Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92 - We Are The Mighty
Articles

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92

Comedy writer and performer Bill Dana, who won stardom in the 1950s and ’60s with his character Jose Jimenez, has died.


Dana died June 15th at his home in Nashville, Tennessee, according to Emerson College, his alma mater. He was 92.

Dana served as an Army infantryman during World War II and earned the Bronze Star.

Early in his career, Dana wrote jokes for Don Adams and Steve Allen, on whose show he served as head writer. It was for a sketch on “The Steve Allen Show” that Dana created Jose Jimenez, which eventually led to his own NBC sitcom, “The Bill Dana Show,” which aired from 1963-1965.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92
Bill Dana as his famous character, Jose Jimenez (left). Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The character’s shy, Spanish-accented introduction, “My name … Jose … Jimenez,” became a national catchphrase.

Dana became a favorite of NASA’s Mercury astronauts, eventually being named as the honorary 8th member of the first team of Americans in space.

Dana recorded eight best-selling comedy albums, and made many TV appearances while continuing behind the scenes as a comedy writer.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s what US Army soldiers said in a WWII uncensored survey

In September 1940, World War II was a year old. The US was still a noncombatant, but it was preparing for a fight.

That month, the US introduced the Selective Training and Service Act — the first peacetime draft in US history. Mobilizing the millions of troops was a monumental task and essential to deploying “the arsenal of democracy” that President Franklin D. Roosevelt called on Americans to provide.

Inducting millions of civilians and turning them into effective troops — and keeping them happy, healthy, supplied, and fighting — was also a daunting challenge.


In order to find the best way to do that, the War Department mounted an opinion survey, polling nearly a half-million soldiers stationed all around the world throughout the war. Their uncensored responses, given as the war was being fought, are an unprecedented window into how those troops felt about the war, the military, and their role in both.

“Entirely too much boot-licking going on,” one soldier wrote. “Some sort of a merit system should be instituted.”

“Spam, Spam, Spam. All I dream about is Spam,” wrote another.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92

(National Archives photo)

In an email interview, Edward Gitre, a history professor at Virginia Tech whose project, The American Soldier in World War II, has compiled tens of thousands of responses to those surveys, explained why the Army sought the unvarnished opinions of its soldiers and what those opinions revealed.

Christopher Woody: Why did the War Department conduct these surveys? What did it want to find out about US troops and how did it want to use that information?

Gitre: Henry Stimson, the aged Secretary of War, outright barred the polling of US troops when one of the nation’s leading pollsters, Elmo Roper, first pitched the idea in spring 1941. The War Department was not in the habit of soliciting the “opinions” of foot soldiers.

Yet an old friend of the Roosevelt family, Frederick Osborn—who had already helped to institute the country’s first peacetime draft in 1940—quietly but effectively made the case.

Chiefly, he convinced Stimson and other leery officers that surveys would be for their benefit. Surveys would provide them information for planning and policymaking purposes. Allowing and encouraging GIs to openly air their “gripes” was not part of Osborn’s original pitch.

When George C. Marshall became chief of staff in 1939, he compared the US Army to that of a third-rate power.

With the passage of the draft in 1940, the War Department would face the monumental challenge of rapidly inducting hundreds of thousands, then after Pearl Harbor millions of civilians. Most lacked prior military experience. But this new crop was also better educated than previous generations of draftees, and they came with higher expectations of the organization.

The surveys, then, would help address a host of “personnel” issues, such as placement, training, furloughs, ratings, so on and so forth.

The civilian experts the Army brought in to run this novel research program were embedded in what was known as the Morale Branch. This outfit, as the name suggests, was tasked with shoring up morale. These social and behavioral scientists had to figure out, first, how to define morale, and, second, how to measure it.

Some old Army hands insisted that morale was purely a matter of command, that it was the byproduct of discipline and leadership. But reporting indicated pretty clearly that morale correlated to what soldiers were provided during off-duty hours as well, in terms of recreation and entertainment.

To address the latter, the War Department created an educational, recreational, welfare, and entertainment operation that spanned the globe. The numbers of candy bars and packages of cigarettes shipped and sold were accounted for not in the millions but billions.

If you were coordinating the monthly global placement of, say, two million books from best-sellers’ lists, wouldn’t you want to know something about soldier and sailor preferences? A whole class of survey questions were directed at marketing research.

Woody: What topics did the questions cover, and what kind of feedback and complaints did the troops give in response?

Gitre: The surveys administered by the Army’s Research Branch cover myriads of topics, from the individual food items placed in various rations, to the specific material used in seasonal uniforms, to the educational courses offered through the Armed Forces Institute.

A soldier might be asked a hundred or more multiple-choice and short-answer questions in any one survey. They would be asked to record more their behaviors, insights, and experiences related to service directly. They were asked about their civilian lives as well, including their previous occupation, family background, regional identity, religion, and education. This information could be then correlated with other military and government records to provide a more holistic picture of the average American GI.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92

One of this research outfit’s most reliable “clients” was the Army’s Office of Surgeon General. The quality and effectiveness of medical and psychiatric care had wide implications, not least in terms of combat readiness. The Surgeon General’s office was interested in more than the care it provided. Soldiers were asked about their most intimate of experiences—their sexual habits and hygiene among them.

Administered in August 1945, Survey #233 asked men stationed in Italy if they were having sex with Italian women, and, if so, how frequently; did they pay for sex, how did they pay, did they “shack” up, use a condom and if not why not, drink beforehand, and did they know how to identify the symptoms of an STI? The battle against venereal diseases knew no lines of propriety.

