MIGHTY CULTURE

Op tempo is killing our troops… and their families

In the era of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, training was frequent and necessary in order to maintain the level of combat readiness required to sustain and prevail in battle. While times have changed, our Operational Tempo (Optempo) has not.


The number of troops needed in combat zones has decreased significantly. The amount of funds needed to maintain those combat zones has decreased as well. Funds have been redirected to modernize equipment, further training and have helped our forces remain relevant and vigilant. But what is this current wartime Optempo and Personnel Tempo (Perstempo) doing to our troops and our families?

How much is it really costing us?

Their lives

Since 2001, more than 6,000 U.S. service members and DOD civilians have lost their lives. Of that, over 5,000 were KIA. Even more staggering is the number of wounded in action (WIA) since then. At least 50,000 service members have been wounded in action (DOD 2019). Since the wars began in 2001, the United States has spent 0.4 billion dollars on medical care and disability benefits.

This is only the beginning of medical care for wounded troops.

According to Costs of War, the financial costs of medical care usually peaks 30 to 40 years after the initial conflict (Bilmes, et al. 2015). In a study, it shows that although veteran suicide rates have recently decreased in numbers, the rate of suicide of military members versus civilians is still substantially higher, and ever-increasing. Furthermore, the number of veterans who use VHA versus those who don’t also, have a higher rate of suicide (DVA 2018). The toll this is taking on military families is creating unsalvageable relationships, emotional distress for children, and, ultimately, lives that are forever lost.

Their families

At the start of the war in 2001, Perstempo policies have been disregarded by many. According to the GAO:

DOD has maintained the waiver of statutory Perstempo thresholds since 2001, and officials have cited the effect of the high pace of operations and training on service members; however, DOD has not taken action to focus attention on the management of Perstempo thresholds within the services and department-wide (GAO 2018).

Is there a lack of genuine concern for family stability and well-being? Understanding the expectation of family interaction would decrease during wartime, once the service member has completed their deployment, reintegration, and revitalization of the home and family must take place. Families have been neglected and left without the proper resources to cultivate a healthy family environment. The concern for service member readiness has been an on-going issue in recent years. Studies have been conducted, and programs implemented, but is that enough?

Marital issues have often been associated with Perstempo, such as length of partner separation, infidelity during separation, and other challenges encompassed in a military marriage. The stress on the family of a service member is immeasurable; oftentimes, even discounted in comparison to the stress the service member endures. Support or resources for military spouses seeking separation or divorce are nearly nonexistent. They have been conditioned to believe that the well being of their soldiers comes before their own.

Military spouses sacrifice their academic achievements and employment opportunities in support of their service member’s careers. As the budget cuts roll out for the fiscal year, more much-needed family programs are becoming extinct. Programs that provide support for spousal employment, childcare, and leisure activities are being defunded, which can destabilize already struggling families.

Child and domestic abuse are an ever-growing concern within a community that is known for its patriotism and heroism. The families suffer in silence. Surviving recurrent deployments, solo parenting, housing issues, and the lack of program funding, the plight of the military family continues to decrease soldier readiness and morale.

Their mental well-being

The rate of PTSD and mental health diagnoses is on the rise for both service members and their families. However, services providing support and medical care for these issues have declined. The effect of time away from children has taken a toll on military children.

Neglect, abuse, and mental health issues are being ignored due to a lack of care. Some military installations cannot provide adequate mental health care because of their remote locations, and the costs to contract providers are often more than the proposed budgets allow. Because of this, the family’s needs go unmet.

With orders coming down the wire, Command Teams are obligated to carry out relentless training exercises, and soldiers are feeling the burn. Everyone is exhausted, each soldier doing the job of three, and families are becoming isolated. They lack sleep and proper nutrition, putting them at greater risk of making mistakes during training that may cost them their lives, but the soldiers march on.

The way forward

Repairing family units are necessary for the success of soldier readiness. Programs and support for families should not be cut. Revisions of budget direction may be necessary in order to tailor programs in a way that both benefits the government and the well-being of the service member and their families.

Allow soldiers to receive mental health care without fear of retaliation or loss of career. Provide structured support programs for spouses that go beyond counseling. Long term care is necessary for service members and families upon redeployment. Taking a true interest in supporting our military members and families should be the priority for our Department of Defense. We are fighting wars but not fighting for our families. Cultivate strength by improving the quality of life for everyone.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’

Anyone over the age of 25 was likely forever scarred by the combination of a creepy TV theme song and the voice of a classic film actor telling us about how we could be living our normal lives one moment, and then suddenly be abducted by aliens, shot by a stranger, or murdered by ghosts the next.


FYI I want to be portrayed by Matthew McConaughey in the reenactment of my murder.

Once you join the military, you might think you’re safe from being a walking potential story on Unsolved Mysteries. But you’d be wrong. The best you can really hope for is a quicker “update” segment.

Feel free to read this in the voice you hear in your nightmares.

