On September 11, 2001, America was attacked. Thousands of innocent people lost their lives at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. From the ashes of that horrible day rose a wave of patriotism that unified a nation to say in one voice, “We will never forget.”
Across the country, and especially in the state of New York, monuments and memorials to the people we lost that September day stand in keeping that promise. Of course, the most prominent of these is the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in Manhattan which is located at the World Trade Center. The memorial fountains bear the names of the people that perished there nearly two decades ago and the museum houses incredible artifacts and stories collected from that day. However, remnants of that day can be found elsewhere too.
One of the reflecting pools (9/11 Memorial Museum)
Roughly 190 miles north of the World Trade Center lies the city of Saratoga Springs, NY. Just over 30 miles north of the state capital of Albany, Saratoga Springs is a hub for thoroughbred horse racing as the home to the Saratoga Race Course as well as the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. The city is also in close proximity to the Saratoga National Park which preserves the Revolutionary War site of the Battles of Saratoga. Nestled among some of the town’s famous natural mineral springs stands a sculpted metal structure paying tribute to the tragedies that took place on 9/11.
Tempered By Memory (Author)
Crafted from World Trade Center steel, Tempered By Memory serves as the focal point of the town’s 9/11 Memorial Monument. A plaque at the memorial explains to visitors that the Saratoga Springs community lost residents in the attack and how first responders, ironworkers, and humanitarians from the area assisted with response and recovery efforts in the aftermath. In 2002, Saratoga Springs residents and businesses created a respite program which granted retreats to 178 NYC firefighters, policemen, and their families.
In 2010, the Saratoga Arts Center Council, Saratoga Springs City Council, and the Saratoga Springs Naval Support Unit entered into a collaboration to bring steel artifacts from the World Trade Center to the community. After a year of work by local sculptors and a volunteer team of ironworkers, crane operators, and community-wide support, Tempered By Memory was completed in 2011. On the eleventh anniversary of the attack, the sculpture was donated by Saratoga Arts to the City of Saratoga Springs. Reinforced by the healing and restorative properties of the natural mineral springs that surround it, Tempered By Memory invites visitors to quietly reflect on the history of the site and transcend the tragedy.
However, if the sculpture brings more pain than healing and a visitor finds themself in need of further inspiration of hope, they need only look off to the side. Planted a few yards away from the center of the memorial is a rather unassuming tree. Compared to the large and lush trees in the park, this diminutive Callery Pear Tree appears to be out of place.
In fact, the tree is called the Survivor Tree and was grown from a seedling of the last standing Callery Pear Tree that once stood on the site of the original World Trade Center. The attack on 9/11 nearly destroyed the original tree which now stands at the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Since its return to the site in 2010, the original Survivor Tree has spawned seedlings which have been gifted to communities that have endured tragedy. In addition to Saratoga Springs, recipients of Survivor Tree seedlings include Las Vegas, Parkland, Boston, Manchester, and Paris. The trees serve as a reminder of hope, strength, and unity through adversity.
Saratoga Springs Survivor Tree (Author)
Though memorial events for the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attack will look different compared to previous years as a result of COVID, tributes like Tempered By Memory and Survivor Trees across the country and around the world stand as monuments to the memory of the people lost on that terrible day and the loved ones that they left behind.
The year is 1979. The aftermath of the battle left 60 humans killed in action and an untold number of the enemy’s troops mortally wounded. It was the U.S. Army’s Special Forces’ greatest threat — and no one would ever know about it. The Green Berets were dispatched to Dulce, New Mexico, to keep alien forces underground and away from the rest of the world.
Schneider claims he was working on a highly secretive, underground base on the Jicarilla Apache Reservation in New Mexico, near Dulce, a Colorado border town. He told the Huffington Post he first became suspicious of the project’s true intention when he noticed American Special Forces soldiers operating in and around the area.
They don’t just send Green Berets to New Mexico for no reason. Schneider alleged the gray aliens were conducting bizarre medical experiments on mankind, both live humans and samples of DNA. He said that deep underground, the “Grays” would absorb human and cow blood for sustenance.
Schneider finally came out with his story in the mid-1990s. Two years later, he killed himself with a catheter cord – a suicide that has some screaming “foul play.” At the time, the engineer said he began construction on the underground base just like he would any other base, by drilling holes. This time, however an acrid smell like burning garbage emerged from the drilled holes. That’s when the fighting started.