The Research Branch surveyed or interviewed a half-million service members during the war. The answers they received were as varied as one can imagine, though there were of course common “gripes,” which the old Army hands could have easily ticked off without the aid of a cross-sectional scientific survey.

Yet the scope WWII military operations and the influx of so many educated civilians did create innumerable challenges that were often novel.

But from the soldier’s perspective, it should not come as a shock that so many of them might have taken to heart the premise of the US’s involvement in the war, that the US was committed to defending democracy, and alone if necessary.

Respondent after survey respondent demanded, then, that the US military live up to the principles of democracy for which they were being called to sacrifice. And so, they savaged expressions of the old Regular Army’s hierarchical “caste” culture wherever they saw it, but especially when it frustrated their own hopes and ambitions.

They wanted, in the parlance of the day, “fair play” and a “square deal.” They wanted to be respected as a human being, and not treated like a “dog.”

Woody: The US military drew from a wide swath of the population during WWII. How do you think that affected troops’ perception of the war, of military and civilian leadership, and of what the troops themselves wanted out of their service?

Gitre: The WWII US Army is known as a “citizen soldier” army (as opposed to a professional or “standing” army). It was also at the time described as a “peacetime army.” Compulsory service was passed by Congress in September 1940, roughly 15 months prior to Pearl Harbor. Military conscription was from its inception a civil process.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92

Photograph taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island shortly after the beginning of the Pearl Harbor attack.

(U.S. Navy photo)

That year-plus gap had a deep and lasting impact on how the War Department approached the rapid expansion of US forces. Just the same, it also shaped the expectations of Americans who were called to serve—as well as of their family members and loved ones, and the wider public.

The success of the Selective Service System would depend on the state in which the Army returned soldiers back to civil life. They would need to feel that they had gained something from the military, in the form of skill training or more education.

“In a larger sense [compulsory military training] provides an opportunity to popularize the Army with our people which is essential for an efficient fighting force,” the secretary of war said. “Maintenance of a high military morale is one of the most important contributing factors to good public morale,” he continued.

This view filtered down into the ranks. Sailors and soldiers expected to receive useful training and additional education. They also believed the military would put the skills, experiences, and practical know-how they already possessed as civilians to good use.

Woody: Was there anything in the troops’ responses that surprised you?

Gitre: What has surprised me most, I think, are the many remarks not about command and leadership but race.

We know that leaders of and activists in the black community pressed the War Department and Roosevelt administration to confront the nation’s “original sin” and strike down legal segregation. How otherwise could the US claim to be a champion of democracy while systematically denying the rights of a population that was liable, as free white citizens were, to compulsory service?

Black leaders embraced the V-shaped hand signal that was flashed so often to signify allied Victory, and they made it their own, calling for “Double V” or double victory: that is, victory abroad, and victory at home.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92

Participants in the Double V campaign, 1942.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Surveys from black soldiers demonstrate in rather stark terms how pervasively this message took hold among the rank and file. African Americans were especially well attuned to and critical of the military’s caste culture and to its reinforcement of white supremacy.

It is especially jarring, then, to read commentaries from soldiers defending the continuation of white male supremacy. Not only did some of these respondents opine on the virtues of segregation and the inferiority of blacks. A whole host of them objected likewise to women in uniform.

But undoubtedly the most shocking responses are those that espouse naked anti-Semitism. These cut against the grain of our collective memory of the American GI as liberator of the German death and concentration camps. Statements of these sort are rare. Yet they exist.

Woody: What’s your biggest takeaway from these surveys about troops’ feelings about the war and their attitudes toward the military?

Gitre: When I first encountered these open-ended responses, I was almost immediately captivated by how similarly white and black soldiers wrote about equity in the military. These two populations sometimes used the same exact phrasing.

For so many black soldiers, military service presented itself as an opportunity to break the shackles of structural inequality. They pleaded for merit-based assignments, postings, and promotions. You can flip over to surveys written by white enlisted men and you can see them wrestling with the same involuntary constraints arising from their own submission. They vigorously protested being treated like a “dog,” or a “slave.”

The leveling effect of military service was profound — and not simply for the individual soldier, psychologically. The survey research Osborn’s team conducted on race, merit, and morale demonstrated that not only were black soldiers just as effective in combat, but that the proximity of black and white troops in combat situations improved race relations, instead of destroying morale, as had long been feared. This research fed the 1947 Executive Order 9981 desegregating the US armed forces.

That brings us back to that 1940 peacetime decision to make military service compulsory as a civic duty. You can’t overestimate its significance. This isn’t a plea for compulsory military service. Yet as I continue to read these troop surveys, I am confronted daily by the prospect that we are losing the hard-won insights and lessons of a generation that is passing into its final twilight.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the largest gathering of senior non-commissioned officers in the US

More than 440 senior enlisted leaders, representing all services — active, reserve, and retired — descended on Houston, Texas, June 20-22, 2019, from all parts of the United States to attend the Great Sergeants Major Reunion, the largest gathering of senior non-commissioned officers in America.

Out of U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy (USASMA) classes 1 through 10, there was only one Sergeant Major in attendance. Gene McKinney, who served as the 10th Sergeant Major of the Army, was among the many sergeants major to participate in this year’s event. Sadly, 16 sergeants major have passed since the last gathering in 2017.


The Department of Veterans Affairs was well represented, with two Veterans Experience office employees–both retired command sergeants major (representing classes 53 and 55)–on site to share MISSION Act and suicide prevention and awareness information, and hand out the VA Welcome Kit.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92

CSM (Ret) Eric Montgomery speaks with SMA (Ret) Gene C. McKinney at the event in Houston.

