The Republican majority on the House Veterans Affairs Committee pushed through a voice vote Wednesday to subpoena documents from the Department of Veterans Affairs on millions spent for artworks at VA facilities and huge cost overruns at a Denver-area hospital.
“It’s unfortunate that the VA’s continuing lack of transparency has led us to this decision” to move for the subpoenas, said Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican and the committee chairman.
“I am confident we are not receiving the whole picture from the department” on spending for art and ornamental furnishings, including $6.4 million at Palo Alto, California, facilities.
The committee also wants specifics on the costs for a new Aurora, Colorado, facility that ballooned to $1.7 billion, nearly three times the original estimate.
Rep. Mark Takano, a California Democrat and the ranking committee member, argued that the VA was already working to provide answers and warned that the subpoenas could expose whistleblowers. “Now you will be outing employees who were honest with investigators” on the artworks and the spending on the Aurora facility, Takano said.
In June, Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said, “We got a lot of things wrong” with construction of the Aurora facility, but releasing an internal VA investigation would be counterproductive.
“You end up chilling the whole investigative process,” Gibson said in a news conference at the construction site.
The subpoenas ask for all information on VA art and ornamental furniture purchases since 2010. The VA’s response in the inquiry thus far has been “wholly incomplete,” Miller charged.
“We will not accept VA trying to pull the wool over the eyes of this committee and the American people for poor decision-making and waste of funds made on the part of the department,” Miller said.
“VA claims to have spent approximately $4.7 million on art nationwide from January 2010 to July 2016, yet the committee has already substantiated over $6.4 million spent during this period in the Palo Alto health care system alone,” he said.
Miller again singled out artworks at the Palo Alto Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center, described by the VA as one of five facilities nationwide designed to provide intensive rehabilitative care to veterans and service members with severe injuries to more than one organ system. Miller made similar complaints about Palo Alto nearly a year ago in a House floor speech.
Miller took issue with “Harbor,” a huge rock sculpture in a pool that its designers said was intended to evoke “a sense of transformation, rebuilding and self-investigation.”
When installation was included, it cost nearly $1 million “to put the rock up,” Miller told the committee.
Miller also complained about an artwork called “Horizon” on the walls of the Palo Alto facility’s parking garage.
“Horizon” spells out in Morse code the “With malice toward none …” quote from President Abraham Lincoln’s famous Second Inaugural address and a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, which says in part, “You must do the things you think you cannot do.”
One of the struggles that many returning, wounded veterans face is trying to find a new normal after a horrific incident. What was once a simple pastime, like playing a quick round of your favorite video game to relieve stress, is taken away from someone who has lost the ability to hold and operate a controller as they once did.
This is what Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller is designed to alleviate. And any little thing that can help give our wounded brothers and sisters a better chance at living a comfortable, normal life should definitely be counted as a win for the veteran community as a whole.
AbleGamers has founded many Accessibility Arcades to give gamers with disabilities a space with a wide variety of modified controllers.
(USDA photo by Bob Nichols)
The disabled gaming community has had to find ways to compensate for many years, going to either extremely costly or very frustrating lengths to do so. If a gamer with disabilities isn’t able to successfully adjust the way they play to fit their condition, they have to abandon the game, wasting cash and taking a hit to morale as they have to say goodbye to their favorite titles.
And then came the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, which requires tech companies to outfit all forms of communication, including laptops, smartphones, and video game consoles, with accommodations in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Since the CCVAA’s passing, nearly all tech giants have taken steps in the right direction, introducing many text-to-speech features for the visually impaired and other accessibility options, like color-blind support settings in most major game titles. Then, Microsoft moved leaps and bounds ahead of the wave when they announced a partnership with AbleGamers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving accessibility in the video game space.
The engineers at Microsoft began working on a versatile prototype controller that can interface with all types of external input devices, allowing for an adaptive remapping of inputs. There are 19 ports on the back of the controller that can be connected to joysticks, standard controllers, buttons, switches, or whatever other type of device is most accessible to the gamer. If need be, any Xbox game can be played with one hand and a foot, one hand and a shoulder, one shoulder and a foot — whatever allows the gamer to play most comfortably.
The controller has been released to the public — and at a reasonable price. Our friends at Operation Supply Drop were given many adaptive controllers to be deployed to military hospitals around the world. The chief medical officer of OSD, Maj. Erik Johnson, has long been a supporter of using video games as a therapeutic tool for wounded troops.
With these controllers, many more wounded veterans will be able to bring gaming back into their lives.
Army Reserve soldiers of American Samoa will soon train at the first indoor rifle range in the Army Reserve, a Modular Small Arms Range scheduled for a grand opening the end of April 2019.
“The sons and daughters of American Samoa serving in the Armed Forces will have the single best indoor training facility in the Army,” Brigadier Gen. Douglas Anderson, 9th Mission Support Command Commanding General, said. “We are providing our soldiers in American Samoa state of the art training facilities and the ability to conduct training at home, keeping these citizen soldiers with their families and employers to the maximum extent possible.”