Then, one day, he turned around and came face-to-face with what he called a “7-foot-tall, stinky, gray alien.” Immediately, the engineer grabbed his pistol and took two of them down. A third one blew off some his fingers with a kind of laser blaster. That’s when one of the Green Berets sacrificed himself to save Schneider’s life.
The scuffle turned into a full-blown battle that killed 60 humans. Green Berets reacted instantly, bringing all the firepower they could bear on the aliens. The aliens responded by shooting blue bolts of radiant power with movements of their hands. The kind of bolts that blew Schneider’s fingers off were turning the Special Forces soldiers inside out. Eventually, the aliens relented, retreating deeper into the complex.
What happened in the years that followed is anyone’s guess.
Before his death, Schneider alleged that there were more than 1,400 of these underground bases all over the world, each with a price tag of billion. The 192 bases inside the U.S. are also said to be interconnected. While there is no further information on what started the underground alien war or if it continues to this day, residents of nearby Dulce attest to strange happenings in areas near the base.
Aluminum has served in war since ancient times, but its most common application today is as armor, allowing for well-protected but light vehicles that can tear through rough terrain where steel would get bogged down. But aluminum has an unearned reputation for burning, so troops don’t line up to ride in them under fire.
Crewmen in the coupla of an M-2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle elevate the barrel during a 1987 exercise.
(U.S. Army Pfc. Prince Hearns)
Aluminum got its start in war as alum, a salt composed of aluminum and potassium. This was one of the earliest uses of aluminum in military history. Ancient commanders learned you could apply a solution of the stuff to wood and reduce the chances it would burn when an enemy hit it with fire.
As chemists and scientists learned how to create pure aluminum in the 1800s, some military leaders looked to it for a new age of weaponry. At the time, extracting and smelting aluminum was challenging and super expensive, but Napoleon sponsored research as he sought to create aluminum artillery.
Because aluminum is so much lighter than steel, it could’ve given rise to more mobile artillery units, capable of navigating muddy lanes that would stop heavier units. Napoleon’s scientists could never get the process right to mass produce the metal, so the ideas never came to fruition.
But aluminum has some drawbacks when it comes to weapon barrels. It’s soft, and it has a relatively low melting point. So, start churning out cannon balls from aluminum guns, and you run the risk of warping the barrels right when you need them.
Instead, the modern military uses aluminum, now relatively cheap to mine and refine, to serve as armor. It’s light, and it can take a hit, making it perfect for protection. The softness isn’t ideal for all purposes, but it does mean that the armor isn’t prone to spalling when hit.
But aluminum’s differences from steel extend deep into the thermal sphere. While aluminum does have a lower melting point than steel, it also has a higher thermal conductivity and specific energy (basically, it takes more heat to heat up aluminum than it does to heat up steel). So it can take plenty of localized heat without melting away.
An armored personnel carrier burns in the streets of Egypt during 2011 protests.
(In industrial applications that rely on aluminum burning, the process is usually started by burning another metal, like magnesium, which burns more easily and releases enough heat, and the aluminum is crushed into a fine powder and mixed with oxygen so that the soot doesn’t halt the reaction.)
In a book published in 1993, after the Bradley became one of the heroes of Desert Storm, he claimed that the vehicles survived because of changes made after those tests. But while the Army might have switched the locations where ammo was stored and other design details, they didn’t change the hull material.
But, again, aluminum does melt. And the few Bradley’s that did suffer extended ammo fires did melt quite extensively, sometimes resulting in puddles of aluminum with the steel frame sitting on top of it. This spurred on the belief that the aluminum, itself, had burnt.
The M2A3 Bradley is capable, but troops don’t love its aluminum hull.
(Winifred Brown, U.S. Army)
But aluminum melts at over 1,200 Fahrenheit, hot enough that any crew in a melting aluminum vehicle would’ve died long before the armor plates drip off. Aluminum is great at normal temperatures, providing protection at light weights.
And so aluminum protects vehicles like the M2 Bradley and the M113 armored personnel carrier. The new Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle that is slated to replace the M113 has, you guessed it, an aluminum hull. But while troops might enjoy the increased space, they’ll probably leave off any discussion of the vehicle’s material while bragging.
The M3 Carl Gustav is an upgraded variant of the Army’s Multi-Role Anti-Armor, Anti-Personnel Weapons System, or MAAWS – a reusable, recoilless shoulder-fired conventional munition.
