned PREPARE technologies would provide an alternative that preserves the genetic code exactly as it is and only temporarily modulates gene activity via the epigenome and transcriptome, which are the cellular messages that carry out DNA’s genetic instructions inside cells. This would establish the capability to deliver programmable, but transient, gene modulators to confer protection within brief windows of time for meaningful intervention.
“Focusing only on programmable modulation of gene expression enables us to provide specific, robust protection against many threats at once, with an effect that carries less risk, is limited but tunable in duration, and is entirely reversible,” Wegrzyn said.
Success will hinge on developing new tools for targeted modulation of gene expression inside the body. Researchers must identify the specific gene targets that can confer protection, develop in vivo technologies for programmable modulation of those gene targets, and formulate cell- or tissue-specific delivery mechanisms to direct programmable gene modulators to the appropriate places in the body. Although the immediate program goal is to develop defenses against one of the four focus areas determined by DARPA, the ultimate objective of PREPARE is to develop a modular, threat-agnostic platform solution with common components and manufacturing architecture that can be readily adapted to diverse and emerging threats.
Research will be conducted primarily using computer, cell culture, organoid, and animal models to establish proof of concept. However, DARPA’s vision is to generate new medical countermeasures for future use in humans. As such, DARPA is working with independent bioethicists to identify and address potential ethical, legal, and societal issues.
By the end of the four-year program, DARPA aims for each funded team to submit at least one final product to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for regulatory review as an Investigational New Drug or for Emergency Use Authorization. Throughout the program, teams will be required to work closely with the FDA to ensure that the data generated and experimental protocols meet regulatory standards.