How to honor Vietnam veterans - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

How to honor Vietnam veterans

The following is an Op/Ed written by Ken Falke. The opinions expressed are his own.


There’s an important day of commemoration on March 29th — or in some U.S. States, March 30th — that goes unnoticed until the nightly evening news or a stumble on social media. This very special day is Vietnam Veterans Day, or in some states, “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.”

In 1974, President Nixon established this commemoration to recognize the contributions of the men and women who served during this unpopular war and tumultuous time in our history.

How to honor Vietnam veterans
Vietnam War memorial. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons | InSapphoWeTrust)

While many will rightly mark the day with speeches, tributes, and celebrations fitting for this great generation, there is a more meaningful way to honor our Vietnam veterans and all veterans. That honor is to provide them new and innovative ways to improve their mental wellness and reintegration into their communities.

Approximately 2.7 million young men and women served in Vietnam — about the same number that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since September 2001. While all serving since 9/11 volunteered, few realize that almost two-thirds of Vietnam veterans volunteered to serve as well.

Even though Vietnam was an unpopular war, 91 percent of Vietnam Veterans said they were glad they served in the war, and one-quarter said they would do it again. What these numbers show is the incredible commitment to service that our Vietnam-era veterans share with the post-9/11 veteran generation.

But there are disturbing similarities as well. The current veteran suicide rate of 20+ per day is well publicized; though that the average age of the veteran is 55 years old is less known. PTSD rates from both generations hover around 30 percent.

How to honor Vietnam veterans
An American Green Beret (right), and a South Vietnamese soldier assist wounded Vietnamese soldier to medivac helicopter following fighting near the Special Forces camp at Duc Phong, 40 miles north of Saigon, Sept. 9, 1969. South Vietnamese spokesmen said government casualties reached a two-month high 502 dead and 1,210 wounded. It was the highest casualty toll since the week ending June 14, which saw 516 dead and 1,424 wounded. (Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS by Shunsuke Akatsuka)

Additionally, Vietnam veterans struggled — and many still do — with the same challenges that today’s veterans face: PTSD, anxiety, drug, and alcohol dependency, and family and work stability. By a percentage comparison, of the 591 Vietnam prisoners of war (POWs) only 4 percent had symptoms of PTSD.

So why did POWs who experience what would be considered the most traumatic experiences seem to fare so well?

Many suggest the leadership of Admiral James Stockdale while a POW in the “Hanoi Hilton.” His leadership provided purpose, mission, and direction as a team to “return with honor.”

Often, the sense of purpose provided by leadership during transitions facilitates growth to occur. While the DOD, the VA, and other organizations work hard to care for our veterans, the element of leadership seems to be lost after service and veterans fall into a “no-man’s land” that lacks wellness, a clear mission, and renewed purpose.

Why have we made so little progress in mental wellness for our returning warriors?

Many experts, including the Journal of American Medical Association, suggest that our reactive approach to combat related stress such as PTSD doesn’t work. Indicators show that our current approach has made little progress since the Vietnam War, and some suggest since World War I.

How to honor Vietnam veterans
Understanding PTSD is critical military veterans and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay)

We are repeating minimally effective practices where veterans are offered medication, which largely attacks symptoms and leaves them as diminished versions of themselves, or talk-therapy provided by well-intended but often ill-equipped therapists, and cased in stigma.

Though the VA has announced plans to hire 1,000 additional mental health professionals, more therapists will not fix the inadequacies of the current approaches.

How can we do better?

First, expand public-private partnerships. The private sector and nonprofit organizations have developed new approaches to veteran wellness and reintegration that could be expanded. These approaches leverage training (which is compatible with military personnel and veteran culture) and new technology that could “triage” veterans and provide skills to facilitate Post-traumatic Growth before the need for medication or therapy.

Second, we need to recognize and address the stigma associated with therapy. While veterans — and civilians — can gain some benefit from talk-therapy and medication, one can only grow by learning the skills associated with growth. This requires a holistic training approach that veterans understand and allows them to thrive, not just survive.

Finally, innovation costs money. The President’s proposed budget has a 6 percent increase to the VA’s budget; much of it to focus on health care. While this is positive, we need to use new funds to create innovative solutions, not further outdated practices. While the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan continue and future threats remain, veteran mental health issues will likely worsen.

This March 29th and 30th we will stop to honor and welcome home our Vietnam veterans. While speeches, ceremonies, and commemorations will recognize their sacrifice, to truly honor their service — and the service of those that follow — we should facilitate growth and purposeful lives they truly deserve and welcomes them home.

Recognized as one of We Are The Mighty’s 25 veterans to watch in 2017Ken Falke is a 21-year service-disabled combat veteran of the U.S. Navy and retired Master Chief Petty Officer and is the CEO of organizational improvement solutions company Shoulder 2 Shoulder, Inc. He is also the founder and Chairman of Boulder Crest Retreat.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump’s leaked nuclear report suggests Russia has a doomsday device

President Donald Trump’s nuclear posture review, leaked to HuffPost this month, seems to show the U.S. believes Russia is building a dangerous new undersea nuclear weapon that critics say could cause widespread death and damage.