It was first ordered by the Army in response to an Operational Needs Statement from Afghanistan seeking to procure a direct fire, man-portable, anti-personnel and light structure weapon able, among other things, to respond to insurgent rocket-propelled grenade, or RPG, fire.
The latest version, or M3E1, is not only lighter, but shorter than the existing M3 but also ergonomically designed with a longer handle and better grips. These features, as well as its ability to use multiple types of rounds for firing, has led the Army to approve a requirement for 1,111 M3E1 units, service statements said.
Responding to soldier feedback, Army and Saab engineers designed a titanium updated M3E1 that is more than six pounds lighter than the bulkier M3 version. The M3E1 is also 2.5 inches shorter and has an improved carrying handle, extra shoulder padding and an improved sighting system that can be adjusted for better comfort without sacrificing performance.
The M3E1 is part of the Product Manager Crew Served Weapons portfolio, which is processing a contract to procure 1,111 M3E1s and an Urgent Material Release to field them as soon as possible, service statements said.
The new variant is “seven pounds lighter than the M3 – it can be carried safely while loaded – it has advanced fire control – and it has an adjustable shoulder rest and front grip,” Wes Walters, Executive Vice President of Business Development for Land Domain with Saab North America, told Scout Warrior.
The M3E1 is also compatible with intelligent sighting systems for firing programmable rounds.
The weapon includes an airburst capability with its High Explosive, or HE, round.
Army weapons developers say the airburst round is the one that is utilized most often because of its effective range. It uses a mechanical time fuse which is set prior to loading the weapon system.
Airburst rounds can be pre-programmed to explode in the air at a precise location, thereby maximizing the weapon’s effect against enemy targets hiding, for example, behind a rock, tree or building.
The weapon has been used by U.S. Army Rangers, Navy SEALs and Special Forces since the late-80s. In 1988, U.S. Special Forces identified a need for a shoulder-fired, recoilless rifle to replace the M67, and Saab Dynamics developed the M3, which was a likely candidate to address the need.
Earlier versions of the anti-armor, anti-personnel, shoulder-fired multi-role weapon is 42-inches long weighs 21 pounds and can fire up to four rounds per minute.
MAAWS can utilize thermal sights to provide Soldiers with the ability to shoot at night and reach the proper range.
The MAAWS is able to fire anti-tank, flechette, illumination, enhanced armor, smoke and High Explosive Dual Purpose rounds, Army developers explained.
“The High Explosive Dual Purpose round gives you two different capabilities. In impact mode, the round goes off immediately as soon as it hits the target. In delay mode, the round penetrates the target and then goes off,” a service official explained.
The Defense Department on Tuesday denied it tried to quash a 2015 study that found it could save $125 billion in noncombat administrative programs but admitted it has so far only found a small fraction of those savings.
The department hopes to save $7.9 billion during the next five years through recommendations in the study of back-office waste, which itself cost about $9 million to complete, the Defense Departments acting deputy chief management officer told a House panel.
The study’s original findings as well as a perceived lack of action from the Defense Department riled members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which held the hearing on the fate of the report as President Donald Trumps administration plans a $54 billion boost in defense spending by cutting other federal programs such as foreign aid.
“I think the one thing I would take unequivocal issue with is that the report was in any way suppressed,” said David Tillotson III, who is acting as the Defense Department deputy chief management officer. “It was actively discussed within the department at the time and it has formed the basis of discussion since that time.”
The study found more than one million Defense Department employees perform noncombat related work, such as human resources, finances, health care management and property management, and $125 billion could be saved by making those operations more efficient. The study was conducted by the Defense Business Board, an advisory body to the Pentagon, and included work by two contracted groups.
The saved money could be enough to fund 50 additional Army brigades or 10 Navy carrier strike group deployments, the Defense Business Board found.
So far, most of the projected $7.9 billion in savings will come from information technology purchases and services contracts, according to Tillotson.
He said finding more savings might be difficult due to the Pentagons long-running resistance to efficiency and audit efforts, and that lawmakers could help with legislation such as a new round of base realignments and closures to help the department shed excess and costly real estate.
“There is an internal challenge, that is our job, we will go fight those battles and in some instances we are assisted by actions on The Hill,” he said.
The Washington Post reported in December that the Pentagon tried to shelve the findings because it feared Congress might use them to slash its budget.
At the time, the chairmen of the Senate and House armed services committees, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said the report of $125 billion in potential waste was not surprising and both had been working for years to trim back the growth in headquarters staff, civilian workers and contractors.
