These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones - We Are The Mighty
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.


These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

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.”

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

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.

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

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 CULTURE

The most muscular unit in the Marine Corps is accepting applications

If you can squat more than 300 pounds — and then do it again nine more times — the Marine Corps may have an elite job for you.

The Corps is accepting applications to join its legendary cadre of body bearers, a small unit of roughly a dozen men headquartered at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., whose primary responsibility is to carry the caskets of Marines to their final resting place.

According to a Marine Corps administrative message, the service is looking for Marines who “possess a high degree of maturity, leadership, judgment and professionalism, as well as physical stamina and strength.” To be eligible, Marines must be male, between 70 and 76 inches tall, in the rank of corporal or below, and able to serve 30 months following check-in to ceremonial drill school.


The physical strength requirements are truly daunting. Marines must be able to conduct 10 repetitions of the following exercises:

  • Bench press 225 lbs.
  • Military press (a variant on the overhead press) 135 lbs.
  • Straight bar curl 115 lbs.
  • Squad 315 lbs.
These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

Body bearers from the Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. (8th and I), help conduct military funeral honors with funeral escort for Col. Werner Frederick Rebstock in Section 12 of Arlington National Cemetery on Nov. 13, 2019.

(U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser/Arlington National Cemetery)

Those selected to join the Body Bearers Section can expect to train for up to a year before they’re considered ready to participate in military funerals. Once they join the section, body bearers participate in the funerals of Marines, Marine veterans and family members at Arlington National Cemetery and military cemeteries in the National Capital Region; they may also be asked to travel across the country to conduct funeral honors for former presidents and other senior dignitaries.

There’s no room for error; the word “flawless” is used no fewer than four times on the Body Bearers Section web page. And while other services use eight body bearers to carry coffins, the Marine Corps uses only six.

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

Marine Corps Body Bearers carry the body of Maj. Gen. Warren R. Johnson Sr. inside the Memorial Chapel at Fort Meyer.

(Photo by Cpl. Bobby J. Yarbrough)

“This billet is not for everyone. Marine Corps Body Bearers serve as a tangible, physical manifestation of the institution that our fallen brothers and sisters have poured their hearts and souls into fortifying,” the page reads. “As such, the mental, emotional, and physical toll this responsibility exacts from the Body Bearers as well as Ceremonial Drill School students is immense. That being said, the honor and pride the Body Bearer Section takes in caring for Marines the way they do is one of the most gratifying experiences of their lives.”

In addition to all the strength requirements, Marines must meet conventional height and weight standards and maintain first-class scores on their physical fitness and combat fitness tests. While the job was once reserved for infantry Marines, it’s now open to all military occupational specialties in the Corps.

Troops who meet eligibility requirements and are interested in the opportunity should contact Company B, Marine Barracks Washington, D.C.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US forces in Africa have accused Chinese troops of harassing pilots

Since the US and Chinese militaries became neighbors in the small African country of Djibouti, they haven’t been getting along very well.

Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, the director of intelligence at the US Africa Command, has accused the Chinese military of “irresponsible actions,” telling reporters recently that Chinese forces at a nearby base have been harassing US forces at the neighboring Camp Lemonnier base.

Berg, according to the Washington Times, said that the Chinese military has attempted to restrict access to international airspace near its base, targeted US pilots with ground lasers, and sent out drones to interfere with flight operations.


She also accused the Chinese military of “intrusion activity,” explaining that there have been “attempts to gain access to Camp Lemmonier.”

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

U.S. Marines at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.

(DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Lonzo-Grei D. Thornton, U.S. Marine Corps)

The US base, which opened in 2001 and is home to roughly 4,000 US military and civilian personnel, is an important strategic facility that has served as a launch site for US counter-terrorism activities in east Africa.

China opened its base, its first overseas military installation, nearby in the summer of 2017. China insists that the purpose of what it calls an “overseas support facility” is the “better undertaking its international responsibilities and obligations and better protecting its lawful interests.”

The movement of Chinese forces into the area have made US military leaders uneasy. “We’ve never had a base of, let’s just say a peer competitor, as close as this one happens to be,” Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, AFRICOM commander, told Breaking Defense just prior to the opening of China’s facility. “There are some very significant operational security concerns.”

The laser incidents Berg mentioned were first reported last year, when the Pentagon sent a formal complaint to Beijing after two C-130 pilots suffered injuries.