“Russia is developing and deploying new nuclear warheads and launchers,” the leaked review says, adding that these systems include “a new intercontinental, nuclear-armed, undersea autonomous torpedo.”

Printouts of plans for such a nuclear torpedo had been spotted in state TV footage of a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and military chiefs in November 2015.

What is Russia’s doomsday machine?

The footage showed plans for a submarine that could travel 6,200 miles at 100 knots underwater and detonate a megaton-class thermonuclear weapon to create “wide areas of radioactive contamination,” according to a BBC translation of the photographed document.

The submarine was designed to “destroy important economic installations of the enemy in coastal areas and cause guaranteed devastating damage to the country’s territory by creating wide areas of radioactive contamination, rendering them unusable for military, economic, or other activity for a long time,” the BBC reported.

Since then, many have disputed the notion that Russia would build such a system. But the leaked draft of Trump’s nuclear posture review indicates the U.S. government at its highest levels believes the torpedo, known as the “oceanic multi-purpose Status-6 system,” is real.

Also Read: This Navy plane is designed to Take Charge and Move Out on Doomsday

Jeffrey Lewis, a leading academic on nuclear matters, quickly gave the Status-6 a catchier name: “Putin’s doomsday machine.”

Not only could the weapon obliterate the area with potentially 100 times the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, but it could also leave behind long-lasting radioactive waste.

Lewis has described the weapon as “bat-sh*t” crazy and “absurd.” He previously told Business Insider that the idea was “deeply, deeply, deeply immoral” and that the U.S. never considers weapons like this for its nuclear arsenal.

For Russia, doomsday may be the point

How to honor Vietnam veterans
A Russian Tu-95 Bear ‘H’ photographed from a RAF Typhoon Quick Reaction Alert aircraft (QRA) with 6 Squadron from RAF Leuchars in Scotland. (Photo by Ministry of Defense)

When the plans for the Status-6 leaked in 2015, the Brookings Institution characterized their appearance on camera as deliberate messaging rather than sloppy work.

Nuclear weapons have been used exactly twice in combat — both times by the U.S., and both times dropped by a propeller aircraft over largely unprotected Japanese airspace at the close of World War II. No fancy intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines, or long-range bombers or cruise missiles have ever delivered a nuclear weapon fired in anger.

The real function of nuclear weapons today is political. Countries build them and bank on their deterrent effect, meaning they calculate that no one will attack a nuclear-armed nation.

For Russia, the Status-6 doomsday machine wouldn’t make much sense unless everybody knew about it.

As Russia has become increasingly aggressive in its foreign policy while maintaining a weaker military than the U.S.’s and NATO’s, it may have convinced itself it’s time to show its doomsday weapons.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump calls Putin out for chemical attack in Syria

After months of praise — calling him “smart”, congratulating his reelection, floating forming a “Cyber Security unit” — President Donald Trump finally called out Russian President Vladimir Putin by name on Twitter April 8, 2018, for the first time since taking office.

Trump placed part of the blame on Putin for the suspected chemical attack that killed at least 40 people in Douma, Syria on April 7, 2018. Putin’s government has backed Syrian government forces for years, while the US has sided with the opposition rebels.


“President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad,” Trump tweeted, referring to Russia’s support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “Big price … to pay.”

Ian Bremmer, president of geopolitical-risk firm Eurasia Group, said that if the US can get confirmation that chemical weapons were indeed used, Trump will probably order a strike like he did in April 2017 after the US concluded Assad’s regime was behind another chemical attack.

“I think he’s probably going to engage in strikes against Syria,” Bremmer told Business Insider on April 8, 2018. “He’s made very clear both then and now that he’s not going to tolerate use of chemical weapons by Assad’s regime.”

How to honor Vietnam veterans
Children are treated for suspected chemical gas poisoning in Douma, Syria on April 8, 2018.
(The White Helmets / Screenshot)

Lawmakers from both parties have encouraged Trump to make the call. Sen. John McCain of Arizona went so far as to say that Trump’s pledge to withdraw US troops from Syria “emboldened Assad.”

“Trump was quick to call out Assad, along with the Russian and Iranian governments, on Twitter. The question now is whether he will do anything about it,” McCain said in a statement. “The President responded decisively when Assad used chemical weapons in 2017. He should do so again, and demonstrate that Assad will pay a price for his war crimes.”

‘A defining moment’

Bremmer said Trump’s “strange” unwillingness to criticize Putin, and Russia in general, finally changed on April 8, 2018.

“None of us know why it is that Trump decided he was going to be so nice individually to Putin. It’s not like he cares about being nice to people,” Bremmer said. “Why was he being nice to Putin, and why is he suddenly shifting? Anyone that tells you they know the answer to that question is lying.”

The Trump administration is already imposing sanctions on Russian oligarchs and entities, and has expelled dozens of Russian diplomats. Bremmer said the US could decide to impose harsher sanctions on the country, conduct cyber attacks, or even release embarrassing information on Putin.