As the conference room filled, VA staff were there to welcome attendees and hear their concerns and feedback about VA. One attendee, Larry Williams, said “the White House hotline is the best resource in place.” Others similarly expressed wishing they had this information before leaving service, and that VA’s presence at the reunion convinced several to enroll in VA. Even those still serving, or soon to be retiring as sergeants major, reported a desire to share the VA Welcome Kit information with their soldiers.

It was an invaluable opportunity to attend, to share what’s happening inside VA, knowing that these senior enlisted leaders will be VA advocates to their soldiers all over the country.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92

Retired SGMs from USASMA class 55 at the GSM Reunion 2019.

Command Sergeant Major (retired) Ivanhoe Love Jr., who also served three terms as the mayor of Liberal, Kansas, was the keynote speaker. His spoke about living healthy lives, the importance of annual checkups and the power of positive thinking. He also stressed the importance of having personal relationships, staying connected and informed, and how these factors impact life longevity.

Although he was not in attendance due to health reasons, fellow Sergeant Major (Ret) Ernest Colden, a World War II, Korea, and Vietnam Veteran from South Carolina who turned 95 on June 23, 2019, was recognized.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy just sent an F-35 carrier to the South China Sea

The US Navy broke with its tradition of hyping up F-35 deployments when it sent the USS Essex jump-jet carrier into the Western Pacific with a deck full of the revolutionary fighter jets this week — and it could signal a big change in how the US deals with its toughest adversaries.

When the USS Wasp became the first small-deck aircraft carrier to deploy with US Marine Corps F-35Bs in early 2018, the media was in on it. But the Essex’s departure marks a change, as the Navy announced the deployment only after the ship departed, USNI News noted.


The Navy regularly deploys capital ships like small- and large-deck carriers for patrols around the world but has only twice deployed ones like these.

The F-35 has become the most expensive weapons system in history and earned its share of criticism along the way as costs ballooned and deadlines fell through. The Marine Corps’ F-35B is designed to land vertically and take off from short runways, like an amphibious assault ship, and will replace the AV-8B Harrier in ground and air attack missions; the Navy’s F-35C has a tailhook to snag an arresting cable and land on an aircraft carrier.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92

The F-35

(Photo by Tom Reynolds)

Naturally, the US military would be keen to show off the jets, which it bills as a revolution in aerial combat because of their stealth design and advanced sensors and controls. But it seems it has opted to skip the public-relations coup for something a bit more operational.

The Navy wants to change the media’s expectations regarding ship deployments to the Pacific, sources told USNI News.

The US military usually prides itself on publicizing its ship deployments and often says its carrier deployments are drawn up apolitically and months ahead of time, but insisting on some level of secrecy betrays that.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92

The flight deck of the USS Ronald Reagan in the Luzon Strait.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan McFarlane)

What does the US Navy have to hide in the Pacific?

The US has major adversaries in the Pacific — namely China and, to a lesser extent, North Korea.

It makes sense that with dialogue underway with North Korea, the US would want to quiet big deployments to the Western Pacific, and a high-profile deployment of next-generation stealth jets could seriously spook North Korea.

But it’s China’s navy that poses the biggest threat to the US, and it’s possibly the reason the US is staying quiet.

When the USS Ronald Reagan, the US’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier in Japan, patrolled the South China Sea, which China unilaterally claims as its own in defiance of international law, the US said very little about it. Repeated requests for comment from Business Insider went ignored.

The US uses its Navy to challenge what it calls excessive maritime claims of dozens of nations around the world in passages called “freedom of navigation” operations. Basically, if a country claims an excessive amount of maritime territory, the US usually sails a destroyer through to inform it that its claims are not recognized.

China views these patrols as a challenge to its sovereignty and makes a big deal out of them. For the US, it’s better if the challenges to China’s claims are the norm and not a news story. Some observers have speculated that the US wants to send a message to China’s military leadership without the publicity that may compel them to escalate.

By keeping quiet high-profile deployments to the Pacific, the US could be signaling that it’s getting ready to put the ball back in China’s court, with high-end military hardware checking it and disputes handled between navies rather than via press releases.

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

Articles

4 crimes you learn to commit in the military

We’re not saying everyone in the military does these things, just that it’s almost impossible to complete an enlistment without someone either encouraging you, or even teaching you, to:


1. Commit petty theft

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

“Gear adrift is a gift” and similar maxims are just cute ways of saying that it’s sometimes okay to steal. But it’s not. There’s no law that says it stops being government property or someone else’s personal property if they forgot to lock it up or post a guard.

This includes “acquiring” needed items for the squad by snatching up unsecured gear or trading for someone’s off-the-books printer. We know you have to get your CLP, but at least try to get some from the armorer before turning to theft.

2. Smuggle alcohol through the mail

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92
If their breath never smells minty fresh, maybe get suspicious of their constant mouthwash use.

It’s only legal to ship alcohol through the United States Postal System if you have a license or if it’s in a product like mouthwash. Of course, that mouthwash isn’t supposed to be 80 proof.

But every time a unit gets ready for deployment, the veterans start talking about the super illegal practice of asking family members to pour vodka into empty mouthwash bottles, mix in a few drops of blue and green food coloring, and send it to the base in the mail. Many of the old timers are just making jokes, but it still spreads the knowledge of the tactic. (Which this article also does. Crap.)

3. Lie on federal forms

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92
The Defense Travel System is reasons 1-3 that no one should ever re-enlist. (Photo: U.S. Air National Guard Master Sgt. Christopher Botzum)

Let’s be honest, perfectly filled out Defense Travel System vouchers and unit packing lists are the exception to the rule. Sometimes, this is because it’s hard to track every little change in a connex’s contents or a trip. But other times, it’s because units on their way out the door on an exercise or deployment are willing to put whatever they need to on the paperwork to get it approved.

