Congolese refugee’s work with Ohio National Guard serves as reminder of parents’ sacrifice - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Congolese refugee’s work with Ohio National Guard serves as reminder of parents’ sacrifice

Each time Jacque Elama hands out a package of food, he connects with another family in need.

The interactions touch Elama, a specialist in the Ohio National Guard, on a personal level. He spent most of the first 10 years of his life in a refugee camp in his native Democrat Republic of the Congo before his family came to America. He is now 25 years old and part of a National Guard mission helping out at a food bank in Toledo.


“It was a hard endeavor to overcome,” Elama said of his childhood. “Basically, my parents tried to shape me into a person who can be encouraging to others, because they themselves didn’t have what I have right now, the technology, the cars.”

Those things are not what prompted Core and Antoinette Elama, their five children (Jacque is the oldest) and one of Jacque’s uncles to relocate to Newport News, Virginia. Jacque said they arrived in 2004; Core recalled it was in 2005. Regardless of the timeline, one fact remained clear.

The Elamas were escaping their war-torn homeland in search of a better life, searching for a home in a country in which they were stepping foot for the first time.

“Once you come, you just come,” Core Elama said. “You need the help to get yourself set and [adjusted] to the new situation. You really need help in any way, so you set yourself in the community.”

The Elamas’ move from Congo, a country of nearly 90 million people in central Africa, was fraught with challenges, not the least of which was learning a different language. Jacque Elama’s parents needed jobs; they found work in factories. They did not know how to drive and never had experienced the mundane tasks that Americans take for granted, such as going to the grocery store, paying bills and scheduling medical appointments.

The family had never owned a television — or operated an oven, for that matter. So much was new, but they were ever so grateful.

Their circumstances were much improved from the world they left behind.

“The struggles were absolutely difficult, compared to how I’m living here in the U.S.,” Jacque Elama said. “The basic necessities were hard to come by [in Congo], so we had to struggle to get food and water for the family. Mostly as a child, I personally did not experience any personal hardship, because what you’re doing is just playing around, having as much fun as you can without worrying about the outside world.

“I was pretty much enjoying my life as much as I possibly could.”

A Catholic charity organization helped the Elamas relocate to America.

Jacque Elama credited one couple in that group in particular, Keith and Jill Boadway, with being especially helpful in easing the family’s transition.

“They came to our house for Thanksgiving,” Jill Boadway said. “Jacque used to come to our house during the summer and spend a week at our home. We have a son who’s about the same age. It was a real blessing.”

Spc. Jacque Elama. Courtesy photo.

The Elamas became U.S. citizens in 2010 and moved to Ohio when Jacque was in high school. He joined the Ohio National Guard in 2017 and embraced the opportunity to participate in his unit’s mission as a volunteer at a food bank.

Elama packs boxes for emergency relief, veterans and senior citizens and distributes them to those same groups, said Lt. Michael Porter, the task-force leader.

For 40 hours a week, Elama sees it as a way to give back. Each box reminds him of his parents’ sacrifice.

“I think about it every day,” said Elama, a senior at Bowling Green studying international relations. “It’s a blessing and an honor to be out there and help people, because that’s what I want to do in the future. I want to continue to help others.”

This article originally appeared on Reserve + National Guard Magazine. Follow @ReserveGuardMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

First she invented tech to help amputees — now she’s giving it to veterans

Amira Idris Radovic is a biomedical engineer who developed a device that helps amputees manage phantom limb pain — now, she helps provide them for free to veterans.

She has managed to provide veterans with over 50 ELIX devices, each from a $210 donation, and now she’s eligible for an Amber Grant that would award her $25,000. All you have to do is click to vote — no sign-ups, no e-mails. Just click to support.

Idris is giving back to the military community — let’s show her we’ve got her six.


TheraV Our Story

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How it works:

“We’ve learned that the reason people suffer form this pain is because of mixed signals that are being relayed to the nerve endings of the remaining limb and we found that we are able to overcome those mixed signals and disrupt them by using vibration technology,” she reported.

According to a recent report from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Amputation System of Care, nearly 90,000 veterans with amputations were treated in Fiscal Year 2016.

“Phantom limb pain (PLP) refers to ongoing painful sensations that seem to be coming from the part of the limb that is no longer there. The limb is gone, but the pain is real. TheraV’s ELIX wearable specifically addresses phantom limb pain by stimulating periphery sensory nerves with vibrations. The vibrations activate large sensory nerve fibers, which carry touch and pressure stimulation to the brain. Activation of these large sensory nerve fibers closes the pain gate, thus inhibiting pain signals from reaching the brain.”

The Amber Grants began in 1998 to support women entrepreneurs. They have grown to a ,000 monthly grant and a ,000 annual grant. In March 2019, Amira won the Amber Grant and is now competing for the annual award.

With just two clicks, you can help her provide more devices for veterans with amputations.

Amira wants veterans to know that they can sign up on her website to get the device and is adamant about spreading the message that amputation doesn’t have to mean losing quality of life.