Former President Barack Obama didn’t escalate into this territory, Bremmer said, because Obama “recognized there was a potential for escalation that was quite dangerous.”

Trump also criticized Obama in a follow-up tweet on April 8, 2018, saying that his predecessor should have “Drawn A Red Line In The Sand.”

“There’s one thing we know is that Trump absolutely wants to show that he is the opposite of Obama,” Bremmer said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on ABC’s “This Week” that Trump has the opportunity to “reset the table” in Syria, and suggested bombing Assad’s air force and setting up so-called safe zones to achieve peace.

“If it becomes a tweet without meaning, then he has hurt himself in North Korea. If he doesn’t follow through and live up to that tweet, he’s going to look weak in the eyes of Russia and Iran,” Graham said. “So this is a defining moment, Mr. President. You need to follow through with that tweet. Show a resolve that Obama never did to get this right.”

What the international community plans to do about Assad

How to honor Vietnam veterans
A view of the missiles the US launched to strike a Syrian military infrastructure on April 7, 2017.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams)

“One of the few things that Trump has done in foreign policy that really the international community widely supported was the strikes that he engaged in April 2017,” Bremmer said.

The US, along with France, the UK and other nations called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting to be held on April 9, 2018, “in reference to the horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians in Syria,” UN Ambassador Nikki Haley tweeted April 8, 2018.

“This is becoming all too common,” Haley wrote. “Strong action is needed.”

The US could partner with France in the strike directly. Bremmer said French President Emmanuel Macron “recently put out his own red lines against Assad, saying that he would strike any base that lethal chemical attacks were launched from. He said he’d do it by himself.”

Bremmer said “given that Macron and Trump have both made those statements, I think strikes against Assad do make sense,” adding that the US would need to be careful not to hit Russian forces.

One potential downside is that Russia could execute more cyber attacks in response, Bremmer said, which could further deteriorate relations between the US and Russia.

“We’re not heading to a nuclear war with the Russians, but this is a dangerous period,” Bremmer said. “If the Americans engage in direct strikes against Assad given their direct support by the Russians and the Iranians — it is a dangerous thing to do, but I do think that it’s an appropriate thing to do in this environment.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch the Afghan National Army spit hot fire in this rap-recruiting video

The Afghan National Army is looking for a few good men.

You may have heard that the US is, once again, playing the “should I stay or should I go” game in Afghanistan, so the ANA has an urgent need to fill its ranks and beef up its forces — perhaps now more than ever.

Apparently, someone at the Afghan Ministry of Defense figured a good means of accomplishing that goal would be to produce this fire mix tape/rap/recruiting video to target a younger, hipper generation of would-be Afghan warriors.

If the production value is any indication of what nearly 20 years of American influence can accomplish, it’s safe to say the Afghan military has its work cut out for them going forward. To quote the folks at Funker 530, “This is the track you play when you really wanna show the Taliban how serious you are.” Enjoy.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US extends its Pacific Command to include India

On May 30, 2018, during a change-of-command ceremony for US Pacific Command, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced that the command will change its name to US Indo-Pacific Command to better reflect what he described as linkages and values in the region.

“Relationships with our Pacific and Indian Ocean allies and partners have proven critical to maintaining regional stability,” Mattis said in prepared remarks during the ceremony, which marked Adm. Phil Davidson’s assumption of command from Adm. Harry Harris, who will take over as US ambassador to South Korea.

“We stand by our partners and support their sovereign decisions, because all nations large and small are essential to the region if we’re to sustain stability in ocean areas critical to global peace,” Mattis added. “Further, in recognition of increasing stability [between] the Indian and Pacific Oceans, today we rename the US Pacific Command to US Indo-Pacific Command. Over many decades this command has repeated adapted to changing circumstance, and today carries that legacy forward as America focuses west.”

US Pacific Command has about 375,000 civilian and military personnel assigned to it. It covers more of the world than any of the five over geographic combatant commands and shares a border with each of its counterparts.

The renaming does not mean more resources will be assigned to the command, and Abraham Denmark, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia under President Barack Obama, said the change would be “ultimately a symbolic act” unless the US pursues more investment and initiatives in the region.


How to honor Vietnam veterans
The area of responsibility for US Pacific Command, now known as US Indo-Pacific Command.
(U.S. Defense Department)

The change is meant to underscore the US’s growing military relationship with India, with whom the US has worked to counter growing Chinese influence in the region.


Davidson, the incoming head of the command, said during his confirmation hearing in April 2018, that the US-India relationship “is potentially the most historic opportunity we have in the 21st century, and I intend to pursue that quite rigorously.”

The phrase “Indo-Pacific” is not new in US foreign-policy discussions, but it has been embraced by President Donald Trump as a way to dilute China’s primacy by expanding the conception of the region.

“I don’t think that’s just a ploy by the US and others. I think it’s a reflection of reality,” Rory Medcalf, the head of the national security college at Australian National University who has written about the term, told Politico in 2017.