It’s an expedient way to get the mission done, but it’s also a violation of Title 18 United States Code 1001, which prohibits false claims to the federal government. Of course, no one is going to prosecute when a connex shows up with three more cots than were on the list, but don’t listen to the barracks attorney telling you that the per diem is higher if you just change this one thing in DTS.

4. Abuse prescription medication

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92
Perfectly legal in training and combat, actually a crime when using it to avoid a hangover with a prescription. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Nicholas Farina)

Most troops aren’t out there injecting illegally acquired morphine, but most people would probably be surprised to learn that intravenous saline is a prescription medical device (yeah, saltwater in a bag). So are those 800mg Motrins.

And teaching a bunch of troops to give saline injections to each other does help them save lives in combat, but it also prepares them to tack an extra criminal charge onto their alcohol-fueled bender when they get home and stick themselves with a needle to try to avoid getting hungover (which, seriously guys, stop giving yourselves IVs while drunk).

Articles

Don’t wait, vaccinate! Nationwide PSA encourages veterans to get their COVID-19 vaccine

AdTechCares, co-founded in 2020 by Amobee and 50 partners from across the advertising ecosystem, has partnered with the Veterans Coalition for Vaccination (VCV)—formed earlier this year with six leading veterans organizations—and Venables Bell + Partners to launch a nationwide public service announcement (PSA) campaign to encourage full vaccination and help put an end to the Covid-19 crisis.  

AdTechCares and VCV worked closely with Venables Bell + Partners to develop the creative for the integrated campaign by looking to the past—from Rosie the Riveter to Smokey the Bear—for inspirational images that drove Americans to work together and overcome obstacles by appealing to a shared sense of duty, and updated these iconic images to reflect the America we see today. The “Call to Arms” campaign enlists arms of every kind from “the tatted, the toned and the sun-deprived” to encourage all Americans to get vaccinated because “better times are within arms reach.” The ads end with a simple and direct call-to-action: “Don’t wait. Vaccinate.” Mass market messaging will appear across broadcast, digital, social, video and Times Square out-of-home. Integrated media for this effort was donated and a sampling of the creative can be viewed here.”

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92

“As the Covid-19 crisis continues, even as the vaccines rollout, the advertising industry has an inherent duty to support fact-based journalism and to ensure continued access to accurate and timely information,” says Ryanne Laredo, Chief Customer Officer at Amobee and Co-Founder of AdTechCares. “It’s an honor for AdTechCares to work with the Veterans Coalition for Vaccination and their renowned veterans organizations and we’re confident we’ll replicate the success of our initial Covid-19 PSA campaign with a renewed focus on driving the public to credible vaccine information with the goal of keeping humanity well.” 

“Veterans are among one of the most trusted populations in the United States, and through the Veterans Coalition for Vaccination we are able to bring together these leading veterans organizations to build trust for the nationwide vaccination effort,” says Lorey Zlotnick, Chief Marketing Officer at Team Rubicon and founding member of the Veterans Coalition for Vaccination. “We are proud to launch a campaign that is visually representative of the communities that we serve and reaffirms the VCV’s priority and commitment to equitable vaccine distribution. We invite you to ‘roll up your sleeves’ and help us defeat this virus.”

“The national vaccination effort is the largest and most important mobilization in recent history. We felt that the messaging needed to be welcoming and optimistic, but also feel big, and really tap into people’s sense of duty to a larger cause; something the Veterans Coalition is very familiar with,” says Tyler Hampton, Creative Director at Venables Bell + Partners. “We couldn’t help but be inspired by the ‘in this together’ messaging and design harkening back to World War II.” 

The new campaign builds on the artwork and messaging of iconic home front effort posters with a modern twist. Venables Bell + Partners partnered with photographer Jim Hughes to photograph a wide range of masked people proudly displaying their vaccination bandages. Alice Blue Production Studio artists Lena Pigareva and David Waraksa then hand painted the images and created the typography to give them a vintage poster look. The campaign builds on a partnership between AdTech Cares and the Ad Council and it’s the biggest push in the history of the organizations.

Last March, Amobee launched a PSA campaign to lead consumers to authoritative sources like Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization to help the public understand the seriousness of Covid-19 and encourage mask wearing. Amobee’s campaign quickly evolved into the formation of the larger AdTechCares coalition, which now includes more than 50 companies spanning demand-side platforms, supply-side platforms, agencies and data providers—including Universal McCann, eBay, DoubleVerify and others. That PSA campaign has served more than 4.8 billion impressions to over 2.6 billion people across dozens of countries in 50 languages with digital, video and out-of-home ads.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92

About Veterans Coalition for Vaccination

The Veterans Coalition for Vaccination will partner to convert vaccines to vaccinations. Utilizing veterans, we aim to build trust in the vaccine and fight the spread of misinformation. We have created a nationwide network that can quickly mobilize veteran volunteers to assist with the set up and management of vaccination sites. We aim to provide care to patients and support the decompression of the healthcare workforce; and ensure equitable distribution of the vaccine to communities often forgotten. 

The VCV’s founding members include Team Rubicon, Wounded Warrior Project, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Student Veterans of America (SVA), Team Red, White & Blue and The Mission Continues.

Articles

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

A former Southern California Marine has been handed a 21-month federal sentence for faking a Purple Heart and lifting from another Marine’s combat story to get disability benefits and a free house.


In a rare prosecution under the 2013 Stolen Valor Act, a 35-year-old Iraq war veteran will also have to pay back more than $300,000 to the U.S. government and a Texas charity.