Lawmakers on Tuesday wanted to know why the department has not used the report to find more savings.
“Did we waste $8-9 million dollars of the taxpayers money on a report on identifying waste in the Pentagon and if we didnt waste it, what have been the savings that came out of this report,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md.
Three nurses and a physician’s assistant have resigned from an Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs facility after maggots were discovered in a veteran’s wound.
The center in Talihina, Oklahoma, has reportedly had staffing issues.
According to a report by the Tulsa World, the veteran, Owen Reese Peterson, 73, who served during the Vietnam War, arrived at the center with an infection prior to his Oct. 3 death.
Oklahoma Secretary of Veterans Affairs Myles Deering, a retired major general in the Oklahoma National Guard, claimed that Peterson “did not succumb as a result of the parasites” but instead died from sepsis.
According to WebMD.com, sepsis is a “serious medical condition” that is triggered when chemicals released to fight an infection in the body instead cause inflammation. It can lead to organ failure and death. As many as half of those with severe cases of sepsis end up dead.
“During the 21 days I was there, … I pleaded with the medical staff, the senior medical staff, to increase his meds so his bandages could be changed,” Raymie Parker, Peterson’s son, told the Tulsa World. Parker claimed that his requests were “met with a stonewall” by senior medical personnel and administrators.
“The Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs is required to maintain certain staffing levels and currently is unable to meet them,” Oklahoma State Sen. Frank Simpson, Senate Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs chairman, said. “At Talihina, they had to reduce the population of veterans there due to the inability to staff the facility.”
The four personnel resigned prior to the commencement of termination proceedings. In 2012, the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs was rocked when two veterans — 86-year-old Louis Arterberry and 85-year-old Jay Minter — died in the Claremore Veterans Center. Minter died after he was scalded in a whirlpool, and Arterberry died of a stroke.
A physician’s assistant was indicted on two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of caretaker neglect. He ultimately served a 90-day jail sentence.
An Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 hovers near Bus 142 during the airlift operation (Alaska Department of Natural Resources/Handout)
In 1990, Chris McCandless graduated from Emory University and set to begin an itinerant life traveling across America. He moved from California to Arizona, and eventually South Dakota where his car was disabled in a flash flood. McCandless packed up what he could carry and continued his journey on foot. In April 1992, he hitchhiked from South Dakota to Fairbanks, Alaska, where he set out on an old mining road called the Stampede Trail.
After hiking roughly 28 miles through the snow, McCandless came upon an abandoned bus, Fairbanks Bus 142. With thick vegetation deterring further progress, he set up camp in the bus and attempted to live off of the land. His journal documents that he spent 113 days in the area where he foraged for food and hunted animals. In July, after a little over two months of living in the bus, McCandless decided to return to civilization. Unfortunately, the trail was blocked by a swollen river, trapping McCandless in the wild.
On September 6, 1992, a group of hunters came upon McCandless’ bus and discovered his decomposing body in his sleeping bag. The prevailing theory regarding his death is that he died of starvation about two weeks before his body was discovered. McCandless’ story has been immortalized in Jon Krakauer’s 1996 book Into the Wild and its 2007 film adaption of the same name directed by Sean Penn.
McCandless in front of Bus 142 (Photo by Chris McCandless)
The 1940’s-era bus that McCandless took shelter in has since become an object of intrigue, attracting tourists from around the world. However, the trek to reach the bus and the surrounding wilderness is notoriously perilous and many tourists have taken unnecessary risks to see the famous bus. Last year, a woman from Belarus drowned trying to cross the river that prevented McCandless’ return. In February of this year, five Italian tourists had to be rescued on their pilgrimage to the bus, one of them suffering from severe frostbite. As recently as April, a stranded Brazilian tourist had to be rescued after he became stranded trying to return from seeing the bus. Between 2009 and 2017, the state has carried out 15 bus-related search and rescue operations.
Out of growing safety concerns, Alaska state officials decided to remove the bus from its location on the trail outside of Denali National Park. In a joint effort between the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and the Alaska Army National Guard, Bus 142 was airlifted on June 18, 2020 by a CH-47 Chinook of the 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment. Bus 142 was flown to Healy where it was loaded onto a flatbed truck and taken to a secure location for storage. Officials have not yet decided the bus’s fate, but it may be put on public display in the future.