Some countries in Asia have grown concerned about Trump, believing his stated policy goals could mean a reduced US presence in the region at a time when China is seeking to expand its influence. (Some have sought alternatives to partnering with the US for defense.)

How to honor Vietnam veterans
President Donald Trump

The US, for its part, has continued to try to counter Beijing. During his hearing in April 2018, Davidson told senators that China has a particular focus on undersea warfare and was “stealing [US] technology in just about every domain and trying to use it to their advantage.”

China has also used its One Belt, One Road initiative to grow its sway in Asia and across the Pacific, offering loans and financing for an array of infrastructure and other development programs. Beijing has been criticized for using those economic relationships to gain leverage over smaller countries.

US Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer said in March 2018, that China was “weaponizing capital” around the globe.

“Americans’ vision is shared by most nations in the region, where every state’s sovereignty is respected, no matter its size, and it’s a region open to investment in free, fair, and reciprocal trade not bound by any nation’s predatory economics or threat of coercion,” Mattis said May 30, 2018. “For the Indo-Pacific has many belts and many roads.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy to file homicide charges against commanders of ships involved in deadly collisions

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Navy says it is filing negligent homicide charges against the commanders of two ships involved in fatal collisions last year.


The charges are to be presented at what the military calls an Article 32 hearing, which will determine whether the accused are court-martialed.

The actions, including charges against several lower-ranking officers, were announced Tuesday by the Navy’s chief spokesman, Capt. Greg Hicks.

Hicks says the decision to file charges was made by Adm. Frank Caldwell, head of the Navy’s nuclear reactors program, who reviewed evidence of what caused the collisions. The USS Fitzgerald collided with a commercial ship in waters off Japan in June, killing seven sailors.

Ten sailors were killed when the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in Southeast Asia in August.

Articles

Here’s who Trump may pick to lead the Pentagon’s nearly 3 million military and civilian personnel

Now that Donald Trump is set to become the 45th President of the United States, everyone is wondering what his potential cabinet will look like.


Perhaps most consequential is who he picks for Secretary of Defense — a civilian leadership position at the Pentagon in charge of roughly 3 million military and civilian personnel.

Also read: 6 weapons systems that are likely to gain from a Donald Trump win

Here’s who it could be, according to reporting from Politico and The Hill:

Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn (Ret.)

How to honor Vietnam veterans
Lt Gen. Michael Flynn addresses an audience during a change of directorship ceremony at the Defense Intelligence Agency. | US Department of Defense photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

A reliable Trump surrogate on the campaign trail, Flynn is seen as a likely choice for the top spot at the Pentagon. He previously served as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency,retiring in 2014 after 33 years in uniform. Flynn was a career military intelligence officer who served during the Cold War, Operations Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom, and others.

“He’s about leading from the front. He’s about taking the hard jobs. He’s about driving change,” Adm. Michael Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, said of him in 2014. “He’s always about the men and women around him.”

There’s just one problem for Flynn, however. Since he’s only been out of uniform for two years, he’d require a waiver from Congress to serve as Defense Secretary, since the law requires a seven year gap for military officers who want to serve as the Pentagon’s civilian leader. He could still serve in some other spot, such as national security advisor.

Former Secretary of State and retired four-star Gen. Colin Powell is not a fan, however. In leaked personal emails reported by BuzzFeed News, Powell described Flynn as “abusive with staff, didn’t listen, worked against policy” and called him “right-wing nutty.”

Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)

How to honor Vietnam veterans
Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions tours a sensor station inside of a P-3C Orion aircraft. | U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 3rd Class Stephen P. Weaver

Another name being floated is Jeff Sessions, a Republican senator who has been in office since 1996. He supported the 2003 Iraq War and opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the lifting of the ban on women serving in combat roles, foreshadowing major policy reversals he could potentially implement as Defense Secretary.

Sessions has personal military experience, having served as a Captain in the US Army Reserve for 13 years. He currently sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee and has been advising Trump on national security since March. “He would obviously be a very strong fit” for Defense Secretary, said Joe Kasper, the chief of staff for Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.).

Stephen Hadley

How to honor Vietnam veterans
Former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley chats with Homeland Security Adviser Lisa Monaco and CENTCOM Commander Army General Lloyd Austin in January, 2015 | State Department photo

President George W. Bush’s former national security advisor may reprise that role in a Trump administration, or be tapped to lead the Pentagon as Defense Secretary.

Right now he chairs the United States Institute of Peace, a federally-funded think tank that promotes conflict resolution around the world. He’s also a principal of RiceHadleyGates LLC, a consulting firm he founded with former national security advisor Condoleeza Rice, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Anja Manuel, a former State Department official.

Hadley is a controversial figure. The false allegation that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger prior to the invasion made its way into President Bush’s State of the Union speech in 2003, which Hadley later apologized for.

He also sits on the board of defense contractor Raytheon, a potential conflict-of-interest he’d have to remedy should he be tapped by Trump.

