Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war

The trials of Odysseus are really not that different from the struggles of those learning to readjust after wars of today, modern veterans are finding.


A small group of military veterans has been meeting weekly in a classroom at the University of Vermont to discuss The Iliad and The Odyssey for college credit — and to give meaning to their own experiences, equating the close-order discipline of men who fought with spears, swords, and shields to that of men and women who do battle these days with laser-guided munitions.

Homer isn’t just for student veterans. Discussion groups are also being offered at veterans centers in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The Maine Humanities Council has sponsored sessions for veterans incarcerated at Maine’s Kennebec County jail, as well as for other veterans.

Also read: 4 myths about veterans you can dispel at work right now

For many in the UVM class, Homer’s 2,800-year-old verses seem all too familiar: the siege of Troy, the difficult quest of Odysseus to return home after 10 years at war, his anguish at watching friends die, and his problems readjusting to civilian life.

Stephanie Wobby, 26, a former Army medic originally from Sacramento, California, is a combat veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and is one of two women in the UVM course; she has been to traditional post-traumatic stress therapy sessions, but said, “this is far more effective for me.”

“It still resonates, coming home from war, even if it was however many years ago,” said Wobby, a junior majoring in chemistry. “It’s the same.”

In a recent class, Dan Wright, 26, an Afghanistan veteran and UVM junior, wore a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Down with my Demons” while the group discussed The Iliad.

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war
Odysseus departs from the Land of the Phaeacians. (Painting by Claude Lorrain)

“It was talking about being scared to die and, like, when you are on the field, you don’t think about it,” said Wright, 26, of Halifax, Vermont. He said he was involved in near-daily firefights during a nine-month combat tour in Afghanistan in 2012.

Enrollment in the class taught by John Franklin, an associate professor of classics, is limited to veterans; the current class includes veterans from wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. There are no papers or tests, and the grade is based entirely on class participation and an understanding of the material.

More: Irreverent Warriors combat PTSD with comedy and community

The people who work with the veterans at UVM felt it was a tragedy when they heard last week that a former Army rifleman expelled from a program to treat veterans with PTSD took three women hostage in California and fatally shot them. With Homer, they are working to avoid the idea of the damaged veteran, said David Carlson, the coordinator of student veterans’ services at UVM and a Marine veteran of Iraq in 2005 and 2006 who sits in on the classes.

“From my end, all it does is make me think the work we do with veterans every day is that much more important,” Carlson said.

Homer-for-veterans is the brainchild of Dartmouth College classics professor Roberta Stewart, who is now hoping for a grant that will allow her to expand the idea nationwide.

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war
an episode from the ancient Greek epic poem the Odyssey. (Artwork by Arnold Böcklin)

Stewart read some blog posts by U.S. service members fighting in Iraq in 2003. She recognized their graphic descriptions of war and the difficulties many faced readjusting to life after combat and reached out to one veteran who appeared to be having a hard time.

“I said to him, ‘Homer can help you. Homer knows,'” Stewart said.

Stewart never heard back from the veteran she told about Homer, but the light bulb stayed on. A decade ago, she wrote to the Department for Veterans Affairs hospital in White River Junction, Vermont, suggesting the idea. Officials were skeptical at first, but she eventually won and started her first group.

Related: This psychedelic drug could be approved to treat PTSD

Navy Cmdr. Amy Hunt, the operational support officer for the Naval Special Warfare Command in San Diego, hopes to set up programs for still-serving Navy Seals and overseas support personnel.

“Using Homer, because of the distance involved and also it’s great storytelling, is a way to break into those experiences,” Hunt said.

In its different guises at the locations where classes and discussions have been offered, veterans from World War II to those just home from Afghanistan have seen themselves in the struggles described by Homer.

“It was no different then, the soldiers coming home war from war and dealing with these issues than it is now,” said Norman “Ziggy” Lawrence, of Albion, Maine, a Vietnam-era veteran who now leads some of the discussion with jailed Maine veterans. “It opens that avenue so that they can speak to issues that they are having.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

This boot camp helps veterans grow tech start-ups

Basic Training — often called boot camp — introduces new service members to military life and customs. Boot camp “accelerates” a citizen’s transformation to a soldier, sailor, airman or marine.

A Colorado-based company, Techstars Accelerator, created Patriot Boot Camp (PBC) to help service members transition out of the military. More importantly, PBC helps transitioning service members and entrepreneurial veterans turn their business ideas into tech start-ups.