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

A C-130 Hercules cargo plane.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs argued that the latest allegations against it do “not align with the facts,” adding that “China has always abided by international laws and laws of the host countries and is committed to maintaining regional safety and stability.”

Senior Captain Zhang Junshe, a military expert at the People’s Liberation Army Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told the Global Times, a state-affiliated Chinese publication, that the US has been sending low-flying aircraft to conduct spying operations near the Chinese facility.

The Global Times said that US accusations were “just the same old tune struck up again by the US to defame China.”

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

Articles

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 3 edition)

Here’s today’s rundown for those busy defending the nation (and those who support them):


Now: 4 military disguises that were just crazy enough to actually work 

MIGHTY CULTURE

The best Single Malt Irish Whiskey to drink this St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day is nearly upon us and so is the flavorless onslaught of cheap, green beer dully visible through red solo cups. Midwestern brewed pilsner paired with a few drops of food coloring seems a poor way to celebrate the Irish. We prefer to toast old St. Pat with uisce beatha, also known as whiskey.

There is no shortage of good Irish whiskey. But while most are familiar with the traditional, big name blended varieties like Jameson and Bushmills, few are familiar with the Emerald Isle’s fantastic single malts. That’s a shame because single malts are much more flavorful and there are numerous stellar bottles worth sipping. Take this as an opportunity to celebrate some Irish single malts and try one of these five excellent options.


These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

Dingle Batch No. 3

Out on the island’s west coast, independent maker Dingle only started producing spirits a few short years ago in 2012. Their Batch No. 3 can be a little hard to find but its worth the search. Aged in ex-bourbon and port barrels, it’s is a sweet sipper with elegant notes of honey, berries, citrus, and wood.

Buy now 0

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

Connemara 12

Peated whiskey is a rarity on the emerald isle. In fact, there is only one Irish peated single malt on the market. But if you enjoy a healthy dose of smoke in your dram you’re going to love Connemara 12. Nutty and peppery, notes of vanilla, grass, honey, and wood play off the smoke and a lingering brine to create a lovely mouthful.

Buy now

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

West Cork 10

Fruity and rich, West Cork’s ten-year-old single malt is an easy sipper and even easier on the wallet. Delicious with notes of apples, sugar and toffee with a hint of pepper, it’s an approachable and satisfying for whiskey lovers of all stripes.

BUY NOW

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

Knappogue Castle 14 Year Old Twin Wood

A fusion of two 14-year-old single malts, one aged in ex-bourbon barrels, the other in Oloroso sherry, the result is a rich and tasty dram. Honey, coconut, and fruit notes play off a subtle touch of oak.

Buy now

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

Tyrconnell 10 Madeira Cask

Made from the mountain-fed waters of the Slieve na gCloc river, this ten-year-old malt gets a finish in Madeira wine barrels from the Portuguese islands. Light in the mouth, cocoa and honey play off oak, cinnamon and salt.

Buy now

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pompeo listed US preconditions for talks with Iran

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on July 30, 2018, expressed his support for President Donald Trump holding talks with Iran, listing specific conditions for such discussions to occur, just hours after the president said he would not require preconditions to sit down with Iranian leaders .

“We’ve said this before. [Trump] wants to meet with folks to solve problems,” Pompeo told CNBC’s “Closing Bell” in an interview that reportedly came about two hours after Trump’s comments.


“If the Iranians demonstrate a commitment to make fundamental changes in how they treat their own people, reduce their malign behavior, can agree that it’s worthwhile to enter into a nuclear agreement that actually prevents proliferation, then the president said he’s prepared to sit down and have the conversation with them,” Pompeo added.

During a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who is visiting Washington, DC, Trump said he’d meet with “anybody” when discussing the prospect of holding talks with Iran.

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

President Donald Trump delivers remarks on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

(White House photo)

“No preconditions. They want to meet? I’ll meet,” Trump added.

In a speech back in May 2018, Pompeo listed 12 specific conditions that would need to be met for the US to hold talks with Iran after Trump’s controversial decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. The Iranian government swiftly dismissed them as unacceptable.

More recently, Trump and Iranian leaders have engaged in a heated war of words.

After Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said a conflict between the US and Iran would be the “mother of all wars,” Trump on July 22, 2018, sent an all-caps tweet warning the Iranian leader not to threaten the US anymore.