Articles

How going to war brings out the best and worst in people

Sebastian Junger is not a military veteran. He makes that clear, but he sure sounds like one. Maybe it’s because he’s covered conflict zones from Sierra Leone to Nigeria to Afghanistan as a journalist. It’s safe to say he’s seen more conflict than many in the United States military.

If there’s an expert on modern warfare and the long-term effects of those who live it, that person is Sebastian Junger.


He sees war and its effects through the lens of an anthropologist. This not only gives him the perspective to look back on his homecoming—and the homecomings of U.S. troops—to see the problems and abnormalities with how societies deal with their combat veterans, it allows him to put those ideas into words. Some words returning and transitioning veterans may not have ever known to use.

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“We try hard to keep combat at a distance,” he says in the new PBS documentary Going to War. “But when we talk about war, we talk about what it means to be human.”

In Going to War, Junger and fellow author Karl Marlantes (Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War) examine the paradox of fighting in combat: how the brotherhood and sense of purpose contrast with the terror, pain, and grief surrounding the violence and destruction. It starts with the training. Whenever young men (and now women) are placed in a situation where they would be fighting for their lives, the training would diminish perceptions of the individual in favor of the group.

“If you have people acting individualistically in a combat unit, the unit falls apart and gets annihilated,” Junger says. “So you need them to focus on the group. The training, beyond firing a weapon, is an attempt to get people to stop thinking of themselves.

This is not just the U.S. military. This is every military around the world.

The United States is “orders of magnitude” more capable than most. What the U.S. is having trouble dealing with is what comes after its veterans return home and then to civilian life. For returning vets, sometimes the problem is returning to an unearned hero’s welcome.

Only about ten percent of the military will ever see combat. Those who don’t still get the welcome home, but feel guilty for feeling like they never did enough to earn that accolade.

For those who were in combat, the experience of being shot, shot at, and watching others get killed or wounded is a traumatic experience that our increasingly isolated society doesn’t handle well.

When veterans leave the military, separation becomes a more apt term than we realize. Our wealthy, individualistic modern society rips military veterans from their tribal environment while they’re in the military and puts them back into a cold, unfamiliar and far less communal world.

Junger thinks a fair amount of what we know as PTSD is really the shock of a tribal-oriented veteran being put in an individualized environment.

Going to War did a fantastic job of capturing the experience of fighting in a war and then coming home,” Junger says. “For me one of the most powerful moments wasn’t even on the battlefield.

Junger goes on to describe what, for him, is the most poignant story out of a slew of emotional, true stories of men fighting nearly a century of wars:

“A young man, a Marine describing his final training, a ruck march. They had heavy packs and the guy had an injury so he couldn’t walk very well. Another guy comes along and carries his pack for him, so the second guy is carrying 160 pounds maybe, and says ‘If you’re not gonna make it across the finish in time, then neither will I. We’re gonna do it together or fail together.’ And that is the central ethos to men in combat in the military.”

For more of Sebastian Junger and his thoughts on war and the men and women who fight it, be sure to download or listen to this podcast. If you still can’t get enough Junger (and we totally get understand), check out his amazing books or our previous podcast with him where we talked about his latest book, Tribe.

Going to War airs on PBS on Memorial Day at 9 p.m. Eastern. Check your local listings.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Combat between Turkey and US-backed militias is getting ugly

The fight between Turkish forces and US-backed SDF fighters in northwest Syria’s Afrin province appears to be in a tailspin.


Turkish forces have reportedly killed more than a hundred civilians, mutilated U.S.-backed SDF fighters, and even indiscriminately shot at displaced civilians attempting to flee into Turkey.

Ankara launched a massive ground and air campaign, code-named “Olive Branch,” against the U.S.-backed SDF forces in Afrin on Jan. 20 2018 in response to the U.S.’s announcement that it would train and maintain a 30,000-strong, predominately Kurdish force in the region.

TFSA fighters on the top of Barsaya mountain, hoisting the Turkish and Syrian independence flag. (FSA)

Turkey views the Kurdish YPG as a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has carried out a deadly, decades-long insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast.

But in the last two weeks, Turkish forces have made only limited gains in Afrin, as SDF fighters, including the YPG and all-women YPJ, appear to have put up rather stiff resistance.

Also Read: Turkey vows to defiantly attack US allies in Syria

At least 20 videos have surfaced showing YPG forces targeting, and in many instances destroying, invading Turkish tanks and armored vehicles with anti-tank guided missile systems. Freelance journalist Aris Roussinos compiled a Twitter thread of those videos here.

Map of the Turkish operation against Kurdish-held territory in northern Syria.

On Feb. 03 2018, YPG fighters killed seven Turkish soldiers, including five in one attack on a tank, according to The Guardian.

SDF fighters have also responded with occasional rocket fire across the border into Turkey, according to The Washington Post. One of those attacks killed a teenage girl and wounded another civilian in the Turkish town of Reyhanli.