The 15th installment of Patriot Boot Camp was held in Lehi, Utah on Aug. 23-25, 2019. Veterans, active duty service members, and military spouses with business ideas or existing businesses gathered for three days to learn from industry leaders. The event was hosted MX Data, and sponsored by MetLife Foundation, USAA, and Jared Polis Foundation.


The PBC connected the event’s attendees to a community of over fifty mentors — many of whom traveled from across the nation to make entrepreneurship tangible. A testament to the dedication and belief in this program was that the mentors all volunteered their time, at their own expense, to provide one-on-one mentoring.

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war

Patriot Boot Camp founder Taylor McLemore address the veteran entrepreneurs.

More than 850 veterans have gone through the program, and they have hired over 1,600 employees and raised 0 million in venture capital while generating millions in revenue.

By the numbers

  • Jobs created: 1,600+
  • Hours of mentorship: 2,500+
  • Alumni entrepreneurs: 850+
  • Entrepreneurs attending PBC Utah: Coming from 23 states, one from Austria
  • Capital raised by alumni: 0 million
  • Diversity: 50% service-connected, disabled Veteran-owned business
  • Female founders: 23%

According to an article in TechCrunch, PBC graduates show “…that startups aren’t the sort of crazy risk that they first appear. Indeed, after what many of these men and women have just been through, it may not be all that daunting of a next mission after all.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

What North Korea experts get wrong about life there

As US president Donald Trump prepares to meet with North Korea’s ruler Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 19, 2018, all eyes are on North Korea.

Little is known about day-to-day life there, even among people who study the country. According to one defector, government propaganda in North Korea is pervasive, and even self-proclaimed North Korean experts often don’t realize how much.

In 1997, North Korean defector Kim Young-il escaped while the country was experiencing a four-year-long famine and economic crisis that some estimates suggest claimed the lives of between 240,000 and 3.5 million North Koreans, out of a population of 22 million — despite the government claiming it was a prosperous time with plenty of food.


Now 39, Kim is the founder of a nonprofit, People for Successful Corean Reunification (PSCORE), to help raise awareness about human rights issues in North Korea, promote reunification, and help defectors adjust to life in South Korea.

Even though Kim escaped the dictatorship, he told Business Insider in a recent interview that life remains the same in North Korea: Citizens are lied to and have to accept it. Within Korea, people major in North Korean studies in school, which Kim finds “silly.” He says these experts research North Korea and send information to the South Korean government, like reports that several factions are competing for power in North Korea, which could lead to the country’s downfall.

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war
North Koreans posing for a photo.

But Kim says this is false. “There is no difference between factions. There is only the family and the people. Kim Jong Un has total power. None of these factions are important. They just have a name. They have no power.” Kim continued: “Experts say there are two different factions that control North Korea, but it is only the dictator and his family that controls everything.”

Powerful people in South Korea are able to employ people who are loyal to them, but that’s not an option in North Korea because the highest levels of government choose who works where, said Kim.

“People in North Korea have no idea if the person working underneath them is a spy who is checking up on him or her. They have no idea who is trustworthy. People can’t form factions because everyone is spying on everyone else. Everyone distrusts each other,” Kim said.

And as a defector, Kim said experts discount his experience. “These experts don’t see any value in the testimony of defectors,” he said. “They want to focus on the official documents of the North Korean government.” But Kim says these documents and official announcements “are not true. It’s propaganda.”

“The official announcements of North Korea is all false,” Kim said. “I experienced 20 years of North Korea and whenever there was a season of drought, the news would say there is a season of prosperity. What they officially say is all lies.”

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

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Look, we know that it’s Apr. 1 and you can’t trust anything, but there really are 13 funny military memes below this line.


1. Sailors, don’t go too crazy with the new tattoo regs (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war
If it works in the Navy, the other branches may finally let up as well.

2. Welcome to the military’s fine dining facility (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war
Would you like your eggs boiled or tartare?

SEE ALSO: Watch one of the baddest A-10 pilots ever land after being hit by a missile

3. Weather reports in ISIS-Land:

(via Military Memes)

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war

4. “We found some sand on the inside of one of the liners. Take everything back and re-clean.”

(via Do You Even Airborne, Bro?)

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war

5. If you’re going to lie for someone, make sure everyone is on the same page (via Devil Dog Nation).

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war
And who says he’s buying map pens? Appointments get excused. Errands do not.

6. He’s a weekend warrior. Why should he moderate his diet on weekdays?

(via Pop Smoke)

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war
Gooey, gooey chocolate.