Prior to this construction, soldiers of the region flew to Hawaii to conduct their regular required training. Now with the training site locally based, soldiers will be able to complete their annual requirements without having to leave home to do so.
“We need to train our soldiers to be ready so that when they are called to go in harms’ way they can meet the challenge but also defeat the enemy,” Jon Lee, 9th MSC civilian executive officer, said. “They are all serving our country to protect our freedoms. So we are giving them the newest and best to train and succeed.”
(U.S. Army photo)
“We have a commitment to the community to build the soldiers’ readiness so they can be ready at their home station which lessens their time away from their families,” Lee said.
Lee, a retired general officer and former 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment commander, his first unit was the American Samoa-based 100th Battalion, B Co., in 1984. Years later he deployed with American Samoan soldiers in 2004 to Operation Iraqi Freedom and recalled what the soldiers previously endured in order to train for said deployment.
“The first time the 100th Battalion was mobilized to go to Iraq, the soldiers of American Samoa spent almost 9 months to train and get certified,” he recalled. “So that’s almost two years they were away from home. It shouldn’t be that way.”
“The Army is committed to the training and readiness, for the people of American Samoa who have sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, wives, husbands who serve, and we are bringing in a State of the Art facility, the first of its kind for their sons and daughters,” Lee said. “We are bringing them the best of the best so that they can maximize to train in their local area.”
“We now have a greater chance to focus on the mission and training instead of spending a whole day at the shooting range,” Staff Sgt. Faiupu Tagaleo’o, unit supply sergeant for Theater Support Group- Pacific, American Samoa. “Now we don’t have to travel 5,000 miles or 10,000 miles to qualify with weapons. We can do it right here at home.”
Other Army Reserve soldiers of American Samoa expressed similar sentiments.
(U.S. Army photo)
“I support the building of MSAR because I won’t have to wait a whole year for Annual Training to shoot,” Sgt. K. Moetala, C. Co. 100th Battalion, 442nd Inf. Regt. said. “Also I get to train but I will be spending more time with my family.”
Furthermore, Lee stated, the MSAR is safe.
“It has zero escape for a round, 100 percent containment, from the ceiling to the walls to the ground,” he specified. “We issue ammo inside the building, with the doors closed and lock the building while firing. We take accountability of spent casings. We do accountability before we open the room again.”
The MSAR is also environmentally safe, with a filtration system so the fumes and gases released from the weapons are filtered. An additional benefit of the indoor facility, not only is it environmentally sound, but contains literal sound within from insulation.
“Noise abatement measures have been taken so that our community neighbors aren’t listening to the sounds of the rifle range during a training weekend,” said Anderson.
While maintaining U.S. Army Safety standards during use of the facility, the existence of the facility will also enable law enforcement and other security and protection entities such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard, access to train.
Through the duration of construction, 9th MSC has hosted three community town halls continuing the relationship with its neighbors.
“Thanks to the community for participating in the three community engagements that we’ve held,” Anderson said. “Safety is a priority for the Army Reserve and the Modular Small Arms Range is safe and we welcome any opportunity to show this.”
When I left the military, I thought I had to give up part of who I was. In a way, I did, but I also didn’t realize the importance and value of being a veteran. I thought that leaving the service was closing a chapter and simply starting the next thing – which at the time happened to be my new role as a mom and military spouse. I didn’t see my role of being a veteran carrying any weight. Of course, I knew I was a veteran from my six years of active-duty service, but I didn’t feel welcome enough in the veteran space to even find out what it meant to serve in that role.
Our focus often goes to our new roles. You raise your hand or stand up at various events or ceremonies thanking you for your service, and that is what you think being a veteran is. But being a veteran is not something you were; it is a part of who you are. And for a long time, you can miss out on the community that you are searching for, not knowing what you are looking for. It can feel like you gave up everything about who you were, and somehow because you are no longer in the military, your story and voice don’t matter.
But you are wrong. Not only does your voice matter, but it is also needed. Just like in the male-dominated military, your unique perspective as a woman and as a veteran is important for solving problems, making changes and leaving a legacy. That hasn’t changed because you took your uniform off.
Your story does matter, and you can make a difference for other veterans if you take the first step of getting involved. In the past five years, we have started to see a change in the veteran space. More women veterans are stepping up and using their voice as a powerful tool to not only bring to light the struggles women veterans face but bringing more females into the veteran community and helping to bring change.
These are a handful of the leading organizations making change for women veterans.
Women’s Veterans Interactive
Women’s Veterans Interactive (WVI), created by Ginger Miller, addresses the unique and often unrecognized challenges facing our nation’s two million women veterans as they return to civilian life. WVI focuses on meeting women veterans at their point of need while breaking down barriers leading to homelessness. WVI holds an annual conference focused on Leadership and Diversity in which they bring together women veterans with a wide variety of speakers and topics. The conference ends with an awards dinner recognizing women veterans for the work they do.