Related: Turkey fought a proxy battle with the US in Syria this weekend

But these attacks appear to have only incensed Turkish forces.

A number of graphic videos have appeared on social media showing Turkish-backed rebels mutilating dead YPG fighters.

On Feb. 01 2018, videos emerged showing Turkish-backed rebels kicking the dead corpse of a female YPG fighter named Barin Kobani and discussing whether she was attractive after stripping off her clothes and cutting off her breasts.

Barin Kobani. (YPG)

A YPJ spokeswoman told AFP that Kobani and three other female fighters were battling Turkish-backed forces, refused to withdraw, and “fought until death.”

“I swear to God, we’ll avenge you,” Kobani’s brother, 30-year-old Aref Mustafa Omar, cried out at her funeral, AFP reported.

Another incredibly graphic video appeared on Twitter apparently showing Turkish forces kicking and stepping on the body of a dead male YPG fighter.

These disturbing instances have coincided with a Human Rights Watch report released on Feb. 03 2018 saying that Turkish border guards are indiscriminately shooting at civilians trying to flee Afrin and returning the asylum-seekers.

More: Mattis says Turkey is fighting in the wrong part of Syria

Turkish border guards are also reportedly beating detained asylum-seekers and refusing them medical care, Human Rights Watch reported. Between Dec. 15 2017 and Jan. 22 2018, more than 247,000 Syrians in Afrin were displaced to the border, according to the UN.

On Feb. 04 2018, thousands of people reportedly gathered in the Afrin town of Kobane and are currently traveling to the city of Afrin in support.

Kurds in other countries around the world, such as Lebanon and Germany, are also protesting Turkey’s operations in Afrin.

Turkey itself has even detained nearly 600 people for social-media posts criticizing the invasion, according to Reuters.

Articles

Here are the Got Your 6 chief’s lessons from his first 100 days

Bill Rausch at SXSW (Photo: Got Your 6)


The first 100 days of any new job is both exciting and potentially daunting. As the new executive director of Got Your 6, I’ve found this to be especially true as we work to empower veterans to lead a resurgence of community across the nation.

Here are six big lessons I have learned or have re-confirmed in my first 100 days:

1. Organizations are people (#OneTeamOneFight)

Over the past 100 days, I’ve assessed where Got Your 6 has been and where we’re headed. It’s  clear that our success is the direct result of the people in our organization. The team is essential to achieving the goals we’ve set as we forge ahead in 2016. Having the right team is critical, and without the right people in the right places, it’s impossible to succeed. The Got Your 6 team is second to none and our success this year and beyond will be a direct result of their hard work and dedication. The team consists of three Post-9/11 combat veterans (Go Army!) and two amazing civilians who have participated in national service. Every member of the team believes in service over self and I couldn’t be more fired up to lead such a dedicated and talented team!

2. There is no substitute for victory (#BOOM)

With new leadership at the helm, it’s important to get early wins to build momentum. Simply put, everyone wants to succeed and success is contagious.  Arguably the biggest honor for us early in 2016 was being presented with the Social Good Award from Cynopsis Media for best “Awareness Campaign or Initiative Category.”  Matt Mabe, Senior Director of Impact, and I had the honor of attending the awards ceremony in New York City and when Got Your 6 was announced as the winner it crystallized the impact of our campaign. We beat out the likes of AE Networks, Discovery Communications, and Sony Pictures Television; giants in the awareness and perception shift causes. We also closed out the first quarter with a huge win coming out of our first Collaboratory of 2016 in Austin, Texas with our 30 non-profit partners where we created a roadmap to success for 2016 and beyond as a coalition and collective impact campaign.

3. Partnerships are Critical (#GenuineRelationships)

Got Your 6 has a world-class nonprofit coalition compiled of amazing people and inspiring organizations that empower veterans across the country. We have partnerships with the entertainment industry, a new area for me, that have inspired me in ways I didn’t think were possible. In one of the most competitive industries in the world, our entertainment partners have made supporting veterans a top priority.  Effectively engaging the Got Your 6 coalition, along with remarkable supporters and partnerships, has been critical to settling into the role of executive director effectively. Likewise, exploring new partnerships in order to increase impact and effectiveness has been a key part of our “one team, one fight” strategy. And is needed to provide the team with necessary support as we move forward with our vision and goals for the year ahead. Without the right partners, with the right shared values, success isn’t possible.

Got Your 6 team at the White House Easter Egg roll. (Photo: Got Your 6)

4. Values-based leadership matters (#FollowMe)

Getting to know any new organization and a team can be a challenge. It’s important to understand the values of the organization you lead which is why the first thing we did as a team was gather offsite at The Bunker in Alexandria. We had an honest conversation about our personal values and how they translate to our organization. Together, we defined our values: Integrity, Positivity, Commitment, Courage, Trust. These values drive how we do business and act as our north star for every decision we make. Our team has gotten to know each other as individuals and now understand who we are as an organization and pride ourselves in choosing “the harder right over the easier wrong” in everything we do.