7. This run builds esprit de corps … somehow (via Air Force Nation).

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war
After the run, we’ll all build camaraderie by cleaning weapons and emptying connexes.

8. The elite Air Force Arts and Crafts Squadron:

(via Coast Guard Memes)

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war
In World War II, they crossed the Rhine on bridges made of popscicle sticks.

9. Oddly enough, the spelling doesn’t bother me as much as the fact that they used an upside-down “W” for the first “M” (via Coast Guard Memes).

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war
Frist sargeent is going to be pissed when he sees this.

10. “I want back in the plane! I want back in the plane!”

(via The Salty Soldier)

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war

11. Maybe some nice squats or something?

(via Team Non-Rec)

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war
Calf raises? No? Alright then.

12. Looks like we’re never making it home after all (via The Salty Soldier).

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war
Everyone empty out the footlockers! It’s time for games!

13. The Army keeps this up, they’ll be able to join the Corps (via Team Non-Rec).

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war
Except the Army probably still won’t have any swim training.

Veterans

This is what happened to the Marines who raised the flag at Iwo Jima

The Marine Corps’ history is a culmination of Marines pushing forward in the face of certain death. Victory comes at steep price paid for in the form of our own blood and treasure. Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal captured one such moment that defined the perseverance of American might. His Pulitzer Prize winning photo of six Marines raising the flag atop Mount Suribachi showed the Marines of World War II during their finest hour.

There were two flag raisings at Iwo Jima which sparked controversy until recently in 2019. The Marine Corps set things right with the help of private historians and the FBI to definitively answer the question of who was in the photo.

First flag raising

1st Lt. Harold G. Schrier

1st Lt. Schreier retired from the Marine Corps as a lieutenant colonel in 1957. He served in the Korean War and a recipient of the Navy Cross. He passed away on June 3, 1971 at the age of 54.

Sgt. Ernest I. Thomas

Detail of a photograph of the first flag-raising on Iwo Jima, showing Ernest Ivy Thomas Jr. in the foreground, facing the viewer. The subject of the photograph is identified in the article "Another View of the Iwo Flag Raisings" by Robert L. Sherrod, appearing in Fortitudine, Vol. X No. 3, Winter 1980–1981
Detail of a photograph of the first flag raising on Iwo Jima, showing Ernest Ivy Thomas Jr. in the foreground, facing the viewer. The subject of the photograph is identified in the article “Another View of the Iwo Flag Raisings” by Robert L. Sherrod, appearing in Fortitudine, Vol. X No. 3, Winter 1980–1981 (Wikipedia)

Sgt. Thomas was killed in action on March 3, 1945 while using a radio and coordinating his troops fighting the enemy.

Sgt. Henry O. Hansen Jr.

Sgt. Hansen was killed in action on March 1, 1945 during the intense fighting for Iwo Jima.

Cpl. Charles W. Lindberg

Grave of Charles Lindberg, who participated in the flag raising
Charles W Lindberg headstone in Fort Snelling National Cemetery (Timothy MN, Wikipedia)

Cpl. Lindberg sustains a bullet wound to the arm on March 1, 1945 and is MEDEVAC’d from the island. He became an electrician after the war and he raised a family with his wife. He dedicated his life to raising awareness of the first flag raising until his passing at age 86 on June 26, 2007.

Pharmacist Mate 2nd Class John H. Bradley (identified 2016)

‘Doc’ Bradley was one of the original flag raisers misidentified in the second flag raising. The record was corrected in 2016 that it was Pfc. Harold Schultz instead. He passed away in 1994. His son, James Bradley, wrote the best seller ‘Flags of Our Fathers’ in 2000.

Pvt. Philip L. Ward (identified 2016)

Pvt. Ward was another Marine mistaken to not have been in the first picture but he was. Ward passed away on December 28, 2005 at the age of 79 in McAllen, Texas. The Marine Corps amended the mistake after his death and recognized his part in the historic moment.

Second flag raising

Cpl. Ira Hayes

Captain Ira Hayes meeting the LA mayor after the flag raising in Iwo Jima
Hayes (left) with Los Angeles mayor Fletcher Bowron in 1947 (Public Domain. Originally published in the NY Times in 1947)

Cpl. Hayes sold war bonds to keep American troops well equipped for the remainder of the war. Plagued by PTSD after the war, he struggled with alcoholism. He had several run-ins with the law and regarded his celebrity status with distain. He also played himself in a 1949 movie by John Wayne. Unfortunately, he died of exposure and alcohol poisoning on the night of January 23, 1955 after getting into drunken brawl at the age of 32.