Bus 142 rigged and ready to be airlifted (Alaska National Guard photo by Sgt. Seth Lacount)
The removal of the bus is sad for many people who had hoped to one day make the trek out to see it. However, the safety concerns and the costly search and rescue operations it created made Bus 142 “a perilous attraction” in the words of Denali Borough Mayor Clay Walker. “For public safety, we know it’s the right thing,” Mayor Walker said. “At the same time, it is part of our history and it does feel a little bittersweet to see a piece of our history go down the road.”
China is taking a stand and drawing a line in the sand. The Chinese regime in Beijing is upset over reports that Japan is considering adapting their Izumo-class “helicopter destroyers” to operate the F-35B Lightning.
According to a report by UPI, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry urged Japan to “do more that may help enhance mutual trust and promote regional peace and stability.” China and Japan have a long-running maritime, territorial dispute centering around the Senkaku Islands.
China currently has one aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, a sister ship to the Russian Admiral Kuznetsov, and is building a copy of that ship along with plans to build four larger carriers, two of which are to be nuclear-powered. Japan, presently, has two Izumo-class vessels in service, as well as two Hyuga-class “helicopter destroyers” that are smaller than the Izumo-class ships.
If Japan were to modify the Izumo-class ships to operate F-35s, the cost could be huge. The vessels need modifications to their magazines to carry the weapons the F-35s use. Furthermore, the decks would need to be re-done to handle the hot exhaust from the F-35’s F135 engine.
When 10th Group Special Forces soldier Kyle Daniels returned from his last combat deployment, he was frustrated by what he saw. He understood that he’d been fighting for America’s freedom, including the important freedom to protest. But he didn’t like seeing the American flag burned.
So he did something about it.
Daniels designed and developed a flag that will not burn. Now, after two years of research and hundreds of prototypes, on Sunday, June 14 – Flag Day 2020 – the Firebrand Flag Company will launch its first product: A first-of-its-kind, official, fire-retardant U.S. Flag made in America from the same kevlar and nomex fabric that keeps our service members and first responders safe.
Daniels has big ambitions for his flag company. “I want Firebrand Flags to be the official flag company of the U.S.A.,” he said. “I want every home, business and government building in America to proudly fly one of our flags. And, if, for some reason, one of our enemies got ahold of one of our flags, it wouldn’t be much use as a propaganda tool. They would have to go to extreme lengths to destroy it, much like they do when they are face to face with an American service member. Old Glory can now defend itself.”
Early on, Daniels shared his vision with his former Green Beret commander, Jason Van Camp. Van Camp immediately invited Daniels to join his Warrior Rising incubator. Warrior Rising helps veteran entrepreneurs find mentors who can help realize their business goals and transition to the private sector. “I’ve known Kyle since the Special Forces Qualification Course. I believe in Kyle. He was a perfect fit for Warrior Rising,” Van Camp explained. “He had passion and zeal for making a flag that would literally dominate the narrative about flag burning but needed to evolve a new set of business skills to realize his vision.”
The mission wasn’t going to be easy. To make a flag that would look, feel and fly like a real flag but that wouldn’t burn, Daniels needed to engineer new materials and design a manufacturing process that previously didn’t exist. There were plenty of roadblocks along the way. The process to make the flag required entirely new cutting machines and the largest purchase of Kevlar fabric outside of the U.S. military. But Daniels applied the resilience he learned in the military to his business. As Daniels put it, “You have to adapt, overcome and do whatever needs to be done to accomplish the mission.”
At a Warrior Rising event, Kyle met yet another ex-Green Beret, Chase Millsap, the Chief Content Officer at We Are The Mighty. We Are The Mighty is a publisher and content studio focused on the military and veteran communities. Millsap loved the Firebrand mission from the outset. “We tell stories that celebrate service. Kyle’s unburnable flag is an awesome product with an amazing story.” It took Milsap no time to convince his colleagues to jump on board and the two companies have formed a partnership to bring the Firebrand Flag to market. WATM is the proud media partner of Firebrand Flags.
Get your unburnable flag today. The first 150 orders before June 26 save , and get free shipping (a value). All orders placed by June 26 are guaranteed to arrive in time for the 4th of July.
FIREBRAND FLAG COMPANY – Founded by Green Beret veteran Kyle Daniels, Firebrand Flags is the 1st company to develop a 100% made in America, fire retardant officials U.S. Flag.
WARRIOR RISING – A 501c(3) which empowers U.S. military veterans and their immediate family members by providing them opportunities to create sustainable businesses, perpetuate the hiring of fellow American veterans and earn their future.