He’s been hawkish on Iraq and Iran. He’s also been skeptical of Russian military moves and was critical of the Obama administration’s “Russian reset.” He has also acknowledged the national security implications of climate change.

Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.)

How to honor Vietnam veterans
Senator Jim Talent (center) of Missouri with the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Sea-power in 2003. | U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Johnny Bivera

Last but not least is former Sen. Jim Talent. Talent served in the Senate for much of the Bush administration, finally losing to Sen. Claire McCaskill in 2006. He currently serves on the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a group created by Congress that examines the US-China relationship and prepares an annual report on its national security implications.

Like Hadley, Talent is also an Iraq War hawk. Though he wasn’t in Congress for the 2002 vote to go to war, he said in 2006 that he still would have invaded Iraq even with the knowledge there were no weapons of mass destruction.

He wants to enlarge the size of the Army, and opposes the release of detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He has been critical of Trump’s approach to NATO — setting conditions to automatic defense of NATO countries — writing that such a move could isolate America from its allies.

What they face

How to honor Vietnam veterans
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl Codey Underwood

Whoever gets picked, the next Defense Secretary will face myriad challenges, from the ongoing fight against ISIS and China’s moves in the South China Sea to the ongoing stress on the military imposed by sequestration.

A number of defense secretaries who served under Obama have criticized him for “micromanagement.” Trump, it appears, seems to be more of a delegator who will let the Pentagon chief take the reins of the military.

“He will empower his SecDef to lead the way,” Kasper said.

The next Defense Secretary may also end up dealing with a nuclear-armed North Korea, and Russia is very likely to test the limits of the next President in eastern Europe. He or she also needs to reinvigorate a military plagued by low morale.

Trump will also make appointments for many other positions in the Pentagon and the military services, such as service secretaries, policy undersecretaries, and advisors. Those spots may be filled from his list of retired military officers or outsiders. The current leadership at the Pentagon is already preparing for that transition.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

A number of U.S. troops with unexplained symptoms such as impaired concentration, anger, irritability and impulsivity, as well as physical problems such as high blood pressure, peripheral neuropathy and low sex drive, have chronic lead poisoning, according to a report Wednesday in The New York Times Magazine’s At War Blog.

Thirty-eight troops — mostly from Special Forces units — have gone to Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York for a special test that measures the level of lead in one’s tibia bone. Of those, a dozen registered bone lead levels higher than normal, with four having roughly twice the expected amount.


How to honor Vietnam veterans

Two-ton “Super sacks” like this one contain lead bullets removed during a reclamation project at a former firing range at Camp Withycombe, Ore. Approximately 300,000 thousand pounds of bullets were removed from the soil in an effort to return the land to its original condition.

Dozens of other service members sought treatment at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine for lead and other metal poisoning, including those tested at Mount Sinai.

While the numbers are small compared with the 1.3 million active-duty personnel currently serving, the diagnosis is significant for these troops, who have wrestled for years with symptoms that mimic traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but who also have physical manifestations.

One of the those diagnosed, Steve Hopkins, a former Special Forces major who is now retired, called receiving the test results “a big deal.” After bouncing from doctor to doctor and being told by Army physicians that he likely had depression or PTSD — or was malingering — Hopkins was grateful to put a name to his debilitating illness.

“It was a big weight off my shoulders and off my family,” he said. “I mean, we were in crisis.”

How to honor Vietnam veterans

Soldiers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, demonstrate how to operate a M-4 carbine during a training exercise with troops from the 341st Romanian Infantry battalion during a cross-training event at the Bardia Firing Range near COB Adder, Iraq.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Terence Ewings)

Hopkins was diagnosed in 2012 after falling severely ill and traveling to Walter Reed National Naval Medical Center, Maryland, where he was seen by NavyCapt. Kevin Dorrance, also now retired. Like Hopkins’ physicians at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Dorrance originally thought Hopkins’ issues were mental health-related. But he noticed that one medical test, an erythrocyte porphyrin test, consistently came back as elevated.

He consulted with a colleague at the Uniformed Services University for the Health Sciences who, according to Dorrance, immediately suspected lead exposure. Dorrance then sent Hopkins to Mount Sinai for the K X-ray fluorescence, or KXRF, test to measure his bone lead levels.

Hopkins, then 42, had levels two-and-a-half times what is typical in a man his age.

How to honor Vietnam veterans

Spc. Justin Dreyer from the Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, is instructed how to fire a rocket-propelled grenade launcher by a Soldier in the 341st Romanian Infantry Battalion at the Bardia Firing Range near COB Adder, Iraq.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Terence Ewings)

Other service members followed Hopkins to Mount Sinai, including Master Sgt. Geoff Dardia, a Special Forces training instructor who has deployed to combat zones seven times. Dardia’s results were 30 percent higher than normal.

Lead exposure in the U.S. military can occur on firing ranges, during military operations and while working and living in environments where lead is common — on military bases in cases of lead abatement and repair work and in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, which continue to use leaded gasoline.