Service Women’s Action Network
Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) is the voice of all military women. They are committed to seeing that all servicewomen receive the opportunities, protections, benefits and respect they deserve. SWAN has three areas to guide them: support, connect and advocate. Support through a network of vetted resources, connect by bringing together military women and organizations across the country to amplify the voices of servicewomen and advocate for women by building a national reputation as a force behind the policy change.
Women in Military Service for America Memorial
Women in Military Service for America Memorial is the only major national memorial honoring all women who have defended America throughout history through exhibits, memorabilia and a cataloged history of the record of over 200,000 women veterans.
Women Veterans Alliance
Women Veterans Alliance (WVA) has the vision to connect over 2 million female veterans for the purpose of sharing our gifts, talents, resources and experiences. Founder Melissa A. Washington is a Navy Veteran who saw a need to bring women veterans to equip, empower and encourage each other. Each year their “Unconference” focuses on one-on-ones, self-care, specialized breakouts and more.
Women of the Military Podcast & The Female Veterans Podcast
Women of the Military Podcast is a place of empowerment and sharing the stories of military women’s past and present with the belief that all stories matter and need to be shared. The podcast allows women to share their stories, and it can bring healing and the ability to let go. So many military women never talk about their experience and feel so alone in their struggles. The podcast brings a dynamic range of stories and experiences to help women not feel so alone. And, if you are looking for more stories of military women, check out The Female Veterans Podcast.
These are just a handful of the many women veteran organizations that have been making an impact and bringing about change to the veteran space. But there is still more work to do. Women often get pulled so far away from the military community that they don’t even realize these resources are available to them. Our voices matter.
I now see why organizations like the Veteran of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion were so popular after the previous wars ended. There is something about serving in the military that changes you and builds a bond with people who may not look like you or believe what you do, but they are still your brothers and sisters in arms.
And we need that community.
What are your favorite veteran organizations focused on helping women veterans?
They aren’t the shoot-em-up kind of superheroes, but equally awesome in their own way.
1. Maj. Carol Danvers (Ms. Marvel)
Major Danvers is a trained military intelligence officer and erstwhile spy. She’s one of the most distinguished officers in the superhero universe, a graduate of the Air Force Academy, where Nick Fury recruited her for the CIA. Retiring from the Air Force as a Colonel to be Chief of Security at NASA before becoming half-Kree (a militaristic alien race in the Marvel Universe) and then becoming Captain Marvel after meeting a Kree alien named Mar-Vell, but she acquired superpowers after an explosion merged her DNA with the first Captain Marvel… well, it’s complicated. She is an author and feminist and her powers include flight, enhanced strength and durability, shooing energy bursts from her hands, and being able to verbally judo one Tony Stark.
2. Capt. Hal Jordan (Green Lantern)
He was an elite pilot who joined the Air Force on his 18th birthday and immediately became a test pilot (it doesn’t have to be realistic, it’s a comic, ok?) before joining the Green Lantern Corps. He was also a hot shot fighter pilot who fought aliens as well as North Koreans. He was kicked out after decking his superior officer, who wouldn’t let him take leave.
3. Sam Wilson (Falcon)
Falcon is actually an enlisted airman, not an officer. He’s a former Air Force Pararescue Jumper (PJ), which makes him a great candidate for the superhero’s tendency to jump into the middle of a combat situation to ice evildoers and save lives. Not content with all that, he also counsels veterans with post-traumatic stress issues in his free time.
4. Ben Grimm (The Thing)
Another Air Force test pilot (those guys are pretty ballsy, so it makes sense to turn them into superheroes), Grimm was also a Marine and an astronaut, which is how he became the Thing in the first place. For all the clobberin’ and poor use of the English language depicted in the films, Grimm is clearly the superhero with the most book learnin’ and the most distinguished military career. Ben Grimm’s rock skin gives him super strength, durability, and resistance to extreme temperatures.
5. Lt. Col. James Rhodes (War Machine)
What better Air Force job could there be than to be the USAF Liaison to Genius, Billionaire, Playboy, Philanthropist — and your best friend, Tony Stark. That job is so awesome, it led to him being the only other person on Earth who gets to pilot a suit of armor on the level of Iron Man’s.
6. Travis Morgan (Warlord)
Flying a recon mission over the North Pole led to a plane malfunction and an ejection over what should have been Northern Canada. when Morgan touched down, he found himself in the land of Skartaris, a barbarian world in another dimension, hidden inside the Earth’s core. He defeated an evil magician attempting to conquer Skartaris and became Warlord. He was able to return to Earth on occasion, which makes all of this sound like a deployment to Afghanistan.