WE ARE THE MIGHTY – Launched in 2014, We Are The Mighty (WATM) was created to give military veterans a voice to tell the most authentic, entertaining and inspirational stories about the military and by the military.
Jack Shamblin was a fresh-faced 18-year-old in 1945 when he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. He soon became part of the occupation forces at an airbase near Frankfurt, Germany.
As a base MP and guard for German prisoners at Keslterbach, the young Oklahoman would learn deep lessons about the duality of man and the destruction of war. Walking along streets with buildings in rubble, and through the Dachau concentration camp, he shuddered at the atrocities.
“What got me, was that steel building they gassed them in … told them people they were going to delouse them, and then shot that poison gas in there … you could see the scratch marks on that steel door,” Shamblin said. “How could people be that evil and wicked? But they were … That got me.”
As a guard, Shamblin would get to know several German POWs during his nine months in Germany. He said he felt that many of the German people were good, and unaware of the horrors taking place around them. But they knew the Americans were coming to end the war.
“I talked to a lot of the POWs, and one of them said ‘I look up in the sky when the Air Force was bombing Germany … and everywhere you look the sky was full.’ He said ‘I knew then the war was over with.’ I thought about that … They paid a high price, Germany did, but they’ve built the country back now so it’s one of the richest nations in the world.”
At his home near Roland with his wife of 69 years, Lily, the 90-year-old veteran looks back on his life with gratitude for being born in the United States and becoming a member of the Cherokee Nation through his mother’s lineage.
Shamblin and several other members of the Cherokee Nation were recently flown to Washington, D.C., as part of the fourth annual Cherokee Warrior Flight. In addition to several fellow World War II, Korea, and Vietnam veterans, joining him on the Warrior Flight was his grandson, Zack Wheeler, to visit the grave of a war hero at Arlington National Cemetery.
Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, Zack Wheeler’s brother and Jack Shamblin’s grandson, was killed in combat Oct. 22, 2015, during an operation in Hawijah, Iraq, with Kurdish allies to storm a prison and save about 70 prisoners being held by Islamic State fighters. Authorities felt the prisoners were in jeopardy of imminent execution, and it was thought many of them were crucial for Iraqi operation intelligence. The heavily decorated U.S. Delta Force soldier was 39 when he was shot, becoming the first U.S. military casualty in Iraq since 2011. His fourth son, David Paul Wheeler, had just been born that summer.
Speaking to media prior to the service in 2015, Zack Wheeler said his brother exemplified bravery and he considered him the “best soldier in the world.” Many his family felt he was “Superman.” His grandfather fondly recalls taking the Wheeler brothers fishing, and what he can only explain as “supernatural” event the Saturday morning after Josh Wheeler was killed. Shamblin said he was taping a news feature on Wheeler when something happened.
“Seven o’clock in the morning I heard the front door slam … and in my TV you could see somebody go upstairs. I saw this soldier in camouflage walk up that step. I thought, ‘Who in the world would be coming Saturday morning, a soldier, to see me?'” Shamblin said.
He turned off the TV, walked upstairs and looked all the way through the house. He asked his wife, who was sitting in a chair reading, if she saw someone. She hadn’t seen anyone.
Shamblin, who retired from Georgia-Pacific Dixie Plant after 42 years, comes from a long line of men and women who have served in the military. Just two and three generations behind him were Civil War veterans — grandfather Andrew Jackson Shamblin, a Confederate captured at the Battle of Vicksburg, and great-grandfather Capt. James Womack, a Confederate chaplain.
Ted Shamblin, Jack’s older brother, as well as three cousins, were in World War II. One of this three daughters was an Army helicopter technician serving in South Korea. In all, Jack and Lily Shamblin have 25 great grandchildren and a great-great grandchild on the way.
“It’s amazing what we’ve seen in our lifetime,” Lily Shamblin said.
While this figure could easily be true, it’s difficult to verify, given Russia’s continual game of misinformation. It’s also unclear if that figure included Russian mercenaries who operate in the country, namely to guard oil fields.
In high school, Jordan Way played football and lacrosse, as well as participating in ballroom dancing. He worked with the school’s Best Buddies program, partnering with special needs students in a mentoring capacity. “One of our nicknames for him was ‘Adventure,'” said his father, Dana Way. “Hiking, fishing, shooting, bow and arrows — he did not turn down a challenge.” Jordan was devoted to his family and devoted to his role as a U.S. Navy corpsman.