Trump softened his tone in a speech in which he said he was ready for talks with Iran, which he reiterated during July 30, 2018’s press conference.

But stating he has no preconditions for talks with Iran seemingly puts Trump at odds with some of his top advisers and potentially other Republicans. Former President Barack Obama was heavily criticized by conservatives when he said he’d hold talks with Iran without prior conditions or stipulations.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US Navy’s last F/A-18C Hornet just took its final flight

The last Navy F/A-18C Hornet, aircraft number 300, made its official final active-duty flight at Naval Air Station Oceana on Oct. 2, 2019.

Assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 at Cecil Field, Florida, aircraft number 300 completed its first Navy acceptance check flight Oct. 14, 1988. Lt. Andrew Jalali, who piloted the Hornet for its final active-duty flight at Naval Air Station Oceana, was also born in 1988.

“Today marked the final United States Navy F/A-18C Operational Hornet flight,” said the Commodore, Command Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic, Capt. Brian Becker.


These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

Navy Lt. Andrew Jalali prepares for the official final active-duty flight of the last Navy F/A-18C Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 at Naval Air Station Oceana, Oct. 2, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Nikita Custer)

The aircraft has remained with the Gladiators for its entire 31-years of service. The aircraft took off from NAS Oceana accompanied by three F/A-18F Super Hornets for a one-and-a-half hour flight and return to Oceana where it will be officially stricken from the inventory, stripped of all its usable parts and be scrapped.

Becker said the F/A-18C aircraft has served admirably for over 30 years and highlighted its history in naval aviation.

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

Navy Lt. Andrew Jalali prepares for the official final active-duty flight of the last Navy F/A-18C Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 at Naval Air Station Oceana, Oct. 2, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Nikita Custer)

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

Navy Lt. Andrew Jalali prepares for the official final active-duty flight of the last Navy F/A-18C Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 at Naval Air Station Oceana, Oct. 2, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Nikita Custer)

During the last year, VFA-106 has transferred over 50 F/A-18 Hornets to various Navy Reserve and US Marine aviation commands, as well as being placed in preservation for future use if needed.

Both the F/A-18A and F/A-18C Hornet variants have been replaced by the updated F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. VFA-106 is the Navy’s East Coast Fleet Replacement Squadron, which trains naval aviators to fly the F/A-18 Super Hornets.

This article originally appeared on United States Navy. Follow @USNAVY on Twitter.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Sure, everyone wants to get off for the weekend so they can celebrate the big win by Delta and raise a toast to the operator we lost this week. Here are 13 memes to keep you chuckling until release formation:


1. When airmen aim a little too high:

(via Air Force Memes and Humor)

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones
I don’t know what he was thinking. That was clearly a naval aviation mission.

2. Looks more like a barracks haircut to me (via NavyMemes.com).

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones
Either way, gunny will not be impressed.

SEE ALSO: 12 signs you may be ‘motarded’

3. Great drill and ceremony, but can you fight with it (via Coast Guard Memes)?

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones
Everyone knows the iguana qualification tables are a pain in the a-s.

4. Payday activities are no fun.

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

5. Someone is going to have a bad night …

(via Coast Guard Memes)

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones
… or maybe a bad morning. Depends on when the booze wears off.

6. Marines are ready to step in and assist.

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones
And, they’ll do it with helmet bands and rifles from the Vietnam era.

7. Air power!

(via Air Force Memes and Humor)

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

8. This is a true master-at-arms (via Sh-t My LPO Says).

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones
The point man needs his knifehand to protect himself in case of ambush.

9. Shoulder-fired, panting-cooled, autonomous weapons system.

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones
Bowl-fed and bad-ss!

10. For a stealthy bomber, the B-1 is pretty loud.

(via Air Force Memes and Humor)

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones
Not as loud as its bombs, but loud. 

11. Finding the flag can be challenging on a new post (via Team Non-Rec).

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones
Meh, probably back there somewhere.

 12. When soldiers are finally told they can do something fun …

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones
… but have to do it in full battle rattle.

13. That sudden drop in your stomach when you hear it.

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

NOW: The 8 most painful nonlethal weapons

OR: Ex-President Jimmy Carter perfectly trolls Russians fighting in Syria

Articles

This simple exercise will help determine if you really want to be a sniper

Quora is the ultimate resource for crowdsourcing knowledge. If you’re unfamiliar, you ask the Quora world a question and anyone with expertise (and some without it) will respond. One user asked the world what service he should join if he wanted to be a sniper. One Marine veteran gave him some necessary information.