Mohammed bin Salman’s elevation to crown prince of Saudi Arabia in 2017 set the stage for him to pursue aggressive policies that included confrontations with many rivals around the region.
But changes to the royal line of succession and decisions by the 32-year-old crown prince at home and abroad have undermined the kingdom’s longstanding stability and left him in doubt about his own safety, according to Bruce Riedel, the director of the Brookings Institution’s Intelligence Project.
Prince Mohammed is reportedly aware of the growing enmity.
“Fearing for his security, the crown prince is said to spend many nights on his half-billion-dollar yacht moored in Jeddah,” Riedel wrote for Al-Monitor, where he is a columnist.
Prince Mohammed reportedly dropped a half-billion dollars on the 440-foot-long yacht, named Serene, in late 2016 after spotting it while vacationing in the south of France.
He bought it from a Russian billionaire who moved out the day the deal was signed, and the vessel includes two helipads, an indoor climbing wall, a fully equipped spa, and three swimming pools.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud.
(DoD photo by Glenn Fawcett)
But Prince Mohammed bought it as he helped push severe austerity at home, including major spending cuts and a freeze on government contracts. Such spending is often used to quell dissent.
“It’s a floating palace longer than a football field and with many perks,” Riedel wrote of the yacht. “It is also a potential escape hatch.”
‘A foolish and dangerous approach’
The main foreign-policy issues that have raised ire toward Prince Mohammed are the now four-year-old war in Yemen — his signature initiative — and the blockade of Qatar.
Criticism of Prince Mohammed’s bloody and disastrous war in Yemen, which has subjected many Yemenis to famine and disease, has been brewing inside Saudi Arabia for months, according to Riedel.
A video of Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz — the half-brother of King Salman, the father of Prince Mohammed — publicly blaming Prince Mohammed for the war went viral in the kingdom in September 2018.
Saudi Arabia’s turn on Qatar reportedly came as a surprise to many US officials, frustrating them even as US President Donald Trump castigated the Qataris. The blockade has been unwelcome within Saudi Arabia — one cleric has been arrested and faces execution for criticizing it — and has split the Gulf Cooperation Council, Riedel wrote.
Prince Mohammed’s roundup of powerful business executives and members of the royal family in 2017 may have been his biggest domestic miscalculation. It spooked investors and led to capital flight, diminishing confidence in Prince Mohammed’s ability to manage economic issues.
President Donald Trump meets with Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, and members of his delegation, March 14, 2017.
(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
Among the dozens of businessmen and princes who were arrested was Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, the leader of the Saudi national guard, the kingdom’s premier fighting force, which, along with the campaign in Yemen, may further alienate Prince Mohammed from the military.
The removal of Prince Mutaib was seen as likely to stir discontent, and Salman’s moves, particularly the roundup, have fed the impression inside the kingdom of Salman “as someone who has disturbed the status quo for the sake of massive personal enrichment and political aggrandizement,” according to Rosie Bsheer, a history professor at Yale.
Salman remains the most likely heir as long as his father is alive, but his actions have helped make the kingdom the least stable it has been in 50 years, according to Riedel. Should King Salman, now 81, die in the near future, succession could be disputed, and the process to appoint the next king could turn violent.
“The Trump administration has given Saudi Arabia a blank check and supports its war in Yemen,” Riedel wrote. “The crown prince has been touted by the White House. It’s a foolish and dangerous approach.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Marine Corps is most famous for stripping away one’s individuality at boot camp and spitting recruits out 13 weeks later as Marines, formed into bands of brothers (and sisters).
But those bonds were tested when some of its strongest, toughest competitors battled one other in the second-annual High-Intensity Tactical Training Tactical Athlete Championship. When the dust settled after the fourth day of competition, the top male and female Marines were crowned “Ultimate Tactical Athlete.”
Sgt. Calie Jacobsen chewed up the final obstacle course event and took the top prize among 13 women who competed along 19 men to vie for bragging rights in the Aug. 15-18 service-wide competition at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego, California.
Jacobsen, 23, a nondestructive inspection technician at Miramar, spent eight weeks preparing for the championship and held the lead going into the final event, the obstacle course. The other women wouldn’t make that easy, but it was her strongest event. “I wasn’t planning on winning. I just wanted to go out there and do good,” she said. “The females definitely were at a higher level than I was expecting to see.”
Jacobsen and the male winner, Cpl. Ethan Mawhinney, each received a championship belt and 53-pound kettle bell.
Mawhinney, a 22-year-old from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, beat 18 other male Marines in his second shot at the service championship. He placed sixth last year in the inaugural contest. “I trained a lot harder for the prelims this year,” said the Marine air-ground task force planner from Camp Allen, Virginia. Winning “was surreal. I had left last year really hoping to take the title.”
HITT is like CrossFit, but for and by Marines. That means using brute strength, endurance and determination to survive tactical battles against fellow Marines on the athletic field, in the water and on the paintball battlefield.