Troops can inhale lead or ingest it by firing weapons or eating, drinking, smoking or chewing tobacco on ranges. If lead is absorbed, it is present in the bloodstream for up to a month, where it can be detected by a blood test, and it remains in soft tissue for up to 90 days.

It is then absorbed into the bones, where levels can increase with additional exposure. But the medical community and government agencies that study environmental exposures say once it is in the bone, it leaches back into the bloodstream only under certain medical conditions, such as a broken bone, pregnancy, osteoporosis or kidney disease.

Affected veterans, along with Dorrance and Dr. Mark Hyman, director of the Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, say this isn’t correct — and they’d like to see more physicians considering the possibility of chronic lead exposure in cases of unexplained symptoms in troops, rather than dismissing their patients as mental health cases.

“The fact that we have a lack of intellectual curiosity about a condition that likely is pervasive in the U.S. military is criminal,” Hopkins said.

“Here you are dealing with a group of men, highly trained, highly skilled, emotionally stable individuals who want to work. These are not wackadoodles,” Hyman said.

Dorrance, Hopkins and others want to call attention to the issue of lead poisoning in the U.S. military and have pressed the Defense Department for broader testing and treatment — for acute and long-term exposure. They want the Pentagon to purchase a KXRF machine and conduct mandatory baseline screening and ongoing testing for troops who work in environments where they face chronic exposure.

They also would like to see more acceptance in the medical community for diagnosing and treating lead in bones. Chelation is an FDA-approved outpatient treatment for acute lead exposure, but both Hopkins, who took an oral chelation medication, and Dardia, who used both oral and intravenous chelation agents, say it worked in their cases.

They say troops deserve to have the general medical community understand what a handful of physicians — those who treat civilian workers often exposed to lead in jobs such as smelting, soldering, bridge repair, and foundry work — understand. That chronic lead exposure can make a person sick.

“The fact that we have a lack of intellectual curiosity about a condition that likely is pervasive in the U.S. military is criminal,” Hopkins said.

“The reason it’s being sidelined is it’s not understood,” added Dorrance. “There’s this discomfort with not knowing that’s the problem with doctors.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch a Chinese ship try to block US navigation

A Chinese warship threatened a US Navy destroyer during a tense showdown in the South China Sea in late September 2018, according to new details of the encounter.

A Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy Type 052C Luyang II-class destroyer challenged the US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur during a routine freedom-of-navigation operation near the disputed Spratly Islands. The Chinese warship sailed within 45 yards of the American vessel, nearly colliding with the US destroyer.

The Chinese vessel “approached USS Decatur in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea,” where it engaged in “a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for Decatur to depart,” a spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet said in a statement. The Decatur was forced to change course to avoid a collision.


A transcript of the radio exchange between the two naval vessels obtained by the South China Morning Post from the British Ministry of Defense shows that the Chinese ship threatened the Decatur, warning that it would “suffer consequences” if it did not move.

“You are on [a] dangerous course,” the Chinese destroyer warned over the radio. “If you don’t change course, [you] will suffer consequences.”

“We are conducting innocent passage,” the Decatur reportedly replied.

In a video of the incident, an unidentified Navy sailor can be heard saying that the Chinese ship is “trying to push us out of the way.”

The video is a little unclear, but there appear to be ship fenders deployed off deck, Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, noted on Twitter. He explained that “fenders are designed to mitigate the kinetic impact of a collision,” adding that the deployment is “clearly an indication of preparedness for such an eventuality.”

Ankit Panda, a foreign-policy expert who is a senior editor at The Diplomat, called the incident “the PLAN’s most direct and dangerous attempt to interfere with lawful US Navy navigation in the South China Sea to date.”

Unsafe or unprofessional encounters between the US Navy and the Chinese military are, however, not particularly uncommon. “We have found records of 19 unsafe and/or unprofessional interactions with China and Russia since 2016 (18 with China and one with Russia),” Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet, recently told CNN.

A number of these incidents involved dangerous Chinese intercepts of US Navy aircraft. In August 2018, the Chinese military sent a total of six warnings to a US Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance plane, warning it to “leave immediately and keep out.”

It is potentially noteworthy that the details of the showdown between the US and Chinese warships in the South China Sea came from the British Ministry of Defense, as a British naval vessel also found itself in a standoff with the Chinese military in the South China Sea not too long ago.

In early September 2018, China dispatched a frigate to to take on the UK Royal Navy amphibious assault ship HMS Albion when it sailed too close to Chinese outposts in the Paracel Islands. China called the incident a provocation and warned that it would “take all necessary measures to defend its sovereignty and security.”

The US Navy is apparently expecting incidents like this to occur more frequently going foward. The US and China “will meet each other more and more on the high seas,” Chief of US Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said Oct. 30, 2018.

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

MIGHTY BRANDED

Why now is the perfect time for military families to refinance home loans

In recent weeks, Wall Street has talked a lot about the fears of a coming recession, fueled by a drop in government bond yields. The casual investor may have no idea what this means for them, but for homeowners in the military and beyond, it means now is the perfect time to refinance a mortgage.