Brandon Blackstone served with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment out of Twentynine Palms in the Mojave Desert in 2004. He deployed to Iraq in August, during a period of fierce fighting on the Syrian border.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92

So did Casey Owens, another 1/7 Marine.

But that’s where the similarities in the two Marines’ stories end — and where Blackstone’s fabrications began.

Prosecutors and fellow Marines say Blackstone fashioned a tale of blast injuries and combat stress based on a horrific explosion that nearly killed Owens and cost him both of his legs.

Owens was in a Humvee that triggered a double anti-mine bomb while responding to a downed U.S. serviceman in September 2004.

Blackstone was in the area and likely witnessed the event. But he wasn’t injured in that attack — or in any other combat incident — according to people who were there, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Texas, and Blackstone’s own lawyer.

In fact, he was evacuated from Iraq after a month with appendicitis.

Also read: This is how the Pentagon had over 120,000 extra Purple Heart medals

But starting at least in 2006, Blackstone began spinning a story of suffering traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder after his Humvee hit a mine in Iraq.

He even fabricated two witness statements to support his claim for U.S. Veterans Affairs Department disability benefits that he received from 2006 to 2015, prosecutors said.

Worse, in the eyes of his fellow Marines, he began showing the photograph of Owens’ mangled Humvee as part of his story about how he was wounded.

“This scumbag lied to try to get s–t. You don’t do that. It’s not honorable. It’s not how we are. It’s personal for me, especially, as a friend of Casey’s,” said Andrew Rothman, a 1/7 Navy corpsman who was a key player in exposing Blackstone’s fraud.

“This kid essentially stole from all of us. And the honor part is bigger to us than the money and the house.”

Blackstone was awarded a 100 percent disability rating and, by claiming to have a Purple Heart, his application for a mortgage-free house was granted by Texas-based Military Warriors Support Foundation.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92
The Purple Heart is one of the most recognized and respected medals awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces. (Photo: AP)

Meanwhile, Owens tried to make the best of his life with a double leg amputation and brain injuries, among other medical complications. He moved to Aspen and competed as a Paralympics skier.

But Owens was still in pain. He did national TV interviews describing how he struggled to get the care he needed for his mental and physical wounds. His right leg required additional surgeries that took more of it away.

In October 2014, Owens used a gun to kill himself.

But things for Blackstone were going well. He became a mentor at a Missouri-based veterans charity, Focus Marines Foundation. He even started his own nonprofit group, called The Fight Continues, with two other post-Sept. 11 veterans.

But those brushes with others in the veterans community led to his downfall. His story, including video testimonials he was giving about his combat injuries, didn’t sit right with other 1/7 Marines who dedicated a Facebook thread to discussing it.

Related: Not all PTSD diagnoses are created equal

Eventually, Rothman tipped off the Warriors Support charity that was poised to grant Blackstone the deed to the donated house.

Blackstone pleaded guilty in September to one count of wire fraud and one count of fraudulent representation about the receipt of a military decoration for financial gain.

At his sentencing last month, a federal judge in Texas called Blackstone “shameful,” but gave him credit for accepting blame for his actions. Sentencing guidelines limited his incarceration to 27 months or less, according to news reports. His was given credit for time served since February, so he will serve 18 more months.

Blackstone’s defense lawyer, Justin Sparks, said his client was diagnosed with PTSD and suffered a head injury in Iraq — but not in combat.

The head wound happened when a superior roughed him up in the barracks and he hit his head on a dresser. There were other injuries while in uniform that weren’t related to combat but required surgery, Sparks said. While in the hospital, a higher-ranking Marine informally gave Blackstone a Purple Heart medal to acknowledge his pain — but it wasn’t an official award.

There’s no explaining why Blackstone lied about the Purple Heart or applied for the free home, knowing he wasn’t qualified, the former Marine’s lawyer told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“There’s not really a good answer for that. He was in a very, very tough time in his life and reached a pitfall there,” Sparks said this week.

Sparks said his client seemed to lose his grasp on reality as the story spun on.

There’s a symptom of PTSD where you are living your life in the third person. You’re always convincing yourself about what is reality,” he said. “It’s almost a coping mechanism.”

Sparks said his client is still rated at 70 percent disabled by the VA.

The lawyer disagreed that Blackstone was appropriating Casey Owens’ story.

“Brandon never claimed his lost his legs,” Sparks said. “The only common elements in the two stories are PTSD, the Purple Heart, and head injuries. There must be at least 1,000-plus soldiers who have those three things.”

Blackstone’s fellow troops don’t buy the PTSD explanation for his behavior. Several of them also were disappointed by his sentence.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92
A Marine salutes the memorial stand for his fallen brother. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“He was in the grip of his own lies,” said Eric Calley, a former Marine who used his own money to start The Fight Continues with Blackstone.

“That judge should be ashamed. I think (Blackstone) deserves a life sentence for what he did to our veterans.”

Lezleigh Owens Kleibrink, Owens’ sister, said her family was hoping for closure from a tougher sentence but didn’t get it.

Kleibrink said she has no doubts that Blackstone was trying to at least bask in the association with her brother’s reputation.

“He was a thief and Casey’s story was a means to get what he wanted,” she told the San Diego Union-Tribune this week.

Further reading: Here are the criteria that entitle a service member to the Purple Heart

“What Brandon doesn’t understand is that it’s ripped open our wounds once again,” Kleibrink said. “Anyone who makes my mother cry like this … He may have joined the Corps, but he was no Marine.”

The Military Warriors Support Foundation said it was the charity’s first brush with stolen valor in awarding more than 750 homes to combat-wounded veterans.