“Competition was tough,” said Lance Cpl. Isaac Namowicz, an admin clerk with Marine Security Guard headquarters and this year’s Quantico Marine Corps Base, Virginia, HITT champ. “There’s a lot of passion.”
Marines traded tips and even encouraged each other during the championship, but each had a mission: Win. “You’re a brother, but at the same time, you are trying to beat everyone,” Mawhinney admitted. That included the male 2015 Ultimate Tactical Athlete, Cpl. Joshua Boozer.
Boozer, ammo tech with 1st Tank Battalion at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., was champ this year at his home base but met his match at Miramar.
“It’s not easy competition,” he said, catching his breath after enduring the “500 Yard Power Shuffle” where competitors did nearly a dozen events including tire flips, box jumps, dummy carry, weighted sled pull and push and a variety of weight lifts — on a sweltering athletic field. It was the longest event, time-wise.
The Marine Corps organized its first HITT competition last year, held at Twentynine Palms. Like last year, Marines learned events’ details at the start of the competition, so they didn’t really know what they’d face.
Ryan Massimo, the Corps’ HITT program manager and event coordinator, said the intent is to include some base-specific events – this year’s “Maneuver Under Fire” took place at Miramar’s paintball park – with physical challenges that reflect the strength and conditioning program. Last year, the run up and down the desert base’s hills while lugging heavy items made “sugar cookies” of a weakened competitor.
This year’s championship included a timed water event, the “Amphibious Tactical Challenge.” Competitors in boots and utes swam multiple laps bearing their pack and rubber rifle, and then they traversed the pool, diving and ducking with a pack under markers before cranking out 10 (men) or 5 (women) pushups wearing the pack. “It did definitely throw a curve ball for some people,” Mawhinney said.
Namowicz said he struggled in the pool.
“I was not expecting all that weight. It felt like cinder blocks,” he said. “My upper body was getting tired.”
At times, he’d talk to himself as he pushed weighted sleds or carried 35-pound ammo cans and 120-pound dummies in the sweltering heat. “I just kept saying, ‘Finish this.’ You have people in the stands pushing you, and it just keeps you motivated,” he said. “You just want to be done.”
Jacobsen hadn’t real plans to become competitive until the Miramar HITT Center coordinator encouraged her to the local HITT combine challenge. “I didn’t know how big it was, that it was Marine Corps-wide,” said the Nebraska native. “We just went in unassuming.”
And she finished first among the women, getting the ticket to compete against other installation winners for the championship.
She’s a HITT convert. The isolation workout she previously did for weightlifting “isn’t applicable to everyday life,” she said. Interval training demands endurance and strength and “is a lot more applicable to everyday life. That’s definitely changed my mindset.”
Thin crowds watched this year’s competition, but Jacobsen said she was glad to see her station commander and sergeant major on the sidelines. “It’s an awesome event, and it needs to be more widely broadcast,” she said.
It’s certainly not as well-known as the military’s most famous tactical-physical competition, the “Best Ranger.”
The 60-hour event at Fort Benning, Georgia, pits Army Rangers against each other in two-man teams to test their skills, including land navigation, small-arms firing, obstacles and, in true Ranger style, parachuting.
Not to be outdone, Marines run the less-known but still grueling and gung-ho “Recon Challenge” at Camp Pendleton, California. After a predawn swim in the Pacific, two-man Marine Recon and Marine Raider (and Navy recon corpsmen) teams run in boots-and-utes with rucksack and weapon, enduring a nonstop series of grueling events in the pool, on the range and along Pendleton’s roller-coaster scrubby hills.
A close parallel to the HITT championship may be the Army’s “Best Warrior” competition, a four-day contest where soldiers complete tactical challenges, written exams and fitness events in more battlefield-like environments. The top 10 soldiers and 10 noncommissioned officers who’ve bested their local competitors will vie for the title at this year’s contest, to be held Sept. 26-Oct. 3 at Fort A.P. Hill, Virgina. The Army National Guard held its own contest on June 22 at Joint Base Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Events included a 14-mile ruck march.
The Air Force’s 1st Air Support Operations Group put airmen through grueling individual challenges and 22 events over a week in July for “Cascade Challenge 2016.”
The contest, held at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska this year included navigating the wild Alaskan forests with body armor and 50-pound rucksack.
The Navy takes a different tack in sailor competition. Its surface fleet of destroyer, cruiser and frigate crews each year showcase their athletic and professional naval skills during “Surface Line Week.” Sailors went toe-to-toe in firefighting drills, valve packing, welding, small-arms shooting, sailing and stretcher-bearer races. Team events include dodgeball and soccer, so fun is the operative word.
The problem the Japanese had in Burma during World War II wasn’t just dense jungle and rough terrain. It wasn’t even just that they were fighting the British Empire’s best – the Gurkhas.