Cpt. Bill Rausch, U.S. Army

5. Where we’ve been is important; where we are going is critical (#CommunityMatters)

The history of an organization is important. We need to know where we’ve been and why. For Got Your 6, our founding was rooted in the spirit of service and pride in our nation. Got Your 6 is a campaign focused on bridging the civilian-military divide through perception shift and collective impact. Through the Got Your 6 coalition we’ve helped veterans get jobs, go back to school, find housing and many other critical areas. Now we are raising the stakes. Real problems exist across the nation that aren’t specific to the veteran community; suicide, unemployment, disconnected communities. These are American problems and Got Your Six is working to harness veteran skills to address these issues. Research shows our country is not as engaged as we used to be or could be. The Got Your 6 Veteran Civic Health Index shows us that vets are civic assets and more likely to be engaged. Given the decline in community and veterans as civic assets, our new focus will be empowering veterans to lead a resurgence of community across the nation. Veterans returning home aren’t the problem– we believe veterans and their unique skill sets are part of the solution. We can empower veterans to serve themselves by serving others; the nation we know and love.

6. If the work isn’t hard but fun and fulfilling, it’s not worth doing (#VetInspired)

I believe that improving the lives of others is not only fulfilling but also exhilarating. As a person and individual that is my purpose. I want to continue to improve  the lives of others. When you can align your purpose in life with your purpose at work good things will happen. Enjoying what you do–and having fun while doing it–is important even when dealing with serious and life changing issues. When you meet a fellow veteran or hear their inspiring story you can’t help but smile (even if sometimes you’re smiling through a few tears). That’s why this work is so fulfilling.  If you follow the work we do or see us around town we’ll always be working hard but having fun.

Now watch Chris Pratt and others in this GY6 video:

For more about Got Your 6’s mission and events check out their website here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to lose a leg, pass a PT test, and stay in the Air Force

Senior Master Sgt. David Snyder put on his physical training uniform and fought the tension inside his chest. It was the day of his annual PT test. Like all his tests before, he had been preparing for months. But this time, he was a lot more nervous.

He bent down and tied his single black shoe, mentally preparing himself to push himself harder than he ever had before.

He drove himself to the site. He did as many push-ups and sit-ups as he could in 60 seconds, he ran a mile and a half, and he got his waist measured. In the end, he easily passed the test with a score of 84.4 – with a prosthetic where one of his legs used to be.

Five months prior, Snyder had lost his left leg in a motorcycle accident.


A Story of Recovery: SMSgt David Snyder

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“It’s a series of unfortunate events that led to it,” he said, recalling a change to his planned route. “I have an Apple iPhone, and of course it want[ed] to save me 7 minutes.”

Riding his sleek black Harley Davidson on an empty back road in Alabama, Snyder was heading back from a weekend trip to Florida with his uncle. The California native was on his way to Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama where he was attending Senior NCO Academy.

He said the morning ride was going well as they passed a lake.

“I have cruise control set on 55,” said Snyder, currently the Air Combat Command command propulsion program manager on Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. “I’m doing everything right, and here comes this silver Malibu.”

The oncoming car quickly caught his attention and he became defensive.

“I saw his wheel start to point out, and I knew it was too late,” he said. “I tried as smoothly as possible to veer around him. I get all the way to the edge, as far as I can, and he catches me.”

Snyder had his legs propped on the crash pegs, a cylindrical spoke that normally extends four to five inches to protect the bike from falling over. The car caught the peg and drove it into the bike. The bike tipped sideways, but didn’t go down. Shaken but steady, Snyder kept going until he found a house about a 100 yards down the road and pulled over.

Finally off the road, he assessed the damage.
“[I] looked down and my foot was facing the wrong way,” he said. “I could see a huge bulge in my sock.”

Snyder asked his uncle to help him off of his bike. He looked down and noticed blood was pooling next to him as he sat in a stranger’s driveway.

Remembering his emergency response training, he quickly took action.

“I’m looking at my leg and I think a tourniquet is my only option,” he said. “I don’t know when anyone is going to get here. So I take my shirt off and I start making a tourniquet.”

It took about 30 minutes for first responders to arrive. After they saw the severity of his injuries, they air evacuated Snyder to Baptist Medical Center South Hospital in Montgomery, Alabama, where they did an external fix on his leg. They told Snyder he had a Pilon fracture, which meant that his tibia and fibula had exploded on impact.

“There were pieces missing, probably out on the Alabama highway somewhere,” he recalled.
“Bones were turned and facing the wrong way. [The surgeons] took everything in there and ground it all up, put it back in there and hoped it took. They gave me four plates and about 20 screws that day.”

After working on his leg, doctors laid out his recovery options. They could opt for limb salvage or amputation. Snyder pursued one round of limb salvage, but said he didn’t put much hope into it after hearing about failed recoveries that ended in amputation.