“This was an unusual case, in that even official VA documentation was inaccurate,” said spokesman Casey Kinser. “That said, we are constantly reviewing our processes to vet our applicants more accurately and efficiently.”

The Fort Worth-area house that Blackstone nearly owned has been awarded to another Marine family.

Lists

5 stories you may have missed for the week of December 16th

With everything going on in the world these days, it’s difficult to keep track of every story that pops up. Luckily, WATM has your back.


Related: Here are the best military photos for the week of December 16th

Check out these five stories that you might have missed this week:

5. A U.S. drone takes out a group of al-Shabab fighters 40-miles southwest of Somalia’s capital

U.S. Africa Command reported that a drone strike took out a vehicle carrying explosives posing an “imminent threat to the people of Mogadishu.” The extremist group al-Shabab has been linked to bombings in Mogadishu that have killed over 500 people.

The U.S. has reportedly carried out over 30 airstrikes against the extremist group. The Trump administration approved expanding military operations in Africa.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92
A Reaper drone firing a guided missile.

4. China continues to install high-frequency radar on their man-made islands — and the U.S. doesn’t like it one bit.

Reportedly, the U.S. and allies are highly opposed to China building on the artificial islands, which cover nearly 72 acres of the Paracel and Spratly Islands. Although the construction is entirely legal, many officials believe they may have ulterior motives.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92
The location of the man-made structures at Paracel and Spratly islands. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

3. China threatens to invade Taiwan once a Navy ship reaches its port.

A senior diplomat from China threatened to invade the self-ruled island should any U.S. warship visit. Li Kexin, another Chinese diplomat, had told U.S. officials that China would initiate its Anti-Secession Law, which authorizes the use of force on Taiwan to prohibit the island from seceding, only if the U.S. docks their ships.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92
USS Lassen underway in the eastern Pacific Ocean. (Source: Navy recruiting)

2. Pyongyang said it’s a ‘big step’ toward nuclear war if the U.S. blocks North Korean ships

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson requested that all nations put a clamp on North Korea and reassert the “right to interdict maritime traffic.”  North Korean officials found the remark offensive, causing the rogue nation to threaten war if their ships are blocked.

This issue surfaced after North Korea’s latest missile test raised global concern.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92
A North Korean test missile launch. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

1. Russia wants to supply arms to the Central African Republic if UN Security Council approves

The request raised concerns from France, who has already questioned Russia’s reasoning for the sale. Russia is seeking an exemption to the arms embargo set on the Central African Republic in 2013. The UN Security Council has until next week to consider the request.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92
UN Security Council during a session. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

New training will make Marines fight one another

Marines are about to face far-less predictable training that will challenge young leaders to outsmart sophisticated enemies with high-tech weapons and tools.

More force-on-force freestyle training will replace scripted scenarios in the years ahead, Lt. Gen. David Berger, head of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, told Military.com.

“We need to teach Marine leaders how to think on their feet,” he said. “We’re going to see a lot more of that graduate- or varsity-level thinking leader, and I need them figuring out how they can outthink me.”


The move follows a new national defense strategy that warns of long-term threats from strategic competitors like Russia and China. To be ready, the Marine Corps “must move beyond ‘scripted’ live-fire maneuvers and incorporate more force-on-force training in a free-play environment,” Commandant Gen. Robert Neller wrote in a Sept. 26, 2018 white letter to senior leaders.

“To meet the challenges of a peer-to-peer fight, we must incorporate independent actions and opposing will in our training at all levels,” Neller wrote. “Just as iron sharpens iron, an aggressive [force-on-force] training regime will test the limits of our capabilities, refine our actions, and prepare us for the fight to come.”

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92

Marines with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, dart across a danger area to clear remaining compounds in their area of operation at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Hawaii, Sept. 30, 2013.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Matthew Callahan)

Much of that will take shape at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms in California, Berger said, where units complete the Integrated-Training Exercises that prepare them for combat.

The live-fire maneuver training Marines have practiced for decades and the simulations that ramped up during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan won’t go away. That training will just be balanced with peer-to-peer fights during which one group of Marines is tasked with playing the good guys and the others, the foe.

And there are benefits to being on either side of those mock fights, Berger said.

“We’ll get better, but the training will also be more dynamic,” he said. “We need to fight as the foe would fight, so think about how they would be organized, trained and equipped. We also must better understand how they would use rockets, drones, planes and more.”

Marine leaders are still working on guidance that will better shape the plans for force-on-force training. In the meantime, Neller said the entire service must develop the mindset and skills necessary to prevail in the coming fight.

“We must ruthlessly test ourselves, conduct honest after-action reviews, make refinements and test ourselves again,” he wrote.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

SecDef: Soleimani’s killing dealt big setback to Iranian terrorism

Two months after a U.S. drone strike killed a preeminent Iranian general, the Pentagon’s top two military leaders said President Donald Trump made the right decision, one that has deterred Iran’s terrorist activities in the region.


Defense Secretary Mark Esper told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday that it was the right call to kill Iranian Quds Force leader Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, describing him as a “terrorist leader of a terrorist organization that killed many, many Americans, wounded thousands more.”

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92

Sen. Martha McSally, R-Arizona, said she agreed with the decision to carry out the Jan. 2 missile strike on Soleimani’s vehicle in Baghdad and asked Esper to talk about how the attack has affected Iran.

“It’s now been two months. Can you share at all what you have seen?” McSally asked. “I believe we have heard from you and others that it was a body blow, the impact that that is having on Iran’s terrorist activities.”