No, their main problem is that they were fighting in the Gurkhas’ backyard. They were in Bhanbhagta Gurung’s backyard.
In February 1945, the 2nd Gurkha Rifles was part of a greater offensive in Burma, one that sought to retake Mandalay. The elite Nepalese warriors were to fight the enemy in diversion tactics, drawing attention away from their Army’s main objective. The Gurkhas held two positions — known as Snowdon and Snowdon East. One night, the Japanese stormed Snowdon East in full force, killing many of its defenders and pushing the rest out.
By the next day, it was heavily fortified.
The Gurkhas were ordered to take it back, no matter how many men it cost them.
As they approached, the Nepalese warriors started taking intense fire from snipers, mortars, grenades, and machine guns. They were sitting ducks, and there was nothing they could do about it. Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung stood up in the melee – fully exposed – and calmly just shot the sniper with his service rifle.
The 2nd Rifles began to advance again but were stopped 20 yards short of Snowdon East by murderous fire. Some of his fellow riflemen were killed before the attack could even begin. That’s when Gurung sprinted into action. This time, he literally sprinted.
Acting alone, he rushed four foxholes, dodging gunfire at point-blank range. When he came to the first, he just dropped in two grenades as he rushed to the next enemy position. When he got to the second foxhole, he jumped in and bayoneted its Japanese defenders. He did the same rushing move on the next two foxholes.
This entire time, he was dodging bullets from a Japanese light machine gun in a bunker. The gun was still spitting bullets, holding up the advance of two platoons of Gurkha fighters. Gurung, despite realizing he was out of ammunition and frag grenades, rushed the bunker, and slipped in two smoke grenades.
When two partially-blinded defenders came out of the bunker, Gurung killed them with his kukri knife, the entered the bunker and gave the machine gunner the same fate.
A position that took dozens of Japanese infantry to storm and reinforce had fallen to one fleet-footed Gurkha and his kukri knife in a matter of minutes, saving the men of his platoon and another from storming the heavily-fortified position.
King George VI presented Bhanbhagta Gurung with the Victoria Cross at Buckingham Palace in October 1945. According to the Telegraph, Gurung left the service to take care of his widowed mother and wife in Nepal. His three sons also served in the 2nd Gurkha Rifles.
Honor guards are an important part of the pomp and circumstance surrounding official state events. Many guard units are mostly for show, serving only to drill perfectly and impress crowds.
But some honor guards are filled with active soldiers who continue to practice killing people when they aren’t all dressed up in tall hats and shiny breastplates. Here are 6 of them.
1. The Queen’s Guard (U.K.)
The Queen’s Guard is probably the most iconic ceremonial guard unit in the world, but the men outside Buckingham Palace aren’t just a tourist attraction.
They are real soldiers and are allowed to use violence to protect themselves, their post, and the Queen. Some tourists have learned this the unpleasant way.
2. The Swiss Guard (The Vatican)
Dating back to the 1400s, the Swiss Guard are the primary protective force for the Pope. When the guardsmen aren’t wearing their funny uniforms, they’re training to kill those who threaten the Holy Father. Skip to 2:13 in the video to see members of the Swiss Guard training with their assault rifles.
3. Old Guard (U.S.)
The 3rd Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army are the official honor guard of the President as well as the ceremonial guard for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. All members are active duty infantry soldiers who also deploy to combat and train for fights in the national capital.
(Note: The 3rd Infantry Regiment is the official honor guard for the president, but the president is much more commonly seen with the Marine Sentries, four Marines assigned to guard his person in the West Wing of the White House.)
Commanded by a colonel in the Italian Army, the Carazzieri Regiment performs ceremonial duties as the honor guard of the Italian president, but they’re also an active police force. During times of war, they can be organized under the Defense Ministry.
6. Presidential Guard (Fiji)
The Presidential Guard of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces is the honor guard of Fiji’s president. However, they are also in charge of the physical security of the president’s residence and nearby installations.
The sheer magnitude of traumatic brain injury in the military is enough to make anyone’s head hurt. Troops can get TBI from any number of actions. Everything carries a TBI risk, from routine training to combat operations, so it’s no surprise the injury is getting more attention in recent years. The U.S. military has counted the number of TBI cases suffered by its troops since 2000, and the numbers are sadly very big.
More than 383,000 American troops have suffered some form of TBI, either in daily operations or in a theater of combat. What is most startling about the numbers isn’t just how many, it’s how many people in each branch suffered such injuries. Soldiers of the U.S. Army are far more likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury.
While the numbers of overall penetrating and severe TBI are thankfully relatively low, mild injuries make up a bulk of the cases, even when the injuries are broken down by branch. And while “moderate” TBI may not seem as dire as the word “moderate” sounds, those with moderate brain injuries can find themselves with reduced mobility, motor function, and unable to speak effectively. A recent video highlighting caretakers of TBI veterans by AARP Studios and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation highlights just how hard life can be for a victim of moderate TBI.