Cpl. Harold Schultz (identified in June 2016)

Cpl. Schultz worked for the U.S. Postal Service until his retirement in 1981. Schultz never spoke much about the war until he told his stepdaughter Dezreen Macdowell before his death. In an interview with Time, she said she told him he was a hero. He responded with ‘No, not really, I was a Marine.’ He passed away on May 16, 1995.

Sgt. Michael Strank

Sgt. Strank was killed in action on March 1, 1945 by Japanese artillery while assaulting the northern part of Iwo Jima.

Pfc. Franklin Sousley (identified 2014)

Pfc. Sousley was killed in action taking Kitano Point on Iwo Jima on March 21, 1945.

Cpl. Harold Keller (identified in 2019)

Cpl. Keller never spoke about the war or the flag raising to his family or anyone else. Private historian Brent Westemeyer, the Marine Corps, and the FBI revealed the truth in 2019.

Cpl. Harlon Block

Cpl. Block was killed in action leading an assault on Nishi Ridge on Iwo Jima on March 1, 1945.

Among the men who fought on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue.

Chester W. Nimitz, Fleet Admiral of the U.S. Navy & Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet

MIGHTY HISTORY

The incredible true story of how the heir to Walmart served in MACV-SOG in Vietnam

The next time you are browsing the aisles at Walmart, just think to yourself that the son of Sam Walton, the founder of the retail giant, was involved in special operations during the Vietnam War. Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Studies and Observation Group — or MACV-SOG — is a name so bland that it shielded the true nature of their top-secret work into deniable areas like Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam. How did the 11th richest man in the world intertwine his legacy into one of the most notorious special operations units in U.S. military history?

John Thomas Walton was born in Newport, Arkansas, the second of three sons, and excelled at athletics. He was a standout football star on their public high school football team and was more of a student of life than academics. His father, Sam, opened Walton’s 5&10 in Bentonville, a small business in a small town known for its variety of hunting seasons. Walton had a modest upbringing and after only two years of college he dropped out to enlist in the U.S. Army. “When I was at Wooster [The College of Wooster in Ohio], there were a lot of people talking about the war in the dorm rooms, but I didn’t think they understood it,” Walton said.


Walton enlisted in the Army and became a Green Beret (Army Special Forces). “I figured if you’re going to do something, you should do it the best you can,” he said during an interview with Andy Serwer for Fortune magazine. Assigned to MACV-SOG after the Tet Offensive in 1968, Walton was stationed at FOB 1 in Phu Bai where members of Strike Team Louisiana conducted deep penetration reconnaissance missions. John Stryker Meyer, a teammate and friend of Walton’s, wrote, “In August of ’68, on one such mission, Walton’s six-man recon team was surrounded and overrun by enemy soldiers.” The firefight became so intense that the team leader, William “Pete” Boggs, called an airstrike (napalm) directly on their own position to break contact.

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war

Extracted from page 119 of “On The Ground” by John Stryker Meyer and John E. Peters.

“That strike killed one team member, wounded the team leader and severed the right leg of the Green Beret radio operator Tom Cunningham Jr., of Durham, N.H. Another team member was wounded four times by AK-47 gunfire by an enemy soldier whom Walton killed,” Meyer wrote. As the team’s medic, Walton was responsible in setting up a triage point to tend to the casualties. He applied a tourniquet to Cunningham’s leg that had begun to hemorrhage. The tourniquet ultimately saved his life, but he later lost his leg. Facing hundreds of North Vietnamese soldiers (NVA) and completely surrounded, Walton called in two extraction helicopters.

The first helicopter, piloted by South Vietnamese Captain Thinh Dinh, touched down and picked up members of the team, some of whom Walton personally carried. The enemy soldiers were now sprinting to prevent their escape. Bullets clanged off the chopper and whizzed by their bodies. A second helicopter was needed to get them all out, but realizing how dire the situation had turned, the first helicopter sat back down and picked up the entire team. Their weight was too much, and they barely managed to climb over the treetops. Walton’s determination to get his teammates out of harm’s way earned him the Silver Star, the nation’s third highest award for valor.

During a poker game on the night they returned to base, one of his teammates noticed that the skin on Walton’s wrist was burnt. It was evidence of just how accurate the NVA gunfire was. Walton, Meyer, and his teammates enjoyed poker, Scrabble, and other games that require thought. They spoke about their goals and the dreams they hoped to accomplish when they returned home. Walton’s was a life of adventure.