1. Paul Whipkey

In Season 3, Episode 21, Unsolved Mysteries showed the story of Lt. Paul Whipkey, a promising young officer whose health was affected by the atomic testing projects he worked on. One day, he decided to drive to Monterey, Calif., just one mile from his base at Fort Ord. He disappeared and was never seen again.

His car was found abandoned in the middle of Death Valley. The Army says he was stressed about his assignment so he left the car and walked into the desert, where he likely died. His family and friends obviously take exception to this theory for a number of reasons.

First, the Army declared him a deserter and didn’t even begin searching for him or his body for eight months. His commander remembered Lt. Whipkey talking with plainclothes officials. The men had IDs but did not show which agency they represented. Whipkey then alluded to a career move, where he would “make a name for himself,” just before he disappeared.

Seems legit.

Just 11 days later, Whipkey’s best friend Lt. Charlie Guess died in a plane crash, where his remains were found among plane wreckage different from the tail number of the plane he took off in.

Whipkey’s car was seen by locals after his disappearance, but it was driven by a man in uniform, which Whipkey was not wearing when he left the base. And next to the car was found was a pile of cigarette butts. Paul Whipkey did not smoke.

His family and friends believe Paul was recruited by the CIA to go one secret operations and that he likely died in the CIA’s service.

2. Edward Zakrzewski

This one was a pretty straightforward case, but when it first aired on the sixth episode of Unsolved Mysteries‘ seventh season, former USAF Tech. Sgt. Edward Zakzrewski was featured as a fugitive, wanted for the murder of his wife and two kids.

Zakzrewski and his wife were living in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. when she was found murdered to death on June 13, 1994 (according the the show, she was stabbed but the newspapers say she was bludgeoned with a crowbar). The two had been having marital problems and she was planning to leave him.

This story was creepy as hell when it first aired, but…

UPDATE:

He fled to Hawaii and turned himself in after the family he was staying saw his story the night it aired. As of 2016 he’s been on death row for 20 years.

3. Justin Bergwinkel

In season 7, episode 19, Unsolved Mysteries told us about Justin Bergwinkel, who went AWOL from the Army and was never seen again. He began language training for the Army Rangers, but washed out of the program before being sent to Fort Ord, California, where he became a cook.

He began dating a local student, Iolanda Antunes, and all seemed well for the most part. Until it wasn’t. He would drive to visit her but would randomly say he had to return to base. Other times, he would be bizarrely secretive about a briefcase he was always carrying.

You know you messed up when Robert Stack narrated your life.

Justin was soon transferred to Washington State, but would still come visit Iolanda. After Iolanda received a strange call telling Justin “the mission is off” he suddenly went back to his duty station. Things seemed to calm down. His parents were getting calls where he claimed to be doing well and that everything was fine. I think you can guess that things were not fine.

Burgwinkel purchased two handguns at this time, along 100 rounds of ammunition. On Friday, June 4, 1993, he failed to report for duty at 0430. He was declared AWOL but was not hiding. He called his duty section from Iolanda’s apartment. He called his parents and told them he was working and not AWOL – he was doing something important.

We’re all thinking about the same thing, right? Get your hands out of your pockets?

Eight days later, he left Iolanda’s apartment and never came back. He only ever alluded to the movie White Sands, a film about gunrunning, and then disappeared. His car was abandoned at a beachfront motel near Monterrey, where it had been for three months.

The briefcase with his wallet, car keys, and military ID were found in the trunk. He did not stay at the motel.

4. Chad Langford

The story of Spc. Langford was featured in Season 5, Episode 20. Langford was an MP stationed at the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama. On a pretty normal night, he was doing his usual patrol of the base when he radioed for assistance. When backup arrived, they found his radio, armband, and ID in the middle of the road. Down the street, Langford’s near-lifeless body was found outside his patrol car, shot in the head.

His hat wasn’t in his mouth, but Unsolved Mysteries says it was.

Langford’s sidearm lanyard was wrapped around his ankles, the radar cable around his neck, handcuffs on his left wrist, and his sidearm under his left shoulder. He died later that evening. The Army ruled it a suicide.

His family was outraged. Langford’s father Jim said he claimed to be doing undercover anti-drug stings for the Army. Fellow soldiers told Army criminal investigators that Chad was the ringleader of an attempt to rob the PX. The Army also maintained he was hurt about a recent breakup with his girlfriend and changed his lifestyle to fit a different narrative before taking his own life.

But his girlfriend says the breakup was initiated by Chad because his work was too much for him to share with her. When she last saw him, he was wearing different “gang-style” clothes and hanging with “unsavory” characters.

Gang-style.

Chad’s family believes the evidence at the scene doesn’t match the Army’s story and that certain evidence, such as fingerprints and bullets to match the shell casings on the scene, was never found.

Though the Army reviewed the case after the broadcast, Chad Langford’s death remains officially a suicide.