At the first checkup three months after surgery, the hardware in his leg looked good and the prognosis on his leg was promising. However, things started to turn at the six month mark. The hardware started collapsing and everything shifting down in his leg. Things weren’t improving and amputation started to seem like the right choice for Snyder and his family.

“I was just ready to get on with the next step,” said Melissa Snyder, David’s wife and high school sweetheart. “He wasn’t able to do what he wanted to do. He could deal with the pain, but he didn’t like not being able to live his life.”

Snyder and Melissa both decided that amputation was the best option and set a date for May 8, 2018. “Before going into it, I told my wife I didn’t know how long it would take for me to look [at my foot],” he said. “I was like [screw] it. I pull the sheet back and I’m like, ‘Yup, it’s gone.'”

In the aftermath of his events, Snyder’s character was given a true chance to shine.

“From the get go, he had a very positive attitude,” Melissa said. “We have always kind of lived that way. In the end it is going to work out somehow.”

After the surgery, Snyder spent five months at Walter Reed National Military Center in Bethesda, Maryland, for physical rehabilitation, under Air Force District of Washington’s Airman Medical Transition Unit.

Snyder decided how he wanted to handle those five months right from the gurney, when he first needed to use the bathroom.

“It starts now,” he said. “Can I get up? Yeah, I can get up if I want. I got up, and took a walker to the bathroom.”

He spent the next five months pushing the limits in his recovery, so that he could make it back home sooner.

Snyder worked out almost every day, doing varying exercises to improve mobility and muscle control in his leg. He would run on the track at Walter Reed, swim, and bike along with other basic function exercises.

After all the hard work – and with the PT test in the rearview mirror — Snyder said he is thankful he can still serve in the Air Force. He said he knows active-duty service members with amputations have barriers while serving. His goal is to break through those barriers and continue to grow.

“I want to prove that I’m better,” he said. “I don’t care how severe my injury is, I want to be worldwide qualified as soon as I possibly can. It’s my job. I signed up for it.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

A 52-year-old former Navy SEAL is starting his freshman year at Yale

Navy SEAL James Hatch was on a mission to find Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan in 2009. It would be his last. After 26 years in the Navy, he was seriously wounded and eventually left the military. Since then, he has done a number of interesting things, but he is now set for the next iteration of his life – the Ivy League.


Hatch was wounded in Afghanistan while looking for Bow Bergdahl. The wound ended his career.

If you didn’t quite catch how long Hatch had been in the Navy before Bergdahl walked off his post, his 26 years as a Navy SEAL and dog handler before leaving the service in 2009 makes Hatch a 52-year-old freshman today. But as daunting as the first day in a new school can be, Hatch is unlikely to be deterred by social anxiety. If anything the former special operator sees it as another challenge to be handled.

“My experience in academia is somewhat limited, at best,” he told NBC News. “But I want to learn, and I feel this can make me a better person. I also feel my life experience, maybe with my maturity — which my wife would say is laughable — I think I can help some of the young people out.”

James Hatch and his service dog, Mina at Yale.

Hatch joined the military right after high school instead of going to college. He joined the Navy and became a SEAL spending his career serving in some of the most dangerous and topical areas in the world. After leaving the military in 2009 four years shy of a 30-year career, he suffered from depression like many separating vets. Drinking, drugs, and attempted suicide became the norm. But Hatch sought help and is now turning everything around. Aside from joining the ranks of the Ivy League elite, he also runs Spikes K-9 Fund, a non-profit that pays for healthcare and protective gear for police and military working dogs.

He got into the school through the Eli Whitney Students Program at Yale. The Eli Whitney program is for students with “extraordinary backgrounds” who have had their educational journeys interrupted for some reason. Hatch seems to be the perfect fit for such a program. On top of that, the GI Bill, scholarships, and Yale itself will cover the costs of his tuition.

“He brings just an incredibly different perspective,” the Director of Admissions for the Eli Whitney Students Program told NBC. “We don’t have anyone here that is like Jimmy and just his life and professional experiences will add tremendously to the Yale classroom, to the Yale community.”

In particular, his fellow Yale students will see Hatch in class with his service dog, Mina – whom they already love.

Articles

Watch the Air Force test fire one of its nuclear doomsday weapons

The US Air Force test launched an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile on the California coast early August 2, which follows a similar missile test by North Korea.


Vandenberg Air Force Base said the operational test occurred at 2:10 a.m. PDT.

“The seamless partnership of Team V and our Air Force Global Strike Command mission partners has resulted in another safe Minuteman III operational test launch,” U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Hough, the commander of the 30th Space Wing who made the decision to launch, said in a statement. “This combined team of the 90th Missile Wing, 576th Flight Test Squadron and 30th Space Wing is simply outstanding. Their efforts over the past few months show why they are among the most skilled operators in the Air Force.”

The Air Force released a video of the test launch.

The US launch comes after North Korea launched an improved ballistic missile with intercontinental range late last week — Pyongyang’s second missile launch in less than a month.

Last month, North Korea threatened a nuclear strike against the United States.