Meyer shares how Walton had inspirations to travel domestically on a motorcycle and to Mexico, Central, and South America by plane. He earned his pilot’s license and started his own business crop-dusting cotton fields in Texas and Arizona. Crop-dusting provided Walton a new challenge that helped his transition after Vietnam. His aerial theatrics featured ingenuity, too — Walton co-founded the company Satloc in 1999, which pioneered the use of GPS applications in agricultural crop-dusting. He also served as a company pilot for his family business.

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war

John Walton, far right, is shown in uniform.

(Photo courtesy of John Stryker Meyer.)

It seemed Walton was always searching for his next greatest thrill. He briefly owned a sailing company called Marine Corsair in San Diego, and he regularly traveled to Durango, Colorado, for outdoor activities such as mountain biking, skiing, and skydiving. As Walmart’s success climbed, so too did Walton’s wealth. At one point, he was the 11th richest man in the world, with an estimated .2 billion net worth. However, despite the amount of money he made, he always stayed true to his modest roots. Meyer recalled a breakfast the pair had in Oceanside, California, and Walton arrived in a small Toyota hybrid.

Walton was also a strong proponent of education and school vouchers, helping establish the Children’s Scholarship Fund with the goal of sending low-income children to private schools. The Walton family as a whole has donated an estimated 0 million, largely due to John’s advocacy. The William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership recognized his contributions in 2001.

John T. Walton died on June 27, 2005, when his custom-built CGS Aviation Hawk Arrow plane crashed in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. He was 58 years old. An investigation determined that loose flight control components were the cause of the fatal accident. Walton left behind a wife, Christy, and son, Lukas.

Though Walton’s name will always be immediately recognized as the heir to the Walmart empire, his legacy is also inextricably tied to MACV-SOG. Two years before his untimely death, Walton chartered his private jet to pick up the family of Thinh Dinh, the South Vietnamese pilot with whom he served decades prior. They reunited in Las Vegas, never forgetting the lasting bonds forged in war.

Embedded With Special Forces in Afghanistan | Part 2

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

See the moment HIMARS strikes a massive weapons cache

Operation Resolute Support has released a video from September 9, 2018, when Afghan National Security Forces reported finding a massive weapons cache in Helmand Province, where security forces and Taliban fighters have been clashing as the government gains ground in the area.


The U.S. forces supporting the Afghans agreed to help “reduce” the stockpile, but they didn’t risk droves of explosive ordnance disposal specialists by sending them in to drag out all the explosives and destroy them one by one.

Nope, instead, they turned to rocket artillerymen, and had a high-mobility, artillery rocket system shoot at the cache. Then, they released the video with just the text:

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Sept. 9, 2018) – Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) conducted operations in Nad ‘Ali District and discovered a compound containing a large weapons and explosives cache. In support of ANDSF maneuver, Task Force Southwest conducted a strike on the compound with HIMARS to safely and completely eliminate the hazardous material from the battlespace, degrading the Taliban’s ability to conduct combat operations in central Helmand.
Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war

Soliders from Bravo Battery, 1-121st Field Artillery Regiment with the Wisconsin National Guard, fire M142 HIMARS Ripper rounds while training at Fort McCoy, WI.

(Fort McCoy Visual Information Branch Jamal Wilson)

The most common ordnance for HIMARS is either a pack of six unguided rockets or one guided missile. While the Department of Defense didn’t specify which munition was used, the guided missile makes more sense for the mission. It’s capable of high precision as long as it’s fed accurate GPS coordinates.

And, judging by the massive explosion in the video, the round found its mark. The shockwave radiates out for hundreds of meters, so the weapon cache must’ve been massive.

The Afghan National Security Forces have pressed hard against the Taliban in recent months, and some of their victories have been dramatic. In one case, government forces defended the Farah district center with their bare hands and blades after a siege went on so long that they ran out of ammo and other supplies.

But many Afghan citizens remain angry and worried about the performance of their security forces, especially the logisticians, intelligence officers, and other support forces crucial for modern combat. In Farah, they yelled at Afghan officials about the long and obvious Taliban buildup before the battle and asked why the government forces weren’t better supplied, reinforced, and prepared for the fight.