5. Mark Dennis

In 1966, Corpsman Mark Dennis left Ohio for Vietnam. He thought it would be good for his future as a missionary. Dong Ha, Mark’s station, was a hotspot at the time. In July of that year, he was on a helicopter that was shot down with only three survivors. Mark was not one of them. The Navy suggested they not view his remains due to the condition of his body.

On Nov. 30, 1970, Newsweek published a photo of an unknown POW…one that looked just like Mark Dennis.

You be the judge.

But the Navy determined it was someone else, a POW already documented. When the family requested his Navy death certificate, they found that Mark’s body was the only one not positively identified because it was burned beyond recognition. It was deemed Mark though the process of elimination.

That’s when Steve Wilcox, a Navy dental tech who was friends with Mark in boot camp, told the family of a friend from Mark’s unit. This friend told Wilcox that neither his corpsman material nor his dog tags were found in the crash and that there weren’t 13 bodies recovered.

Actual photos of the helicopter crash.

The Dennis family then exhumed the body. The remains were covered by his uniform, and then a blanket. Pinned to the blanket was his dog tags, as per regulation. When his brother (a fire expert) examined the dog tag, he found them to be brand new and the burn markings inconsistent with a crash burn.

A privately-funded forensic analysis of the remains show a man five inches shorter than Mark Dennis. Furthermore, the body in the coffin was not burned by JP-4 fuel, but with regular gasoline. The family and his unit believe Mark never died that day.

Mark Dennis was not repatriated with other POWs when the war ended in 1973.

6. David Cox

This one is the true story of William Alvarado, who was nearly killed during a hazing incident, known as a “code red” for writing a Senator about Marine misconduct. You may recognize this story from A Few Good Men, because that’s movie based on these events.

The squad leader, David Cox, was convicted only of simple assault, claiming he was following an “implied order” from a superior officer. When the movie came out, he felt he was maligned in the film – after all, in real life, no one died. He and other Marines filed a lawsuit against the filmmakers.

The Marines were understandably pissed.

As time passed, David moved in with his girlfriend and was hoping to get a job at UPS. That’s when he disappeared. One day, his girlfriend came home to find all the doors open, an uncashed paycheck in his truck, keys in the ignition, and a gun in the glove box.

Four months later, his body was found five miles from his apartment, cash and credit cards in his wallet. He was shot four times, execution style, while wearing his Marine Corps jacket (which he never wore). Investigators believe he knew his killer and went along willingly.

This is why I don’t hike.

David’s mother warned he was too outspoken about U.S. activities in Cuba, especially in his high-profile days following the release of A Few Good Men. His former defense attorney believes his murder was related to the military, given the proximity to hunting ranges (where gunshots would be normal), and his choice of military attire.

The murder remains unsolved.

7. Joe O’Brien

Season 8, episode 1 brought us the story of Joe O’Brien, who had a vivid dream about being held prisoner in a cold cell, with only a striped blanket. His wrists were in terrible pain and even when he woke up, he found his hands sore and red.

Joe couldn’t even pick up a coffee cup the next day.

Joe was worried about his friend Mohammed “Sammy” Mubarak, a Kuwaiti fighter pilot who was fighting in Operation Desert Storm. In the weeks following his vivid dream, Iraq surrendered.

Sammy came to visit Joe over Christmas the following year. Joe told Sammy of his strange dream and how the pain stayed with him for so long. Sammy told Joe his dream was Sammy’s reality – Sammy was held prisoner by the Iraqis on the same day.

The handcuffs cut his wrists and made them bleed for five days.

Everything Joe saw in his dream, from the hand pain to the pattern of the blanket, was what Sammy lived as a POW.

Military Life

Forget multitasking, this Navy squadron has only one mission — rescue people

The smell of crisp pine in the air and the peaceful quietness of nothing but the rushing of emerald green glacial rivers as they flow down the side of a mountain describes most of the state of Washington. However, this heart-stopping landscape has a potentially lethal side that can claim even the most experienced hikers. But, luckily for those in northern Washington, there’s a highly trained group of Sailors ready to answer the call.


Video produced by Jonathan Snyder, Defense Media Activity

From the frigid waters of the Puget Sound to the dense tree canopies of the Olympic forest to the towering rock facades of the Cascade Mountain Range, Sailors from the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Search and Rescue (NASWI SAR) team provide 24-hour SAR for the fixed winged assets in the area, as well as the civilian population. While most squadrons in the fleet have multi-mission platforms, Whidbey Island SAR’s one focus is rescue.

“Generally, helicopter squadrons around the fleet, whether they’re a Romeo or Sierra Squadron, they’re going to have a multi-mission platform. Those helicopters, pilots and flight crews need to be able to do a multitude set of missions, from the Romeo side, which is hunting subs and possible rescues, where the Sierra side could go from rescue, logistics and anti-mine warfare. Unfortunately, they don’t get to really ever focus on one,” said Lt. Chris Pitcher, NAWSI SAR operations officer. “Our job is to go out and save people, whether it’s pulling them out from the water or from the side of a mountain, and we train almost every day for those different scenarios. So when those scenarios do pop up, we’re not surprised, and we can get the job done and get that person to a higher level of care.”

Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Francisco Toledo assigned to Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Search and Rescue shuts the door to an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter prior to take off during a high altitude training evolution at NAS Whidbey Island, Sept., 26, 2017. NAS Whidbey Island Search and Rescue’s primary mission is to be the first responder for the aircraft and personnel stationed at NAS Whidbey Island. Secondary to that, they work closely with local agencies in order to be a responder to anyone in legitimate danger. ( U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Ignacio D. Perez)

Because of this, NAWSI SAR is the only squadron in the fleet that is outfitted with an advance life-support helicopter platform. It allows crews to not only save pilots in case of emergencies, but also work with local hospitals and emergency rooms to provide care for anyone in need of medical attention.

“We are a fully outfitted, advance life-support helicopter platform,” said Chief Hospital Corpsman Wayne Papalski, NAWSI SAR’s flight paramedics lead chief petty officer. He explained that the team operates the same way as first responders who save lives after someone calls 911 for a family member. “We strive to mirror ourselves with the civilian community, so that way we can have that continuum of care that started in the civilian community and continue to a local hospital.”

With the millions of visitors the Pacific Northwest sees every year, NAWSI SAR has not only performed rescues in the Cascades and Olympic National Parks, but also in Idaho, Oregon and even Canada. This has made the Sailors learn to quickly adapt to changing environments.

Chief Hospital Corpsman Wayne Papalski assigned to Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island Search and Rescue gives the signal to Sailors to safely enter an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter during a high altitude training evolution in the North Cascades National Park. NAS Whidbey Island Search and Rescue’s primary mission is to be the first responder for the aircraft and personnel stationed at NAS Whidbey Island. Secondary to that, they work closely with local agencies in order to be a responder to anyone in legitimate danger. ( U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Ignacio D. Perez)

“The terrain here is pretty diverse. You have the ocean that can range from mid 50s to high 40s. You have mountain ranges that can have some of the densest forest with 200-foot firs to some the rockiest sheer rock cliff faces that you can imagine. And once you get past the other side of the Cascades, it turns from this nice coastal 60 degrees here in Whidbey Island into this dry desert that reaches 110 to 112 degrees,” said Pitcher. “It just depends on what the mission calls for, and to be ready to be able to respond to any kind of situation, because, obviously, if the jets go that far, we need to be able to respond.”

The unpredictable landscape has made Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Francisco Toledo learn to be uncomfortable, he said. But he also said that the only way to become comfortable is by constant training.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from, we kind of check your ego at the door. We have our own training syllabus, so when you check in, you start from scratch using what you learned previously in the fleet to come up here to make yourself a better aviator or crewman,” said Papalski. “We have a pretty robust training syllabus that takes you throughout the entire state to all of our local working areas. Pretty much any situation that you will probably face as a qualified crewman or pilot, we try to put you in.”

LT Chris Pitcher and Lt. Cmdr. Dillon Jackson assigned to Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Search and Rescue review mission operations in an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter during a high altitude training evolution in the North Cascades National Park, Sept., 26, 2017. NAS Whidbey Island Search and Rescue’s primary mission is to be the first responder for the aircraft and personnel stationed at NAS Whidbey Island. Secondary to that, they work closely with local agencies in order to be a responder to anyone in legitimate danger. ( U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Ignacio D. Perez)

Because of the level of difficulty and danger of the job, Sailors said it leaves a lasting memory. Most believe that when they look back at their careers someday, they will consider their time at Whidbey to be some of the best years they have had.

“Looking back at my four years here, I’ll tell you this is the best command I’ve been at. It’s just been an amazing and humbling experience, getting to do what I got to do up here, and what some of my brothers and sisters in the other room got to do to help people,” said Papalski. “When you look back at your career 20 or 30 years from now and know that you actually did something that was giving more than you were taking, it means a lot.”

Articles

6 jobs in the military that require insane brainpower

Not all military jobs are created equal. Some are dangerous, some are highly technical, and most fall somewhere in between.


Here are the 6 brainiest enlisted military jobs (in terms of ASVAB score and training):

1. Navy Electronics Technician Nuclear

Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher K. Hwang/USN

These sailors test, calibrate, maintain, and repair reactor instrumentation and control systems on surface ships and submarines.

2. Navy Machinist’s Mate Nuclear

Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Billy Ho/ USN

These are the guys who make the ship move. Their main job is to operate, maintain, and repair the steam plant that provides propulsion, electric power, potable water, and service steam to the ship.

3. Navy Electrician’s Mate Nuclear

Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Achterling/USN

These sailors operate and perform maintenance on generators, switchboards, control equipment and electrical equipment. They direct electricity to all spaces on the ship.