Esper said it’s clear that “taking him off the battlefield has set back the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] and the Iranian government with regard to spreading their malign activity through the region.”

“I think at the same action, we have restored deterrence to a degree,” he said. “And so, for all those things, I still believe it was the right call made by the commander in chief.”

Iran retaliated for the death of Soleimani by firing 15 ballistic missiles at Al Asad Air Base, an installation in Iraq that houses U.S. troops. There were no immediate casualties in the attack, but since then more than 100 U.S. service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury from the concussive effects of the missiles.

At the hearing, Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, asked Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley to reflect on the decision to carry out the strike on Soleimani.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92

“We all know General Soleimani wasn’t in Iraq on vacation,” Sullivan said. “He was there targeting the killing of more American service members, which he has a long history of doing.”

Milley responded by saying, “I believe the intelligence was compelling; I believe it was imminent” of Soleimani’s “command-and-control role and what he was about to do.”

“I believe that I, Secretary Esper, the president and many others would have been culpably negligent had we not taken the action we did … because I think many Americans would have died as a result,” Milley added. “I believe it was the right thing to do then, and I still believe that. And I believe we contributed to reestablishing deterrence of aggressive action from Iran.”

In the aftermath of the Soleimani strike, the Pentagon ordered thousands of soldiers and Marines to the Middle East to prepare for future Iranian aggression.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How military families can have a conversation with Dr. Jill Biden

Dr. Jill Biden is a familiar face to military families and Americans alike, with her husband’s role as vice president for eight years. Dr. Biden is once again aiming to open the dialog with military spouses and families and you can join in too.

Speaking to military families isn’t anything new for Dr. Biden. Her own step son Beau served in the Delaware Army National Guard in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps with the 261st Signal Brigade. He was deployed to Iraq for a year, not long after his father took part in the election vice presidential debate.


With Beau serving and being deployed, Dr. Biden experienced the difficulties and challenges of being a military family firsthand as a military mom and as grandmother, watching the struggles of Beau’s children. In previous interviews, she is on record saying that it was the first issue she wanted to work on when President Obama was elected.

Have questions about voting? Please visit Iwillvote.com or text ACCESS to 43367

As a teacher, Dr. Biden wanted to dive deep into the needs of military families and find ways that the administration could stand in the gap. Alongside the first lady, she championed Joining Forces. That program was widely successful and led to multiple pieces of legislation aimed at improving issues like military spouse employment and education for dependent children.

With her husband now vying for the highest office in the United States, she is turning her focus once again on those who serve the country and their families. Dr. Biden wants to hear directly from military families themselves what their needs are and how her husband, if elected, and his administration can support those needs.

Scary Mommy is widely known and deeply influential in the millennial mother space. Their website, articles and blogs offer a no-holds barred approach to all things parenting, news, stories and trending issues. On Wednesday, October 21, 2020 at 5:30 pm eastern, the organization will host a virtual event and conversation with Dr. Biden. Interviewing her will be military spouse and mother, Kellie Artis.

The theme or title of the virtual event is Helping Families Thrive. Dr. Biden will make the case for a Biden-Harris ticket and what they will bring in the name of support for military families if elected. She will cover the presidential hopeful’s vision for the military community and the plan to uplift all families on day one of a Biden presidency. You can be part of that conversation.

To join the live steam event and listen in on the honest and unfiltered conversation with Dr. Jill Biden and military spouse, Kellie Artis – click here.

Editor’s note: We Are The Mighty is a non-partisan organization. Should the Trump Administration plan a conversation with military families, we will let you know!

Articles

5 differences between the Navy and Coast Guard

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92
(Photo: USCG)


When people consider joining the military, many times they get confused about the differences between branches, especially when those branches have missions that, at a glance, seem similar. In the case of the Navy and the Coast Guard, they both have boats and airplanes and operate around the water. So how are they different?

Well, here are five major ways:

1. Size

The Navy has a $148 billion budget for Fiscal Year 15. The Navy has around 325,000 active service members and 107,000 reserve service members.

The Coast Guard has a $9.8 billion budget for fiscal year 2015. The Coast Guard has 43,000 active service members and 8,000 reserve service members.  In terms of size, the U.S. Coast Guard by itself is the world’s 12th largest naval force.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92

 (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Apprentice Patrick Gearhiser)

2. Assets

The U.S. Navy has 272 deployable combat ships and more than 3,700 aircraft in active service (as of March 2015).

The Coast Guard operates nearly 200 cutters, defined as any vessel more than 65 feet long, and about 1,400 boats, defined as any vessel less than 65 feet long, which generally work near shore and on inland waterways. The service also has approximately 204 fixed and rotary wing aircraft that fly from 24 Coast Guard Air Stations throughout the contiguous United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92

3. Mission

The Navy is a warfighting force governed by Title 10 of the U.S. Code and is part of the Department of Defense. The mission of the U.S. Navy is to maintain, train, and equip combat-ready naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.

The Coast Guard is a maritime law enforcement and search and rescue entity governed by Title 14 of U.S. Code and is part of the department of homeland security. (Prior to 2004 it was part of the Department of Transportation.) However, under 14 U.S.C. § 3 as amended by section 211 of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2006, upon the declaration of war and when Congress so directs in the declaration, or when the President directs, the Coast Guard operates under the Department of Defense as a service in the Department of the Navy.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92

4. Career

The Navy is organized into eight different warfare communities: Surface, Amphibious, Undersea, Air, Special Operations (SEALS), Expeditionary Warfare (EOD, Construction, Riverine), Cyber Warfare/Information Dominance, and Space.  These communities offer a number of career options for those interested in driving and maintaining ships, airplanes, or submarines or fighting the nation’s bad guys in direct ways.  The Navy also needs doctors and lawyers and supply types as well as a host of other support jobs that are both rewarding in uniform and sought after on the civilian side.