What any potential refinancer needs to know is that the falling bond yield is pushing mortgage rates to their lowest levels in three years. In November 2018, the interest rate was steady at five percent. Eight months later, the interest rate in now at 3.6 percent and looking to fall further.

This isn’t some shady internet ad, promising easy money on Obama-era mortgage laws or new Trump-era government home loans – those certainly exist and everyone should be wary about trusting easy money. But the drop in mortgage rates comes directly from Freddie Mac, whose rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 3.6 in August 2019. The reason is that the 30-year rate is linked to 10-year Treasury Bonds. The rate of return on those bonds just fell to their lowest since October 2016.

How to honor Vietnam veterans

(St. Louis Federal Reserve)

What this means is that suddenly your homeowner dollar goes a little bit further, considering the cost of taking out a new loan or refinancing an old one just dropped. According to Caliber Home Loans, a lending company who specializes in military and veteran homebuyers, the rule of thumb used to be that the interest rate for a new mortgage must be about two percentage points below the rate of a current mortgage for refinancing to make sense.

With new low- and no-cost refinancing from Caliber and other lenders, refinancing could make sense any time – especially right now, given the latest interest rates. A refinance could reduce overall interest while reducing a monthly payment. If you acted right now, you wouldn’t be alone, not by far. Falling rates boost the U.S. housing market.

How to honor Vietnam veterans

It’s important to think of your home as an investment, too.

“My applications are up across the board,” said Angela Martin, a Nashville, Tenn.-based loan officer told the Wall Street Journal. “Every time the Fed starts talking is when my phone starts ringing off the hook.”

What Martin means is the Federal Reserve just cut the benchmark interest rate after a few successive rate hikes. This is when people start looking for a better deal. But be wary – lenders will sometimes employ different perks after a rate drop to entice customers to accept things like credits at closing instead of a lower rate.

For military families and veteran homeowners, look into military-oriented lenders like Caliber Home Loans. Caliber and companies like it specialize in the needs and benefits afforded to military members and veterans. Caliber is also a proud sponsor of the 2019 Military Influencer Conference, a three-day conference of service members, veterans, and spouses who work to elevate the military veteran community.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran accuses U.S. of giving ‘false’ account of gulf encounter

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has accused the United States of giving a false account of a recent encounter between the two states’ navies in the Persian Gulf, after Washington blamed Iranian vessels for harassing its ships.

“We advise Americans to follow international regulations and maritime protocols in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman, and avoid any adventurism and false stories,” the IRGC said in a statement on its official website on April 19.

The force warned that any “miscalculation will receive a decisive response.”


The U.S. Navy had said that 11 vessels from the IRGC made “dangerous and harassing approaches” toward U.S. naval ships in the Gulf on April 15.

The U.S. ships were in international waters carrying out exercises at the time of the incidents, according to the U.S. 5th Fleet, which is based in Bahrain.

In the IRGC’s telling, its forces were on a drill and faced “the unprofessional and provocative actions” of the U.S. ships.

How to honor Vietnam veterans

Close interactions with Iranian military vessels have occurred in the region in the past, drawing warning shots from U.S. Navy ships when Iranian vessels got too close.

Tensions between Iran and the United States increased in January after the United States killed Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in Iraq.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Special Forces accused of lowering standards to meet quotas

The Army’s Special Warfare Center and School has launched an investigation into an anonymous email that accused its leaders of “moral cowardice” for ditching training standards and allowing undeserving soldiers to become members of elite Green Beret teams.


The sharply critical message was sent earlier this week to a wide swath of the Army’s Special Forces community. The nearly 6,300-word message declared that the school’s senior officers and enlisted leaders are primarily interested in advancing their careers by meeting demands for greater numbers of Green Berets and enforcing “political agendas.”

Maj. Gen. Kurt Sonntag, commanding general of the school located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on Nov. 30 defended the process for selecting Green Berets and rejected a number of the claims in the email. He said he stands firmly behind the “quality of every soldier we are sending to the operational force,” in a statement delivered to “men and women” of the Special Warfare Center and School.

How to honor Vietnam veterans
U.S. Army Special Forces prepare to load a MH-60 Black Hawk after fast roping onto a target, during the Special Forces Advanced Reconnaissance, Target Analysis, and Exploitation Techniques Course, John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School on Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 28, 2012. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Justin P. Morelli)

Sonntag also said comments in the email “warrant further evaluation” and that is being done through “formal inquiries and a number of existing institutional forums.” He wasn’t more specific, however.

The anonymous email said the push to hit unrealistic quotas has led to a “dangerously less capable” force as dozens of flawed Green Beret candidates are nonetheless graduated. The message said instructors who’ve sought to hold students accountable for their academic, physical, and character performance have been instead muzzled or punished.

Also read: This Green Beret lived in a cave before receiving the Medal of Honor

But Sonntag denied that instructors have been sidelined. He said the school is consistently told its graduates “are well-trained, physically fit, and ready to join their teams from day one.”