Navy Nuclear Field (NF) Program

To qualify for the three rates (Navy jobs) above, applicants must meet at least one of these ASVAB score combinations. After qualifying, the sailor is placed in one of the three rates: Electronics Technician Nuclear, Machinist’s Mate Nuclear, or Electrician’s Mate Nuclear.

Upon completion, nuclear sailors move onto their designated “A” school where they get specific with their rate. No matter which rate they get, nuclear sailors must attend Nuclear Power School (NPS) in Charleston, South Carolina, where they learn the basics of nuclear power plants and associated equipment. The course is an intense study of nuclear physics and reactor engineering. A nuclear sailor’s average contract length is six years because their training takes about two years. Learn more about the Navy Nuclear Field.

4. Air Force Scientific Applications Specialist

Photo: USAF

ASVAB Line Score: Air Force line scores of Mechanical 88 & Electrical 85 and above.

These airmen use classified techniques and tools to detect, gather, analyze, and report the use of weapons throughout the world. These include nuclear, chemical, biological, and other weapons. Basically, they’re like the CSI for weapons.

To become a Scientific Applications Specialist, applicants must have a high school diploma or GED with 15 college credits. Their skills are based on mathematics, electronics, physics, data analysis, and careful observation. Learn more about Scientific Applications Specialist.

5. Navy Cryptologic Technician – Networks

Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Sabrina Fine/USN

To qualify for this rate, applicants must meet at least one of these ASVAB score combinations:

  • A combined score of 235 in subsections (AR) Arithmetic Reasoning, (MK) Mechanical Knowledge and (GS) General Science.
  • A combined score of 235 in subsections (VE) Verbal, (AR) Arithmetic reasoning, (MK) Mechanical knowledge, and (MC) Mechanical Comprehension.

These sailors collect, decipher and translate enemy communications. They provide computer network defense, access tool development, and computer network forensics.

Sailors who go into this field train for an additional 30 weeks after basic training. Learn more about the CTN rate.

6. Army Satellite Communication Systems Operator-Maintainer

Photo: US Army

ASVAB Line Score: An Army electronics score of 117 or above.

These soldiers install, operate, and maintain satellite communications for the Army in remote locations around the world. They make sure the lines of communications are always running.

They also identify and report electronic jamming and deception and apply appropriate electronic retaliation on attackers. Learn more about Satellite Communication Systems Operator – Maintainer.

Articles

A terrorist blew himself up in Afghanistan over this piece of paper

A Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up outside of a US military base in Afghanistan on Sept. 6 in retaliation for the US dropping leaflets that were offensive to Islam the day before, according to the Los Angeles Times.


Three US soldiers were wounded and an Afghan interpreter was killed, the Washington Examiner reported Sept. 7, in the blast that occurred at an enemy-control point outside of Bagram Air Force base, the LA Times and Reuters reported.

Three Afghan troops were also wounded, the Examiner reported.

Taliban spokesman Zabihulla Mujahid tweeted Sept. 6 that the bombing was to “avenge” the insulting leaflets.

 

The leaflets the US dropped from a plane on Sept. 5 in Parwan province pictured a lion, symbolizing the US-led coalition, chasing a dog, which symbolized the Taliban.

Dogs are considered an unclean and dangerous animal by many Afghans, according to The Washington Post, and the one depicted on the leaflet had part of the Taliban flag superimposed on it along with a common Islamic creed.

“There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet,” the creed, known as the Shahada, reads.

“Get your freedom from these terrorist dogs” was also written on the leaflet above the two animals, the LA Times said. “Help the coalition forces find these terrorists and eliminate them.”

The offensive leaflet dropped by the US on Sept. 5. Photo from Twitter user Dan Murphy.

The Taliban also released a statement on Sept. 6 that the leaflets showed the US’s “utter animosity with Islam,” The Post reported.

Maj. Gen. James Linder released a statement on Sept. 6 saying that the “design of the leaflets mistakenly contained an image highly offensive to both Muslims and the religion of Islam. I sincerely apologize.”

“We have the deepest respect for Islam and our Muslim partners worldwide. There is no excuse for this mistake,” he said. “I am reviewing our procedures to determine the cause of this incident and to hold the responsible party accountable. Furthermore, I will make appropriate changes so this never happens again.”

Many Afghan civilians were also irate with the leaflets.

US Army Maj. Gen. James B. Linder. Photo by Staff Sgt. Ken Scar.

“It is a very serious violation. The people are very angry. It is a major abuse against Islam,” the Parwan province police chief, Mohammad Zaman Mamozai, told The Post.

“Why they do not understand or know our culture, our religion, and history?”

“The foreign forces don’t have any idea of what are the values of the Afghan people,” Ahmad Shaheer, an analyst living in Kabul, told the LA Times. “They’ve hired some interpreters and advisors who only know how to speak English, make money, and gain trust, but really are strangers to the real values of the local people.”

The US has been at war in Afghanistan for almost 16 years, and President Donald Trump recently announced he would be deploying more American forces — about 4,000 by most estimates — to the war-torn country.