Yet only four years into his time in the Navy, Jordan was dead from opioid toxicity following shoulder surgery at the military hospital at Twentynine Palms Base. His parents were shocked to discover that a longstanding legal precedent known as the Feres Doctrine prevented them from suing the government for medical malpractice.
“My son never left the United States,” said Suzi Way, Jordan’s mother. “He was not in a war situation. He was having routine surgery, and he died. And he has no voice because of the Feres Doctrine.”
U.S. Navy sailor Jordan Way died following shoulder surgery and while under the care of military medical professionals.
(Photos courtesy of Suzi Way.)
Jordan was one of thousands affected by the Feres Doctrine in the 70 years it has been in effect. But as of Dec. 20, 2019, active duty military personnel will finally have legal recourse in cases of medical malpractice. President Donald Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2020, which includes a new mechanism holding the Department of Defense accountable for medical malpractice in military medical facilities. It was a hard-fought battle, but one that has potentially far-reaching consequences for service members who suffer from negligent care.
In 1950, the case Feres v. United States was heard and decided by the Supreme Court. The court held that the United States cannot be sued by active duty personnel under the Federal Torts Claims Act for injuries sustained due to medical negligence. As clarified four years later in United States v. Brown, “The peculiar and special relationship of the soldier to his superiors, the effects of the maintenance of such suits on discipline, and the extreme results that might obtain if suits under the Tort Claims Act were allowed for negligent orders given or negligent acts committed in the course of military duty, led the Court to read that Act as excluding claims of that character.”
Natalie Khawam, the lawyer representing the Way family as well as other families that have been affected by Feres, saw this as a fundamental insult to the civil rights of active duty service members and has been fighting to change the precedent through an act of Congress. “We consider ourselves a superpower, but our military has less rights than our civilians, and less rights than other countries, our allies,” Khawam said. “Shame on us.”
Dana Way vociferously agreed. “Our active duty servicemen who volunteer by signing that line — where in that document does it say, ‘I give up my Constitutional rights’?”
In eighth-grade Pop Warner football, Jordan Way severely broke his wrist. “His hand was hanging almost 180 degrees off his arm,” said his mother Suzi. She added that he was a longtime “fitness nut” and injured his shoulder in 2017. His parents wanted him to return home to see the surgeon who had fixed his wrist years earlier. But as a corpsman, Jordan trusted in the team of military medical professionals who would be overseeing his care.
This proved to be a mistake. Following the shoulder surgery, Jordan was left in agony. Five hours after the surgery, he went to the emergency room and lost consciousness from the pain. ER doctors increased his oxycodone dosage and sent him home. The next day, when nothing had improved, his surgeon increased the dosage again. But the doctors had all failed to see what was happening.
“He was getting the physical effects of the opioids; he was not getting the analgesic pain relief,” explained Dana. As a result, the high dosage of oxycodone left his body unable to move food through his digestive tract — he was not processing any nutrients. He became hypoglycemic and his organs began to shut down. In the end, he fell asleep and never woke up.
Jordan Way, back row center, with his family.
(Photo courtesy of Suzi Way.)
“These doctors, they didn’t maliciously kill our son,” Suzi said. “I pray for them all the time because I know they have to go to bed at night with the woulda, coulda, shoulda. But they also didn’t help Jordan. They were negligent. They were complacent. They didn’t do their jobs.”
After a long and arduous process of trying to determine what exactly had happened to their son, Army Colonel Louis Finelli, Armed Forces Medical Examiner System Director, admitted to the Ways that Jordan’s case was a “preventable and avoidable death.”
Dana Way sees the Feres Doctrine as a roadblock to quality medical care within the military. “The people in power know ultimately nobody’s going to get held responsible for it,” he said. “If you’re active duty military, you’re essentially a piece of equipment. You are a typewriter, you’re a calculator. If you break, you get thrown into a pile and they move on to the next one. To me, that’s wrong.”
Although Feres has not been overturned, it will be substantially diminished in scope by the NDAA signed last week. Service members will still be unable to sue in federal court for damages caused by medical malpractice, as was originally proposed in the Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act. That act was part of the House of Representatives’ version of the bill, named after another of Khawam’s clients who is battling terminal stage 4 lung cancer. Instead, active duty military personnel will be able to submit claims to the Department of Defense itself.
Rich Stayskal and lawyer Natalie Khawam in Washington.
(Photo courtesy of Natalie Khawam.)