Unfortunately, moderate brain injuries are the second largest number of injuries suffered by U.S. troops. But the real tragedy is how many TBI sufferers are in the U.S. Army.
Of the more than 383,000 troops that have suffered TBI since 2000, a staggering 225,144 of them have been in some component of the Army. Some 15.8 percent of that was National Guard troops, while 7.3 percent were Army Reserve. The rest, 76.9 percent, were active-duty troops. The numbers on what types of TBI mirror the numbers of all branches put together, with mild being the most widespread, followed by moderate, penetrating, and severe cases.
The rest of the branches hover between 52,000 and 54,000, the Marines have slightly more TBI reports, probably by nature of what they do. This data also reflects an update to the definitions of TBI, more information about the injuries, and subsequent reviews of existing Pentagon data.
With thousands of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in China and South Korea, and a rapidly growing number in Europe and the United States, the question is no longer if the coronavirus will have an effect on the global economy but rather whether it’ll be a small scratch or a giant crater.
Increasingly, the latter appears to be a distinct possibility. On Monday, analysts at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development predicted that a continued spread of the novel coronavirus would cut worldwide GDP growth fully in half.
This is a scary prospect for a lot of reasons, although the most immediate impact has been a hammering of 401(k)s and other investment accounts. Last week alone, the SP 500 took a nearly 12-percent hit as skittish investors ran for the exits. No doubt, many others are thinking about the same move.
That it’s a fool’s errand to time something as complex and unpredictable as the stock market is pretty much Retirement Planning 101. And yet there’s a basic human instinct to run for the nearest exit when danger looms. Surely, it’s better to jump before the ship sinks any further, right?
Well, no. The speed with which stocks plunged last week can lead one to conclude that the freefall is going to continue. But the fact is, no one knows whether that’s true or not. Stocks actually gained nearly five percent Monday on news that central bankers are ready to take serious counter-measures (although even that doesn’t mean the sell-off is over).
Certainly, emotions are going to run high when you open your online account and see a dramatically smaller balance than the one you glimpsed just a couple weeks earlier. Now, more than ever, it may be time to simply look away for a while. For long-term investors, in particular, it’s important to keep in mind that volatility is part of the game when it comes to stocks. The point is that, over periods of a decade or longer, the market has consistently rewarded patience.
You don’t have to look back very far to see what can happen when investors start hitting the panic button. As the housing market collapse started to expose some pretty egregious risk-taking from Wall Street banks in 2007, the stock market fell into its worst bear market in recent memory. In the span of 17 months, the SP 500 lost more than half its value, falling to 676.
But here’s the key point: those who kept buying during the downswing saw the biggest gains when things eventually turned around. Even after last week’s bloodbath, the index is now past the 3,000 mark.
Kevin Mahoney, CFP, of the Washington, DC-based financial planning firm Illumint says he’s telling his primarily Millennial-age clients to sit tight when it comes to their retirement accounts. “Whether this is the bottom or not, I’m not particularly concerned,” says Mahoney. “They’re keeping their money in for another 30 or 35 years.”
Indeed, this is the beauty of dollar-cost averaging, where you invest a fixed dollar amount from each paycheck, even when the financial news looks ugly. By continuing to buy when prices drop, you end up obtaining more shares with the same amount of cash. When the market eventually turns the corner, this steady-as-she-goes investing style ends up providing you with bigger gains.
For those who have money on the sidelines in, say, a savings account, this may actually be the perfect time to enter the market. Warren Buffett himself has used this contrarian approach to great effect, once declaring: “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.”
As long as people can tolerate a fair amount of volatility in the short term, Mahoney says the recent headlines shouldn’t cause would-be investors to lay low. “Stocks are now lower than in previous weeks, so if they need motivation to act on their savings, they can view this as a financial opportunity,” he says.
Things are a little trickier, of course, for couples who own brokerage accounts that they hoped to tap in the next few months for a new home or other big-ticket purchases. “These individuals may want to evaluate whether they can be flexible with the timing of their upcoming financial goal, such as funding a down payment,” says Mahoney. “If the market continues to struggle, they may be better off waiting and continuing to save.”
For anybody else, obsessing over the latest financial news isn’t going to do you any favors. Just ask the folks who exited the market the last time stocks took a nose-dive.
Often dubbed the “Second Pearl Harbor,” the West Loch disaster in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, saw six large landing ships explode, burn, and sink on May 21, 1944, after their cargoes of ammunition and fuel caught fire. The LSTs were moored in a large formation of 34 ships preparing to take part in the invasion of Saipan in the Marianas Islands. LSTs were designed to deliver 10 fully combat-ready tanks onto beaches during amphibious landings and could carry hundreds of tons of supplies.