Each of the five active-duty Special Forces groups consists of roughly 1,400 troops. The groups’ primary fighting units are 12-man “A Teams” that are led by captains.

The email also asserts that the officers and enlisted leaders in charge of Green Beret training want to enhance their prospects for promotion by ensuring female candidates are capable of completing the punishing qualification course. Women, the author said, should be outraged by the implication they need preferential treatment.

“The cruelty of the situation is that any woman with the fortitude to attempt this training would most definitely have wanted the standards to remain the same,” according to the message. “It is a point of pride to know you are every bit as capable as the best of the best, if you can do it. But they have been robbed of the ability to earn that achievement.”

Read Also: This classified American special ops unit has been recruiting females for decades

The author of the email is identified only as “A concerned Green Beret.” But the amount of detail in the message — the names of some Green Beret candidates are listed — suggested the author is a current or very recent instructor in the Special Forces qualification course.

The person who wrote the message aimed to be unknown. A copy of the message obtained by The Associated Press shows it was sent through ProtonMail, a secure service based in Switzerland that assures users their data is protected by strict Swiss privacy laws.

Green Beret units have been at the forefront in the fight against terrorist groups since the Sept. 11 attacks and their success has led Republican and Democratic administrations to conclude more of them would be better. So they’ve grown in size, putting pressure on the Special Warfare Center and School to turn out enough graduates to keep the ranks full.

But that’s triggered concerns quality is being sacrificed for quantity. A retired Green Beret officer who still works for the U.S. government used a sports analogy to make the point. No matter how popular Division 1 college football becomes, he said, there’s a finite number of people capable of playing at that level. The same holds for Special Forces. The former officer wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

How to honor Vietnam veterans
Green Berets, assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group-Airborne, exit the water during a beach infiltration training exercise, part of Combat Diver Requalification, in Key West, Fla., Jan. 20, 2016. (U.S. Army Photo)

The author of the message said the grueling Green Beret qualification course has been watered down so much that candidates are almost assured of graduation once they’re selected to go through the yearlong program.

“After passing a 19-ish day selection process, there are no physical barriers to earning the coveted Green Beret,” according to the message. “These all were standards for EVERY Green Beret in modern history prior to this month. To say that standards have not been eliminated would be laughable, were it not so tragic.”

But Sonntag said no fundamental standard for assessing future Green Berets has been removed or adjusted even as the qualification course has modified multiple times since the Sept. 11 attacks. And he said the training remains among the most difficult in the U.S. military. So far in 2017, 541 soldiers have completed the Green Beret qualification course out of more than 2,000 who sought to be selected for the program.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everybody involved in that dino puppet reenlistment video just got fired

In the worst military overreaction since the Faber College ROTC pledge pin incident of 1962, the Tennessee National Guard’s adjutant general announced April 18, 2018, that everyone involved in a recent viral video of a kooky reenlistment ceremony would have their careers wrecked, because that’s how you honor our military traditions, dammit.


The controversy revolved around an Air National Guard master sergeant in the Volunteer State who took her oath of reenlistment with a tyrannosaurus rex hand puppet mouthing her words. The internet being the internet, video of the ceremony got around, and some watchers decided it just wasn’t in keeping with the highest traditions of service… unlike all that readily available online imagery of service members reenlisting as imperial stormtroopers; at gunpoint; underwater; in gas chambers; in GameStops; or with rigged-up explosions behind them.

How to honor Vietnam veterans

Unlike all those clearly well-intentioned, lighthearted reenlistments, this sinister dino-puppet thing “goes against our very foundation,” according to the Air National Guard’s commanding general. That grave assessment led to this not-at-all bonkers Facebook post from Maj. Gen. Terry M. Haston, the Tennessee Guard’s top cheese, announcing that the master sergeant with the puppet, the colonel who administered the oath to her, and the NCO who acted as cameraman are all fucked, absolutely and utterly fucked (emphasis added):

I am absolutely embarrassed that a senior officer and a senior NCO took such liberties with a time-honored military tradition. The Tennessee National Guard holds the Oath of Enlistment in the highest esteem because that oath signifies every service member’s commitment to defend our state, nation and the freedoms we all enjoy. Not taking this oath solemnly and with the utmost respect is firmly against the traditions and sanctity of our military family and will not be tolerated…
Over the past few days, the leadership of the Tennessee National Guard has conducted a thorough investigation of the event with the following results:
The Colonel (O-6) administering the oath was immediately retired at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (O-5).
The Senior NCO taking the oath has been removed from her full-time position with the Tennessee Joint Public Affairs Office and other administrative actions are underway.
The Senior NCO who recorded the event has been removed from his position as a unit First Sergeant and has received an official reprimand, but will be retained in the Tennessee Air National Guard…

Let’s get this straight: A colonel was reduced in rank and sent packing, a senior enlisted leader who was reupping is now being drummed out, and the dude with the camera lost his billet and career momentum. Because of a dinosaur hand puppet.

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