All of this comes amid new peace talks between the Taliban, the Afghan government, and the U.S. The war turns 17-years-old today if you count it from the 9/11 attacks that precipitated the U.S. invasion. The youngest Afghan voters can’t remember a time without war between the U.S. and the Afghan national government and the Taliban and its allies.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans

Hercules, in classical mythology, is a hero and god famous for his strength, travels, and adventures.

At the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa, a black lab, appropriately named Hercules, is a hero to veterans, visitors, and VA staff. He’s their resident rock star and therapy dog, and he’s about to celebrate his third birthday.

Robert Lynch is a Marine, the Tampa VA Veterans Experience Officer, and proud dad to Hercules. As a service-connected veteran, Lynch is upfront and open discussing his physical and mental health needs, including mobility, depression and anxiety.


In 2017, Lynch applied for a therapy dog to help with his own overall health, but after further thought wanted to expand the role of his potential new best friend. He talked with Tampa VA Director Joe Battle about having a therapy dog as a VA staff member.

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war

Battle loved the idea of a full-time canine on staff, as did other leadership and they created a hospital policy defining what would be the role of their new employee.

Southeastern Guide Dogs, a non-profit group that trains guide and service and therapy dogs, brought a few furry friends to meet Robert. Once Lynch met Hercules, he knew they had a special bond. The trainer from Southeastern saw it too, saying they were “surprised at how fast the two connected.”

To this day, Hercules doesn’t want Lynch out of his sight. While working at the Tampa VA, Hercules and Lynch do spend some time apart as Hercules goes with other trained handlers to visit different areas of the hospital. Hercules puts in about 50 hours a week, rotating visits to various clinics and care units.

A work day for Hercules can range from playing fetch with veterans in physical therapy, painting with veterans in a creative arts class, or playing a role in a Final Salute–a ceremony held inside the VA to honor a veteran who has passed. Hercules carries the flag and seeks out those who may need some emotional support.

Hercules Saves the Day

www.youtube.com

Lynch received a call one day with a special request. A veteran in the hospice unit wanted to visit with Hercules again. Hercules was not scheduled to visit that part of the hospital that day, so Lynch made arrangements and took the intuitive black lab to see the patient as quickly as possible.

Hercules got in bed and snuggled the gentleman as he reminisced about his boyhood pup named Shadow and how Hercules reminded him of his beloved dog.

Lynch and Hercules spent about 45 minutes with the patient and then went back to their regular schedule. A short time later, Lynch received a call. “It was for a Final Salute. The same man that wanted to see Hercules in hospice had passed and they wanted us to be a part of the Final Salute.”

Director Joe Battle consoled Lynch by telling him, “You gave that man, that veteran, his last wish, there’s no better way to honor him.”

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war

Hercules shakes with Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams at the VA Patient Experience Symposium.

As VA staff come in to start their day, several make sure to stop by Lynch’s office and get a hug from Hercules. Lynch knows the importance of this seemingly small gesture. “It’s just as important to enhance the staff experience as it is the veteran experience when they come to VA,” he said. “Something positive sets the tone for the work day and happier employees means happier customers.”

What does Hercules do to unwind and have fun? He takes breaks during the day and will lay at Lynch’s feet to rest and recharge. On the weekends, Lynch and his family take Hercules fishing and to his favorite spot–the dog beach.

“Sometimes I think he’s kinda bummed out that he’s not at the hospital every day. He likes to play with other dogs, but he really loves to be around people,” Lynch said. “He’s so devoted. I still have my own issues. I love to see him make others happy.”

Tampa VA will be celebrating Hercules’ 3rd birthday with a Barkday party, June 26, 2019, at 1pm. For details, visit the James A. Haley VA Medical Center’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/VATampa/.

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

Articles

Soldiers in forestry program gain after-service job skills

Sally Gorrill’s career as an engineer in the US Army has taken her to such places as Panama and the Dominican Republic, where she’s built medical clinics. Now, she’s interested in applying her skills toward a new field: forestry.


Gorrill, 30, a captain who’s spent seven years in the Army, is part of a new summer internship program for soldiers through the Veterans Conservation Corps in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. She’s getting training in land management skills as she prepares to transition out of the service.

“It’s the closest I’ve been to home in about 12 years, so it feels great to be back,” said Gorrill, of Gray, Maine, who wants to spend her future outdoors.

So far, she and two other veterans in the program have learned how to maintain trails, keep away bears, and fight forest fires. She’ll also be learning about hydrology, wildlife biology, law enforcement, and other facets of the US Forest Service, which partnered with the Department of Defense on the project.