At Pearl Harbor, the ships were carrying mostly fuel and ammunition, including mortar rounds from a failed test to employ LSTs and their smaller cousins, landing craft tanks, as mortar platforms to support beach assaults.
Soldiers were unloading mortar shells from LCT-963 and onto trucks on LST-353 on May 21 when a fireball suddenly erupted from LST-353.
The Navy was never able to identify a definite cause, but an accident with a cigarette or a mortar round going off and igniting the gasoline fumes have been advanced as probable causes.
Regardless of how the first fire started, its progress through LST-353 was fierce, and the rising heat triggered a second, larger explosion that filled nearby ships with hot shrapnel and spread flaming debris through the docking area.
The other ships, also filled with fuel, ammunition, and other supplies, began trying to get clear while rescue vehicles rushed in to try to save sailors, Marines, and soldiers and put out the flames.
The military also lost three LCTs, 17 tracked vehicles, and eight artillery pieces.
The Navy rallied after the incident, finding new ships and men to take over the mission. The LST fleet for the invasion of Saipan launched only one day late and made it to the Marianas quickly enough to invade on schedule on June 15, 1944.
A media blackout kept most of America from hearing about the incident until it was declassified in 1960. Even today, it remains relatively unknown.
President Donald Trump welcomed the arrival of the three Korean-Americans held captive in North Korea at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on the early morning of May 10, 2018, following weeks of speculation about their release.
Authorities released the three detainees — Kim Dong-chul, Kim Sang-duk, and Kim Hak-song — after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in North Korea and met with leader Kim Jong Un on May 8, 2018.
Walking out of their plane without assistance and onto the tarmac, the detainees appeared in good spirit and waved at a cheering crowd. On the ground, two firetrucks hoisted an enormous American flag, giving the impression of a major political victory for the US and Trump.
“We would like to express our deep appreciation to the United States government, President Trump, Secretary Pompeo, and the people of the United States for bringing us home,” the three said in a statement released by the State Department.
“We thank God, and all our families and friends who prayed for us and for our return. God Bless America, the greatest nation in the world,” the statement continued.
Trump called the former detainees “incredible people” and said their release “was a very important thing to all of us.”
“This is a special night for these three, really great people,” Trump said as he shook their hand. “And congratulations on being in this country.”
“It was nice letting them go before the meeting,” Trump continued. “Frankly, we didn’t think this was going to happen, and it did.”
Korean Central News Agency, North Korea’s state-run media outlet, said that Kim “accepted an official suggestion of the US president for the release” and granted “amnesty” to them.
The alleged crimes that landed them in custody in North Korea ranged from committing “hostile acts” to subvert the country and overthrow the government. Criminal charges in the North are typically exaggerated and disproportionate to the alleged offenses.
The three men were previously held in labor camps, with Kim Dong-chul being held captive the longest after his arrest in 2015.
“You should make care that they do not make the same mistakes again,” a North Korean official said to Pompeo. “This was a hard decision.”
Their return to US was a long time coming. Discussions between South and North Korean officials during the 2018 Winter Olympics earlier this year culminated in a historic summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un in April 2018 — the first such meeting between leaders of the North and South in more than a decade.
The mens’ release and Pompeo’s trip to North Korea, his second since April 2018, are seen as the latest signs of warming relations on the Korean Peninsula, and a prelude to the upcoming US-North Korea summit. After months of missile launches from the North and chest-beating from the US in 2017, Trump and Kim began to soften their rhetoric after the Winter Olympics.
“I appreciate Kim Jong Un doing this and allowing them to go,” Trump said to reporters after the release of the three captives.
Trump announced that the date and location of the US-North Korea summit had been set; however, did not reveal specifics other than that he ruled out the Demilitarized Zone as one of the options.
Still, the US president remains cautious: “Everything can be scuttled,” Trump said of his scheduled meeting with Kim.
“A lot of good things can happen, a lot of bad things can happen. I believe that we have — both sides want to negotiate a deal. I think it’s going to be a very successful deal.”
The release of the detainees may be a reason to celebrate, but it comes too late for some — in 2017, Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old American student, died shortly after his release from a North Korean prison.
After serving a year of his 15-year prison sentence for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster, Warmbier returned to the US in a comatose state. Unable to see and react to verbal commands, Warmbier succumbed to his condition and died.
Warmbier’s parents have since railed against the regime, despite it’s recent overtures of peace. Recently, the Warmbiers filed a wrongful death lawsuit against North Korea and alleged it tortured and killed Otto.
“I can’t let Otto die in vain,” Cindy Warmbier, Otto’s mother, said on May 8, 2018. “We’re not special, but we’re Americans and we know what freedom’s like, and we have to stand up for this.”
Upon the arrival of the former prisoners, Trump offered his condolences to the Warmbier family: “I want to pay my warmest respects to the parents of Otto Warmbier, who is a great young man who really suffered.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.