Khawam sees this as an unmitigated victory. “I don’t think anybody will be upset that they can’t go to federal court if they have the remedy, the recourse, of federal court decisions,” she said. “It’s the best of both worlds.” As specified in the NDAA, the Department of Defense will be held to the same standards as those outlined in the Federal Torts Claims Act, and Khawam hopes that it will actually lead to much faster resolution of claims than if the cases were to be seen in federal court.
In its original form as the Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act, all claims would have been seen in federal court, but that proposal faced a roadblock from Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Graham was a staunch opponent of any changes to the Feres Doctrine, stating that such changes would be like “opening Pandora’s Box.” Despite a concerted effort among Stayskal and his advocates, any attempt to contact Graham was met with “crickets,” according to Khawam.
In an innovative tactical maneuver, by taking the process out of federal courts and into the Department of Defense itself, the proposal was approved by the far-more-amenable Senate Armed Services Committee. By doing an end-run around Graham, the act, in its new form, made it into the final reconciled version of the NDAA and was signed into law by the President.
Jordan Way’s funeral.
(Photo courtesy of Suzi Way.)
Fittingly, Trump was revered by Jordan Way, who was buried with a Trump/Pence button on his dress uniform. Given their struggle to get answers about their son’s death from the military, Suzi Way is wary that claims will now be handled by the Department of Defense. “I know how exhausting it has been for my husband and I to find out how and why our son died. That took hundreds of phone calls, hundreds of emails to our elected officials, hundreds of emails to DOD from the very top of the food chain down. How can one ensure the standards are being upheld if they are standards that are privileged to the DOD’s eyes only?”
Khawam, however, is “on cloud nine,” she said. “I feel like it’s been Christmas every day. 70 years of this awful injustice — I felt like it was this locked-up vault that everybody kept saying, ‘It’s never going to change, it’s never going to change.’ And we finally unlocked that vault and cracked it open.”
Of course, “now the work starts from here,” Khawam added. The next step is actually pursuing the claims for Stayskal, Way, and others who have been denied legal recourse because of the Feres Doctrine.
Even Suzi Way, despite her hesitance about the final form of the bill, is glad that there has been momentum. “I went to bed last night,” she said, “and for the first time in almost two years, I didn’t hear Jordan in my mind saying, ‘Mom, I did nothing wrong. I did everything the doctors told me to do, let people know!’ My son’s voice is being heard that was once silenced due to Feres, and this is balm to my grieving soul.”
The Army Career Skills Program provides soldiers transitioning out of the Army with an opportunity to participate in free or minimal-cost apprenticeships, on-the-job training, employment-skills training, and internships.
IMCOM has 200 career skills programs hosted at 32 garrisons, with more than 4,000 employers that return an impressive 93% career placement rate for soldiers. Managed by Installation Management Command, the program is open to soldiers 180 days prior to transitioning out of the military.
“Since the program’s inception in 2013, more than 17,500 soldiers have been placed directly into high-wage careers post military service, contributing to a steep decline in unemployment compensation payments for the Army,” said Christine Krieger, Indtai Inc. contractor, Army Continuing Education System assistant program manager, IMCOM.
“The Career Skills Program helps soldiers turn their military skills into post-service careers,” Krieger said.
Partner employers recognize the importance Army values and ethos bring to their companies in direct support of soldier for Life.
The Army Career Skills Program provides Soldiers transitioning out of the Army with an opportunity to participate in free or minimal-cost apprenticeships, on-the-job training, employment-skills training and internships.
(US Army photo)
The program has won several prestigious awards, including the American Business Awards Gold Stevies for Best Overall Organization of the Year (governmental) and Best Overall Customer Service Team of the Year (small, nonprofit); the Council of College and Military Educators Barry Cobb Government Organization Award; and the Federal Recognition Awards for Large Teams (second place). The program also was a finalist for the Harvard University Innovation in American Government Award in 2018.
IMCOM’s latest federal career skills program is a collaboration with the Army Civilian Human Resources Agency providing internship at soldiers’ garrisons with direct appointments to federal careers as HR classifiers and specialists.
Programs vary by Army garrison. Some of the areas covered are heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration; sprinkler fitting; forestry land management; diesel technician; welding; software and computer systems; telecommunications; air frame and power plant; and painting, drywall and glazing.
Efforts are ongoing to increase federal agency participation, expand successful programs, and serve transitioning populations in nontraditional garrison locations.
Soldiers interested in the program should visit the local installation administrator at their Education Center or Transition Office.