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Organizers hope the fledgling program will provide a model that can be applied nationally to assist more soldiers interested in land management.

Forest Ranger Jim Innes said the Forest Service nationwide is experiencing a lot of attrition through retirement. He said the agency has hired military veterans, who bring strong skills to the Forest Service.

“They bring a completely different way of looking at things to the agency,” he said. “There’s a huge benefit; we learn a lot from them, they learn a lot from us.”

Gorrill said some techniques used to fight wildfires are similar to ones learned in the military. “From my experience, having dealt with construction equipment, it’s probably the most direct translation, because digging trenches is something I’m used to,” she said.

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war
White Mountain National Forest. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

One challenge for program organizers was providing lodging for the soldiers in the forest. They ended up renovating an old Civilian Conservation Corps-era structure known as “The Lodge” in the Bartlett Experimental Forest, a field laboratory for research on the ecology and management of northern hardwoods and associated ecosystems. The building hadn’t been used for about 10 years. The Forest Service received funding from businesses and volunteer help to install kitchen cabinets and handle electrical and plumbing work. Innes hopes it can be winterized so that program can run year-round.

The soldiers also will be getting help with resume writing and interview skills, as forest officials try to help place them in jobs.

Another participant, Terry Asbridge, 37, of Horseheads, New York, is getting ready to retire from the Army. He has completed 20 years, much of it in recruitment. His goal is to be a district park ranger, but he also can see himself working in firefighting, development or recreation in the forest.

“One of my passions is land management and wildlife management,” he said. “I can put this on my resume and apply for positions with the US Forest Service.”

Mighty Moments

Watch this Marine get pinned by his 3-year-old son

Being promoted within the US military’s noncommissioned officer rank is a special occasion in a service member’s career, after which they are entrusted by their commanders to lead junior enlisted service members and are assigned more responsibilities.


One Marine marked the special occasion with what appeared to be his 3-year-old son.

Also read: 80 famous military brats

In a video posted online last year, a newly minted Marine sergeant marches to the front of a formation for his promotion ceremony, standing at attention as a senior Marine reads out a commander’s order outlining his new responsibilities.

“As a sergeant of Marines, you must set the example for others to emulate,” the senior Marine says. “You are responsible for the accomplishment of your assigned mission, and for the safety, professional development, and well-being of the Marines of your charge.”

After the order was read out, a child approaches the formation and says, quietly, “good afternoon, gentlemen,” before the promoted Marine kneels so the child can remove his chevrons and pin on the emblems of his new rank.

The two share an embrace before the son scurries away.

Watch the clip:

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch this video of an air strike against an F-15S in Yemen

Currently, Yemen is in the midst of a civil war. On one side, there are the Houthi rebels, backed by the Islamic Republic of Iran. On the other side is the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, led by President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. This war has raged since 2015, when a Saudi-led coalition tried to defeat a 2014 coup lead by Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was forced out as President of Yemen, received the backing of the Houthi rebels. Last month, Saleh was killed after switching his allegiance to the Saudi-led coalition.


The Saudi-led coalition has been dominating the skies since the war exploded on the international scene. This is no surprise, as the Saudi Air Force is one of the most modern in the Persian Gulf region. The strikes have been controversial, causing an American cutoff of munitions deliveries under the Obama Administration. The Trump Administration resumed the deliveries last year.

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war
A Royal Saudi Air Force F-15S in its hangar. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons, uploaded by Eagleamn)

The Houthi rebels have received arms from Iran, including the Noor anti-ship missile. The Noor is an Iranian copy of the Chinese C-802, and was used in multiple attacks on the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87).

However, the Houthi have also apparently begun to MacGyver some weapons as well. In the video below, rebels claim to have hit a Saudi F-15S Strike Eagle. According to a Facebook post by aviation historian Tom Cooper, the weapon that was apparently used was a modified AA-11 “Archer” air-to-air missile.

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war
The AA-11 Archer, also known as the R-73. (DOD graphic)

While the United States has developed surface-to-air versions of air-to-air missiles like the AIM-9 Sidewinder (MIM-72 Chapparal), the AIM-7 Sparrow (the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow), and the AIM-120 AMRAAM (in the HUMRAAM), Russia has not taken this path, preferring specialized missiles. The jury-rigged approach did almost work for the Houthis, but the missile appears to hit a flare from the Saudi Strike Eagle. AA-11s would likely have been in the Yemeni arsenal to arm MiG-29 Fulcrums exported to that country by Russia.