“Should the U.S. dare to show even the slightest sign of attempt to remove our supreme leadership, we will strike a merciless blow at the heart of the U.S. with our powerful nuclear hammer, honed and hardened over time,” North Korea’s foreign ministry said. “The likes of [CIA Director Mike] Pompeo will bitterly experience the catastrophic and miserable consequences caused by having dared to shake their little fists at the supreme leadership.”

Articles

Homeless man’s funeral attended by hundreds of fellow vets who didn’t know him

(Photo courtesy of Des Moines Register)


Hundreds gathered at Iowa Veterans Home Cemetery this afternoon to pay their respects to a once homeless Korean War Navy veteran named Charles ‘Chuck’ Lanam.  They didn’t know Lanam — and they didn’t know each other — but today on the burial hill the strangers came together as family.

“This man would have been buried on his own,” said Simon Conway, Des Moines resident and radio host at 1040 WHO. “There was literally nobody coming to this … this man had nobody, no family, no friends. There was no one to carry his casket, there was no one to give the flag to … no one to tell us about our grateful nation. Today, Chuck was laid to rest with full military honors and around 400 Iowans in attendance. We make a difference.”

See footage from the funeral here.

Lanam was born September 16, 1934 in Fairfield, Iowa. He was the son of Christopher and Marian (Byers).  He attended school in the Fairfield area. He served four years in U.S. Navy aboard USS Valley Forge during the Korean conflict. After retiring from the military, Lanam resided in Tennessee and Iowa and did electrical contracting. He never married. He was homeless for a number of years until February 2015, when moved into the Iowa Veterans Home. He remained there until he passed away.

This veteran, who never owned a computer, much less a had Facebook page, posthumously became a viral topic on the social media platform last week. Mitchell Family Funeral Home director Marty Mitchell reached out to his friends and community after Lanam’s death asking for their help in honoring this veteran’s life with this post

I’m sitting in my office right now and contemplating the rest of the week- and really struggling with one thing that I would like to open up and share with all of you- and no, not a joke, something real. On Monday, we are going to bury a man who served our country honorably, and probably before many of us were born. He has no family – absolutely no family, so our staff and the chaplain from IVH will gather on a quiet hillside at IVH and put this man to rest. No pallbearers, no mourners, no flowers, no one to even present a flag to saying his service was recognized. If you so desire and it’s in your hearts, we are having a service at 1:30 p.m. at the cemetery at IVH. Even though you did not know him, this man Charles Lanam, you are welcome to come and honor his life or serve as a pallbearer or even as important, send your prayers. Death equalizes us in the end, but before that time, appreciate that you do have a family. God bless you all my friends!

That request was shared over 1,700 times. It attracted Patriot Riders and members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. A suit was donated for Lanam to be buried in, and pallbearers volunteered. In response, Mitchell posted the following to his page:

“I truly think Mr. Lanam is smiling down at all of you for caring about him. He might be overwhelmed, but I do think he is happy. He now gets to rejoin his mom, his dad and his sister who went on before. Thanks to the Iowa Veterans Home for making his last years a home and family- a change he deserved from being homeless, and thanks for making his resting spot available. God bless all of you for focusing on what is important in life…”

This afternoon, Lanam’s coffin was draped in a flag with hundreds in attendance.  “Last Wednesday, I expected to be standing on a lonely hill overlooking the veteran’s zone with Marty and a few staff members saying a quiet farewell to Chuck today,” Chaplain Craig Nelson said before beginning the eulogy. “Instead, I find myself surrounded by those who were moved by his story and wanted to come out so he might not be laid to rest alone.”

Mary Drake, business manager at Mitchell Family Funeral Home said any donations they receive in Charles’ honor will be sent to Iowa Veteran’s Home.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Devil Dog chef shows you how to make fresh pasta by hand

There is a long, painful history of less-than-stellar food rations provided to those serving in the military — and it seems the more modern the chow, the more unappealing it is. For instance, why would anyone think an omelette that’s made shelf-stable for a full twelve months would be appetizing by the time some unfortunately soul unwraps it? It’s certainly useful, but not without making some significant compromise with regard to culinary excellence.

No more! Now, Chef Sergeant Dodds will provide all the instruction necessary to escape the once-inevitable consumption of these sanitized, homogenized, mass-manufactured science projects provided by Uncle Sam, and instead take it back to the old-world classic: fresh pasta.


Assuming you are human, there’s a fairly high chance that you’ve had pasta before. And assuming you’re a young American, you probably don’t have a ton of excess income to throw around on fine dining. Like any other historically peasant dish, pasta has humble roots that stretch way back — to ancient china, actually. This instruction, however, will focus on southern Italy’s version.

Let’s get to work:

(Sean Dodds)

What you’ll need

All of these ingredients can be found in most grocery stores — and by “all,” I mean three. Keeping it simple is a happy practice.