The Coast Guard’s 11 mission areas — ports, waterways, and coastal security; drug interdiction; aids to navigation; search and rescue; living marine resources; marine safety; defense readiness; migrant interdiction; marine environmental protection; ice operations; and other law enforcement — also give myriad career options to those interested in ships (albeit smaller ones) and airplanes.  The main difference is the USCG’s overall mission is not to wage war but to enforce maritime law.  That’s not to say that Coast Guardsmen aren’t ever involved in trigger-pulling – quite the contrary.  In fact, those involved in mission areas like drug interdiction and other law enforcement operations are arguably more likely to use their weapons than the average fleet sailor.

Coast Guard aviation candidates go through the U.S. Navy’s flight school curriculum.  (There have even been two USCG astronauts.)

Despite the fact the Coast Guard falls under DHS, members are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and receive the same pay and allowances as members of the same pay grades in the other four armed services.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

5. Duty stations

The U.S. Navy has bases worldwide and assignments are based primarily on warfare specialty.  For instance, if you’re an aviator you’ll be based at an air station in places like San Diego or Virginia Beach as well as deployed aboard an aircraft carrier that can cruise anywhere around the world the situation demands.

Coast Guard has air stations for helicopter and other aircraft, boat stations for launching small boats, and sectors and districts to coordinate the activities of all those assets. Coast Guard stations are located at intervals along the coast of the continental US-based on the response time for search and rescue missions. Those same units also perform coastal security missions.

Articles

7 treaties and relationships that might be affected by Trump foreign policy

There may be a big stick involved in President Trump’s foreign policy, but there is no speaking softly.


Asian markets tanked as news of Donald Trump’s imminent election hit newswires worldwide last night. The Australian markets lost $34 billion. In Japan, the Nikkei was down 4.8 percent, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong dropped 2.7 percent. The economic impact wasn’t all bad; gold prices rose sharply – as they often do in times of instability.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Related: 10 wars that could break out in the next four years

The reason for mass market fluctuations is due to the President-Elect’s protectionist rhetoric. Many times during his campaign, Trump blasted the deals made by previous administrations, Democrat and Republican alike. Some he’s simply not a fan of, others he calls a huge mistake. There’s more than one he wants to “rip up” on his first day in office.

1. NAFTA

During the presidential debate, Trump called the North American Free Trade Agreement “the worst trade deal ever signed.” He said it kills American Jobs. lowers trade restrictions between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92
(Photo by Jim Winstead)

NAFTA, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993, lowers trade restrictions between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. After the debate, Fortune Magazine agreed there was some truth to that statement, though “the truth lies somewhere in between.”

2. Trans-Pacific Partnership

Donald Trump is on the record as not being China’s biggest fan when it comes to business practices. The President-Elect is not down with TPP and was an outspoken critic long before he became a candidate.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative told The New York Times the TPP would end more than 18,000 tariffs that the participating countries have placed on American exports, including autos, machinery, information technology and consumer goods, chemicals and agricultural products. It wasn’t very popular among Bernie Sanders supporters, either.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92

“TPP is now in the history dustbin for sure,” Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told POLITICO Pro.

3. Iran Nuclear Agreement

The deal that lifted most sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic is touted as a foreign policy achievement by the Obama administration. Trump was opposed to the deal when it was signed, calling it a “disaster” and “the worst deal ever negotiated.”

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92

In March 2016, he told the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC that dismantling the deal would be his top priority.

4. Relations with Israel

While Israeli and American people enjoy close ties, relations between Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama were frosty at best. Despite the historically large aid package given to Israel from Obama, The Guardian reports top Israeli leaders welcomed news of Trump’s election.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92

One of Trump’s campaign promises was to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to the ancient city.

5. NATO

Russia celebrated the news of Trump’s victory, telling CBS News that President Putin is ready to restore full diplomatic relations with the United States. Trump hinted during his campaign that Europe was not investing enough in its own defense and that the U.S. might not defend its allies so quickly.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92

NATO Secretary Gen. Jens Stoltenberg made a statement Nov. 9, reminding Europeans – and the incoming President – that the only time the collective defense clause was invoked was because of an attack on the United States.

6. Gulf States

This is one of the most important relationships the U.S. has with allies anywhere in the world. The U.S. Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, a Gulf Cooperation Council member. The Fifth Fleet defends the Strait of Hormuz and keeps international trade flowing from the region. Bahrain’s close partner Saudi Arabia has been the target of much of Trump’s criticism.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92
(Photo by Damac Group/Facebook)

In August 2015, candidate Trump said he “wasn’t a big fan” of the country and that the United States had paid too much to “back them up.” He believes Saudi Arabia “is going to be in big trouble pretty soon and they’re going to need help. … We get nothing for it and they’re making a billion dollars a day.”

Trump once remarked that he wanted to create a Middle East “safe zone” for refugees and migrants – and that the Gulf States would pay for it.

7. South Korea and Japan

To counter the rising strength of China in the region, candidate Trump announced his intention to maintain the U.S. “rebalance” of power in the region but increase the number of ships in the U.S. Navy from 274 to 350.

Army veteran and comic favorite of Mercury astronauts Bill Dana dies at 92

 

To pay for manpower and equipment increases, Trump intends to talk with Tokyo and Seoul about ways they can help pay for it. Some experts fear this may shake the certainty other countries have as U.S. allies, prompting them to seek their own nuclear weapons as a deterrent from Chinese aggression.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information