Articles

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier

Marvin Rector visiting the Battle of Britain museum shortly before his death. (Photo: Susan Jowers)


Ninety-four-year-old Melvin Rector had one last item on his bucket list: He wanted to return to England where he’d served as a B-17 crewman. So earlier this month he hopped on an airliner and flew across the Atlantic to a place where he’d come of age 71 years earlier.

As reported by Florida Today, Rector was scheduled to visit his former base RAF Snetterton Heath in Norfolk but started the tour at the Battle of Britain Bunker in the Uxbridge area of London that first day.

“He walked out of that bunker like his tour was done,” said Susan Jowers, 60, who first met Rector when she served as his guardian during a 2011 Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C.

As he walked out, Rector told Jowers that he felt dizzy, according to Florida Today. Jowers took hold of one of Rector’s arms while a stranger grasped the other.

Rector at his radio operator console aboard at B-17 during a bombing raid. (Photo: Rector family archives)

Rector died quietly there just outside the bunker. When the locals found out about it, they made sure his memory was honored appropriately.

“They just wanted something simple, and when I found out a little background about Melvin, there is just no way that we were just going to give him a simple service,” funeral director Neil Sherry told British ITV Network. “We wanted it to be as special as possible.”

Though no one knew him, the Royal Air Force, U.S. Air Force and historians in London attended and participated in the funeral with military honors.

“He certainly got a beautiful send-off,” Jowers said. “People everywhere, from Cambridge to London heard his story.”

U.S. Army Maj. Leif Purcell told ITV he thought he and a few other U.S. military personnel would be the only ones to attend the funeral, but was surprised.

“The representation from the Royal Air Force and the British Army that I saw here was phenomenal,” he said.

A funeral service for Rector, a father of six, is set for 11 a.m. June 9 at First Baptist Church of Barefoot Bay, Florida. Jowers told Florida Today that his remains were being repatriated on May 31.

Jowers, who said Rector became like a father to her after their first meeting in 2011, summed up his passing with this thought: “He completed his final mission.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

This milspouse made the latest cut on ‘American Idol’

American Idol is back this year on ABC with Ryan Seacrest and new judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan. They’ve just announced the Top 24 and there’s a military spouse who’s made it this far in the competition.

Jurnee (just one name and she says it’s real) is an 18-year-old hostess from Denver, CO. Her wife, Ashley, serves in the U.S. Army.


Check out Jurnee’s audition video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01XhRdvPZxY

www.youtube.com

After Hollywood Week, Jurnee learned she made it to the Top 24 and performed Never Enough for her Idol Showcase. Ashley, who’s soon to be deployed, made it to Los Angeles for the performance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRMBMs6ZLPw

www.youtube.com

Longtime Idol viewers will notice the way that the producers are presenting her (ahem) journey means that they’re setting up Jurnee to have a long run on the show (if she continues to perform with the ability she’s demonstrated so far). We’ll be tuning in and following her progress in the weeks to come.

Humor

10 MP memes that will make you laugh all day

These young men and women are the first troops you’ll see in the morning as you drive onto base and they’re the last people you’ll see as you exit at night. The military police protect us from the various threats trying to sneak onto secured territory and they carefully watch the convicted criminals that are locked up — and this thankless job isn’t freakin’ easy.

The brave souls who serve as military police also take a lot of sh*t from their brothers- and sisters-in-arms — but it’s all in good fun… just like these memes.


(The Salty Soldier)

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump issued a stern warning to North Korea’s dictator

President Donald Trump said he was going to “remain flexible” and left open the possibility of shelving highly anticipated talks between the US and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“We’ve never been in a position like this with that regime,” Trump said during a joint press conference with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe on April 18, 2018. “I hope to have a very successful meeting. If we don’t think that it’s going to be successful … we won’t have it. We won’t have it.”


Trump went further, and floated the possibility of leaving Kim during the summit.

“If the meeting when I’m there is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting,” he said.

The exact location and date of the proposed Trump-Kim summit is not yet clear, but Trump reportedly said it could happen by early June 2018. The president said five locations were being considered, but added that the US is not one of them

Kim Jong Un

US officials confirmed that CIA director Mike Pompeo made a secret trip to North Korea during Easter weekend 2018, to meet with Kim. Pompeo visited the country as part of Trump’s advance envoy to lay the groundwork for the proposed summit, during which the two leaders are expected to discuss the regime’s nuclear weapons program.

“I like always remaining flexible,” Trump said. “And we’ll remain flexible here. I’ve gotten it to this point.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This British marksman could have killed George Washington

It’s difficult to imagine how history would have been altered if George Washington had been killed during the Revolutionary War. Without the father of our country leading its fight for freedom, the war might have been lost and America might still be a British colony. In fact, this alternative history might have come true if not for the moral convictions and gentlemanly ethics of a Scottish infantry officer named Patrick Ferguson.