  1. 6 ounces (or 170 grams) of OO flour (Bread flour is fine, too. Durum flour is best, but can be hard to find)
  2. 6 ounces (or 170 grams) of Semolina flour
  3. 6.2 ounces (or 175 grams) of water

If you’ve got a cutting board, great. If you’ve got a rolling pin, excellent. If you have neither, don’t worry — we’ve still got you covered.

That’s it! Very simple.

(Sean Dodds)

Assemble

Be sure to weigh/measure out all ingredients and have them standing by before you begin, otherwise it turns into a real sh*t show. No need to pass your flour through a sieve or anything; we’re not baking a cake, this is full-on rustic.

(Sean Dodds)

Mix your dry ingredients

Mix the OO flour (or substitute) together with Semolina flour and put in a big pile. Then, with the bottom of a bowl or round dish, make a well. This will come into play for the next step.

(Sean Dodds)

Slowly incorporate your water

With a fork, mix together all ingredients while slowly pouring the pre-portioned water into the well. This is a very old technique that ensures the dough is brought together at the appropriate, gradual pace.

(Sean Dodds)

Some kneading needed

Get in there and start kneading — don’t worry, it’s actually really hard to overwork this dough. Your dough will be springy to the touch when finished.

(Sean Dodds)

Rest your dough

Wrap dough in plastic to keep moisture in and let it rest for 20 minutes. You’ll notice a significant color change once enough time has passed.

(Sean Dodds)

All set!

Now comes the fun part: it’s time to choose your own adventure based the shapes you wish to make. The steps you take from here depend, really, on what tools you have on hand. Whether you happen to have a high-end pasta roller, stamps, wheels, ravioli molds, or are working with jacksh*t, you can make some delicious pasta shapes.

Some examples to follow:

(Sean Dodds)

Don’t have anything? Try fagiolini

They are a Southern Italian classic, imitating pea pods! This one goes quite well with any meaty, tomato-based sauce.

Simply roll out your dough, chop it into roughly 1-inch segments, roll those segments out some, and press each into your cutting board with your three middle fingers.

(Sean Dodds)

Happen to have a rolling pin and a ravioli stamp? Classic!

Feel free to use whatever filling you want, as long as it’s not too wet! Stuffed pasta never tasted so good.

(Sean Dodds)

No stamp? Tagliatelle!

This one’s a favorite for any carbonara or a substitute for fettuccine. Either way, pop it in the freezer when finished for easier handling. It’ll keep in there for up to a week.

(Sean Dodds)

The options are endless

Take your pasta and cook it in large pot of boiling salty water until tender and delicious (the time will vary depending on the shape — don’t be afraid to try it). Most importantly, enjoy!

If you want some recipes for delicious sauces, other pasta shapes, or whatever else, let us know in the comments!

Bon appetito!

MIGHTY FIT

6 pieces of equipment you need for your home gym

It’s proven that working out three to five times a weeks increases morale, decreases waistlines, and can even help save money in medical bills over time.

Nowadays, going to the gym can be a freakin’ hassle. You have to get into the car, drive through traffic, fight off some of the other gym patrons for time on the machines, and hope you don’t get sick from all the bacteria that covers the various plastic workout benches.

To add to that, many military and civilian gyms have a lot of restrictions against doing awesome reasonable things like taking your shirt off or grunting while lifting heavy loads. Let’s face it, when we deploy to a combat zone, we usually grunt as loud as we want to — for motivation — and we work out without our shirts. It shows off the “guns.”

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Since many veterans want the freedom of doing whatever the f*ck they want to do during their workouts, the idea of working out at a judge-free area, like at home, is catching on within the fitness world. Many people have decided to build home gyms to combat the unique crowd that tends to flock to the gym just to text message their friend while sitting on the flat bench.

That sh*t gets annoying.

So here’s the basic breakdown of what you need in any home gym.

Also Read: Here’s how working out every day can save you money

www.youtube.com

Treadmill

Aerobic activity is the most critical type of exercises on the planet. It has been clinically proven to boost brain function and stimulate good heart health. Now, you don’t have to purchase a treadmill because you can run outside all you want for free.

The upside to buying a quality treadmill is that it’s specialized belt system can protect your knees from injury. Running is considered one of the most high-impact activities our bodies can be put through, and we want to protect our lower body joints.

Squat rack with straight bar mounts

This is one of the most essential pieces of equipment you’ll find it any gym and has several practical uses. Since there are several types of squat racks to choose from, you’ll want to find one that fits your budget and contains the various physical components you’ll need for your specific workouts.

To get the most out of your squat rack, look for one that has adjustable straight bar mounts. This means you can do both leg squats and bench press without having to purchase two separate stations. This will save you space in your home gym (and money — you’re welcome).

The multi-angle workout bench.

Amazon

Multi-angle workout bench

You know when you walk into the gym, and you see a variety of workout benches scattered throughout the facility? In a home gym, you need to find a way to get all the various versions of those benches to hit all the angles of your chest. It’s a good thing the bright minds in the fitness industry have already combined a condensed version of the workout bench with a multi-angle one.