While the Saudi Strike Eagle survived this close call, it’s a reminder that on the battlefield, any weapon can kill you. It may also give Iran – and Russia – some new ideas.

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The Army’s top leadership is pretty worried about how quickly the North Korean threat is growing

US General Mark Milley, chief of staff of the Army, says North Korean missile technology may be advancing faster than expected.


Milley spoke July 27 at the National Press Club in Washington, as North Koreans concluded a day of remembrance to mark the anniversary of the end of the Korean War.

Milley told his audience, “North Korea is extremely dangerous, and more dangerous as the weeks go by.”

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war
General Mark Milley. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Marisol Walker.

‘Never seen before’

Earlier this month, Pyongyang announced it had completed its first successful test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, one expert said could travel far enough to reach the westernmost US states of Alaska or Hawaii.

The launch took US defense experts by surprise. Pentagon officials said it was something they had “never seen before.”

There was speculation that North Korea might use the July 27 anniversary to test-launch a new missile, but late in the day, those fears appeared to have been unfounded.

Earlier July 27, North Koreans gathered at the mausoleum of North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il to commemorate the day in 1953 when China, North Korea, and the US-backed United Nations signed an agreement to end the struggle over the Korean peninsula.

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war
Statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. Wikimedia Commons photo by José Fernandes Jr.

Peace treaty never signed

The conflict began in 1950 when the Soviet-ruled North invaded the democratically ruled South.

In the North Korean version of the story, the conflict is known as the Fatherland Liberation War. North Korea blames the United States for starting the war that devastated the Korean peninsula and saw the South Korean capital, Seoul, change hands four times.

Because a peace treaty was never signed, the two nations are technically still at war. Pyongyang uses that fact to justify its concentration on military readiness.

Hong Yong-Dok brought his granddaughters to the Kim mausoleum to pay their respects July 27. He told a French news agency, “Our country is ever-victorious because we have the greatest leaders in the world.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vice President Pence delivers commencement address to Air Force Academy class of 2020 and first cadets to join Space Force

Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, delivered on Saturday the commencement address to the 62nd class of Air Force Academy graduates, which was modified due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“America is being tested,” Pence said. “While there are signs we are making progress in slowing the spread, as we stand here today, more than 700,000 Americans have contracted the coronavirus, and tragically, more than 30,000 of our countrymen have lost our lives.”


He added: “But as each of you has shown in your time here, and as the American people always show in challenging times, when hardship comes, American comes together. We rise to the challenge and the courage and compassion and generosity of the nation you will defend are shining through every day.”

Pence’s remarks came the same day as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in New York, the US state hardest hit by COVID-19 pandemic, was “past the plateau” as the number of hospitalizations resulting from the novel coronavirus has continued to fall.

The vice president told the graduates they would now “commence [their] duties to defend this nation against all enemies foreign to us,” evoking President Trump and calling the novel coronavirus the “invisible enemy.”

“Class of 2020 – this is your day,” VP tells graduating cadets, seated 8 feet apart in accord with social distancing.pic.twitter.com/WAcCsbpago

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Pence addressed the academy’s 2020 class in person at the Saturday afternoon ceremony, which occurred on US Air Force grounds in Colorado Springs, Colorado despite past reports that the vice president had considered sending pre-taped video remarks in lieu of an in-person appearance, according to CNN.

All gatherings in Colorado are currently prohibited under Gov. Jared Polis’ stay-at-home order.

To comply with social distancing, the Air Force Academy graduates marched into the ceremony six feet apart and were seated eight feet apart. No family members or other spectators were allowed to attend the closed ceremony. The ceremony, which lasted about an hour and thirty minutes, was previously scheduled to occur on May 28 but occurred Saturday — six weeks earlier than scheduled.

“You know your family couldn’t be here because of the extraordinary times in which we live,” Pence said. “We know they’re watching from afar.”

The ceremony was live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube so spectators could tune-in.

United States Air Force Academy Graduation 2020

www.youtube.com

Pence brought attention to the 86 graduates who would become the first Air Force Academy graduates to work as part of President Trump’s Space Force, which was officially established at the end of last year.

“We are a nation of courage,” the vice president said. “With the courage strength and compassion of the American people, we will get through this. We will protect the most vulnerable and we will heal our land.”

He added: “The American people are doing their duty now comes your turn to do yours: to defend the people of this nation, and this we know you will do. For long after the coronavirus is defeated, your mission will go on.”

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

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