A miniature of Ferguson c. 1774-177 (Artist unknown/Public Domain)

Ferguson was born into nobility in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, on May 25, 1744. His father was a senator at the College of Justice and his mother was the sister of Patrick Murray, 5th Lord Elibank. He began his military career early, joining the army at the age of 15. He served with the Royal Scots Greys and fought in the Seven Years’ War before he returned home due to a leg injury. In 1768, he returned to military service, purchasing command of a company in the 70th Regiment of Foot under the Colonelcy of his cousin, Alexander Johnstone. He commanded the company in the West Indies until his leg injury forced him to return home.

Ferguson arrived in Britain in 1772 and participated in light infantry training where he helped develop new tactics for the army. During this time, he also invented the Ferguson breech-loading rifle, arguably the most advanced sharpshooting rifle of its day. His sharp intellect and ingenuity caught the attention of General William Howe, Commander-in-Chief of British land forces in the Colonies. Consequently, he was sent to fight in the American War of Independence.

British Army manual for the Ferguson rifle

In 1777, Ferguson arrived in the colonies and was given command of what became known as Ferguson’s Rifle Corps, a unit of 100 riflemen equipped with the new Ferguson rifle. One of their first engagements was the Battle of Brandywine in Pennsylvania on September 11.

Ferguson’s light infantry tactics emphasized small units of well-trained marksmen maneuvering around the battlefield over the doctrinal rank and file style of combat of the day. As such, Ferguson and his rifle corps moved ahead of General Howe’s army as they advanced on Philadelphia. As they maneuvered, Ferguson spotted a prominent American officer alongside another officer in Central European hussar dress; the two officers were conducting a reconnaissance mission on horseback. With their accurate sharpshooting rifles, Ferguson and his men could have easily cut the officers down in a volley of musket fire. However, the officers had their backs turned to the Brits. As a man of honor, Ferguson decided not to fire on the officers who were unaware of his presence.

Later in the battle, Ferguson was shot through his right elbow and taken to a field hospital. There, a surgeon told Ferguson that some American soldiers who were treated there earlier said that General Washington had been in that area earlier in the day. Ferguson wrote in his journal that, even if the officer had been Washington, he did not regret his decision.

Although the identity of the American officer remains uncertain, the man in hussar dress was almost certainly Count Casimir Pulaski, one of the Founding Fathers of U.S. Cavalry (along with Michael Kovats de Fabriczy). During the battle, Pulaski conducted reconnaissance missions and even scouted a retreat route for Washington after his army was defeated. If the American officer was indeed Washington, and if Ferguson had decided to take the shot, September 11, 1777, might have been a turning point in American history.

Portrait of Casimir Polaski (Artist: Jan Styka/Public Domain)

Ferguson took a year long hiatus from military service to recover from his wound and returned to battle in 1778. He continued to fight in the American War of Independence until his death during the Battle of King’s Mountain, on the border of North and South Carolina, on October 7, 1780. During the battle, Ferguson was shot from his horse. His foot was caught in the stirrup and he was dragged to the American side where he was approached for his surrender. In response, and as a final act of defiance, he drew a pistol and shot one of the Americans. The Patriots responded by shooting him eight times, stripping his body of clothing, and urinating on him before he was buried in an oxhide near the site of his fall.

While Ferguson’s actions at the Battle of King’s Mountain were less than gentlemanly, his determination to go down fighting embodies the warrior spirit. This is juxtaposed by his moral conviction to hold his fire at the Battle of Brandywine. Whether or not the American officer there was General Washington, Ferguson’s legacy will forever be marked by the shot he didn’t take.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How to ask what kids are feeling during stressful times

No school. No playdates. No camps. No pool outings. The world as kids know it has been thoroughly upended and they are justifiably anxious, whether they show it or not. It’s up to the adults in the room to get them to open up about those feelings so that they can be addressed. Doing so takes finesse, curiosity, and a very light touch.

“Our job as parents isn’t to provide certainty in a time of uncertainty. Our job is to help kids tolerate the uncertainty,” explains Dr. Jerry Bubrick, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute.


Kids aren’t stupid. Nor are they obtuse. They hear you discussing the increasingly dire COVID-19 news, they see headlines on your social media feed, and they understand that to a large extent, the stuff they once enjoyed doing is no longer in play. Playing epidemiologist isn’t going to work. Kids don’t need specific answers, they need broader certitude that they are loved and will be taken care of — certitude that makes the ambiguity of the moment manageable.

“We want to teach them how to tolerate not knowing. You should let them explain how they’re feeling and why, and you can help them validate those feeling by saying things like, ‘I have similar worries. Let’s brainstorm ideas on how we can make things better.’ Instead of just giving answers, you want to have a conversation and compare notes,” says Bubrick.