These multi-angle benches can move from a 17-degree decline to 90-degree incline in seconds. Having this piece of equipment will save you time and space in your home gym.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_8T925OpdU

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Dip station and pull up bar

This machine is one of the most famous pieces of equipment you can find in any gym. As long as you have enough headroom to house this tall standing workout station, you can work your back, triceps, and lower chest, and get a complete ab workout.

It’s worth having if you can fit it.

A television set

We know this isn’t a piece of workout equipment. However, watching TV during a workout can take your mind off the fact that you’re working out if you’re not a fan of the activity. On a positive note, watching TV doing a workout can motivate you if you see an attractive person on the screen and you want to look like them one day.

Bowflex selectTech 552

Amazon

Multi-weight dumbbells

Would you rather have a few dozen dumbbells laying around, or have a set of multi-weight ones taking up a small percentage of space in your garage or spare bedroom? The upside to having these multi-weight dumbbells is you can go from five-pounds to 55-pounds just by turning a dial.

The downside is, these weights aren’t a tough as standard dumbbells. Meaning, after you finish your set, you don’t want to drop these weights on the floor as they work off of a gear system and the plates could fall off. If you can avoid this issue, the weights will last you for years.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This former SEAL serves by helping burn victims

Ryan Parrott was a Navy SEAL on his first deployment during Operation Iraqi Freedom when the vehicle he was in hit an improvised explosive device. Parrott was launched out of the vehicle and suffered a mix of first-degree and second-degree burns – and he got the nickname “Birdman.”


Parrott would serve eight years with the SEALs, but when he left the military, an encounter would change his life’s direction. Parrott met an Army Ranger who had suffered third-degree burns while serving during Operation Enduring Freedom. He was angered when the Ranger told him that things were as good as they would get after three dozen surgeries.

U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center surgeon, Lt. Cmdr. (Dr.) Christopher Burns, center, uses a surgical instrument to prepare a wound for surgery while, Burn Center Director, Col. (Dr.) Evan M. Renz, left, and OR technician Spc. Dennis Ortiz look on during the first surgery procedure performed in the new Burn Center OR on May 25 at the new consolidated tower of the San Antonio Military Medical Center. (DOD photo)

“I decided I could continue to serve my country away from the battlefield,” he told the online media outlet. Decided to channel his anger at the Ranger’s difficulty at getting treatment into action, Parrott founded Sons of the Flag, a non-profit organization intended to help fund research into burn treatments, and to also train doctors on how to treat patients suffering from burns.

Since it was founded in 2012, Sons of the Flag has connected over a thousand burn survivors to treatment. But that doesn’t even scratch the surface of what the charity does. It also has provided direct support to burn survivors and families, including rent assistance, utility assistance, travel costs, and assistance with special medication needs not covered by insurance.

Army veteran and burn survivor Omar Aviles. (Youtube screenshot)

Families of burn victims also receive “go bags” filled with essentials like water bottles, chargers for cell phones, snacks, toiletries, and a new blanket for while their loved one is being treated. The charity also steps in to help children and teenagers who suffer serious burns, providing items used for entertainment and rehabilitation as well as establishing pediatric “burn camps” for young survivors who may face bullying as a result of the lasting scars from serious burns.

In roughly five years, this charity has been making an impact, primarily in the Texas area. For more information on Sons of the Flag, go to https://sonsoftheflag.org/. One thing for sure – with this SEAL on a mission, survivors of serious burns have a much better chance at a good life.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy ship has dangerous encounter with Iranian chopper

The Wall Street Journal reporter Rory Jones was aboard the USS Boxer in the hours before the US amphibious flattop downed an Iranian drone and recounted a series of tense encounters that led up to the engagement.

According to Jones, the Boxer was leading a flotilla of Navy ships through the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf, where Iran has repeatedly harassed international vessels. Just after 7 a.m. local time, Jones reported, an unarmed Iranian Bell 212 helicopter came so close to the Boxer that it could have landed on deck. A US helicopter chased away the Iranian craft, cutting short an incident that Capt. Ronald Dowdell, the commander of the Boxer, called “surreal.”


Shortly after, an Iranian military vessel sailed toward the Boxer flotilla, following it at 500 yards — the exact distance the Navy allows before it warns another vessel not to come closer. Jones reported that a US helicopter flew between the two ships, deterring the Iranian vessel before tailing an aircraft identified as an Iranian Y-12 surveillance plane.

The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer.

(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class James F. Bartels )

After these incidents, the Iranian drone came “within a threatening range” of the Boxer, according to Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman, prompting the US crew to take defensive action. Military.com reported that the Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System aboard the Boxer attacked the drone by jamming its signal.

INSIDER reached out to US Naval Forces Central Command to confirm Jones’ account of the hours leading up to July 18, 2019’s confrontation and didn’t receive an immediate reply. INSIDER has also reached out to the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its mission to the UN regarding the incidents in Jones’ account.

Iran’s deputy foreign minister has denied Iranian involvement, and said that USS Boxer shot down its own drone.

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