Getting kids, regardless of age, involved in problem-solving makes them feel empowered and like they’re part of the solution. But as Bubrick points out, if you ask vague questions, you’ll get vague answers, including the dreaded “I’m fine” (the quintessential conversational dead end). Bubrick’s advice is to lead with curiosity and ask open-ended yet specific questions:

  • What did you learn about today?
  • What is something interesting or funny you heard about today?
  • What was the most fun thing you did today?
  • What are you most looking forward to tomorrow?
  • What was the toughest part of your day today?
  • What was something you didn’t like about your day?
  • What got in the way today of you having a fun day?
  • What can we do together to make it better?
  • I read something interesting today and wanted to know if you had a reaction to it?

As with most things in life, timing is everything.

“Bedtime is not the right time. Kids are starting to wind down for the day. Anxious kids have more worries at night. Don’t lead them down the path of more worry. And don’t talk to them about this when they first wake up. Find a time, a neutral time, when there hasn’t been a big argument. Look for a calm moment,” says Bubrick.

He suggests having laid-back discussions either during dinner, or while taking a family walk. And he relies on a simple yet clever approach that gets people to open up.

“With my kids, I suggest a game: Like a rose. It’s an icebreaker and it’s our thing. You start and model the game. There are three components to the rose. The petal: ‘Tell me something you liked about today.’ The thorn: ‘Tell me something you didn’t like.’ The bud: ‘Tell me something you’re looking forward to in the future.’ You have to model it to get a response.”

If your children aren’t able to articulate how they’re feeling, use a feelings chart and work your way from there. Some 5-year-olds can explain, with total clarity, what upended their emotions and why. Some teens, meanwhile, can barely manage a two-word response and won’t dig deeper without gentle prodding. You want to have children be as specific as possible about what exactly they’re feeling.

“If you can name it, you can tame it,” says Bubrick.

His final note is just as applicable to kids as to their adult minders. Don’t spin out. Don’t catastrophize. And remind kids that no, their friends aren’t having secret sleepovers or hitting the playground. We’re all stuck at home together.

“We want to help kids stay in the moment. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the unknown. All we know is what’s happening to us right now. We have each other. We’re connected to our friends. Let’s focus on that. We’ll deal with tomorrow, tomorrow,” he says.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This corpsman’s sea story starts with a ‘Hello Kitty’ tattoo

Navy Corpsman Victoria Lord endured a difficult childhood in foster care before finding a home in the military. Deployed on a hospital ship during the Iraq War, Lord was profoundly moved and inspired by the strength and sacrifices of her fellow sailors.


One of Lord’s favorite tattoos is Hello Kitty wearing Navy Dress Blues.

“She kinda represents me,” explains Lord, “I put her in Blues for the Navy because they taught me so much about family.”

Lord’s story is part of a video series presented by We Are The Mighty. War Ink: 11 for 11 features 11 combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan using tattoos to tell their stories on and off the battlefield. Each week for the next 11 weeks, a different tattooed veteran will share his or her story.

Do you have a tattoo that tells the story of your war experiences? Post a photo of it at We Are The Mighty’s Facebook page with the hashtag #WeAreTheMightyInk. WATM will be teeing up the coolest and most intense ones through Veteran’s Day.

Video Credit: Rebecca Murga and Karen Kraft

Articles

A Marine is getting closer to becoming the first female infantry officer

A female officer has neared the halfway mark of the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course – further than previous women have progressed.


According to a report in the Marine Corps Times, the unidentified officer has roughly eight weeks left. Two female Marine officers have graduated the Army artillery course, and one had graduated the Army’s armor course. As many as 248 women are in ground combat units that were once restricted to men only as of July 19, 2017.

A student with Infantry Officer Course speaks to role-players at Range 220, the Combat Center’s largest military operations on urbanized terrain facility, Sept. 22, 2016, as part of Exercise Talon Reach. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Eric Clayton/Released)

“These are successes that never seem to get out in the press,” Gen. Glenn Walters, the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps said during a media roundtable.

The event also touched on what the Marine Corps Times report described as measures to “eliminate attitudes” that lead to the investigation of a Facebook group known as Marines United.

The last woman to attend the course was dropped after 12 days for failing to complete two conditioning hikes. The Washington Post reported 29 women had tried and failed to complete the very difficult course.

2nd Lt. Anthony Pandolfi, student, Infantry Officers Course 2-15, posts security after entering Range 220 during exercise Talon Reach V aboard the Combat Center, March 25, 2015. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Thomas Mudd/Released)

The opening of direct ground combat roles to women was announced in 2012, but the effort turned controversial in 2015 when then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus criticized a Marine Corps study that showed that 69 percent of the tasks were performed more efficiently by all-male units.

That lead to a dust-up with Sgt. Maj. Justin Lehew, who received the Navy Cross for heroism during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

No women have yet entered Marine Special Operations Command’s combat elements, but some are in support units. The first woman to try to complete SEAL training as an officer dropped out after a week, according to a report by DailyWire.com, which noted another female sailor is training to be a Special Warfare Combatant Craft crewman.