Choosing what branch to join can be tough for anyone. Different branches have different lifestyles, they come with different job opportunities, and they each have their own difficulties. If you’re 100-percent sure you want to be a sniper, that doesn’t narrow your selection. At all.

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones
Yes, the Air Force has snipers.

To be fair, the asker asked, “Which branch is better?” Many users thoughtfully answered his question with answers ranging from the Coast Guard’s HITRON precision marksmen to arguing the finer points about why Army snipers are superior to SEALs and Marine Scout Snipers (go ahead and debate that amongst yourselves).


Many answering users wondered if the original asker really wanted to be a sniper. Some answers were condescending, some were went as far as accusing him of simply wanting to kill people (this is still the internet, after all). But one Marine veteran gave the young asker an exercise. One that would help him see if it was something he really wanted to do.

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones
Gunny Hathcock approves.
(Hathcock Family photo)

That Marine was a trucker, an artilleryman, and a Desert Storm veteran. He “wasn’t a sniper, but I served with them, and listened in awe to how they train.” He then gave the asker a 15-step exercise to see if sniper training was something he really wanted to do:

  1. Wait until the middle of summer.
  2. Get a wool blanket and three quart-size ziplock bags.
  3. Fill the bags with small meals.
  4. Get two one-quart canteens and plenty of water purification tablets.
  5. Locate a swamp that is adjacent to a field of tall grass
  6. Before the sun comes up on day one, wrap yourself in the wool blanket.
  7. Crawl through the swamp, never raising any part of your body above the one-foot level.
  8. Lay all day in the field with the sun bearing down on you.
  9. Eat your food while never moving faster than a sloth.
  10. If you need water, crawl back to the swamp, fill the canteens, and use your water purification tablets to hopefully not get sick.
  11. Put any bodily waste in the zip-lock bags as you empty them of food. This includes any vomit if you didn’t decontaminate your water well enough.
  12. Bees, fire ants, and any predatory animals are not a reason to move faster than a sloth or move any part of your body above the one-foot level.
  13. Sleep there through the night.
  14. When the sun rises crawl back through the swamp.
  15. Just before you stand up and go home, ask yourself if you want to be a sniper.

Always remember: If you use the Quora world for advice, be sure to consider your source.

Articles

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal. 


As soon as he wrapped up his studies in film and literature at Boston University, Henry Hughes followed family tradition and signed up for the Army. For the next five years, he took fire, dodged IEDs and grappled internally with the meaning of military service while on two tours of duty in Afghanistan with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. After Hughes returned home and earned another degree from the American Film Institute, he began making movies, including his short film,”Day One,” which tells the story of a female Army interpreter facing a moral quandary during her first day on the job: saving the newborn child of a known enemy. The film was nominated for this year’s Academy Award for best live-action short.

NationSwell spoke to Hughes, a Got Your 6 Storyteller, by phone from Los Angeles about the lingering questions from war and their portrayal on film.

 

What inspired you to serve your country?

For me, it was a long family tradition. We basically had someone in the Army since the [American] Revolution. I wanted to be part of that tradition.

Is there one question that you continually ask yourself about your experience?

It’s probably, “why is it not so simple?” It’s a very complex part of my life, not something that is full of simply good memories or simply bad memories: it’s a mixture of all types of life. So I always wonder why it’s not like anything else. At this point, why can’t it be simpler? Why is it so difficult for everyone to understand it?

I’m guessing that’s why did you decided to make the film “Day One?”

For sure, it’s about those questions. There’s not a reducible answer like the one I just tried to give you. So that’s why I thought I could make a movie about it instead, to kind of show the way it felt. So the movie is not a true-to-life of what exactly happened to me that one day. But the feeling when I’m watching the movie, it’s that sublime space of things that are horrible and beautiful in the same breath.

What’s the most important lesson civilians can take away from art that’s made about war?

I would say that everyone’s wartime experience is subjective. I don’t know if there’s some sort of universal experience.

What’s your favorite movie about war?

For me, it’s “The Thin Red Line.” I think it touches me because there’s no other war movie like it, that accepts the soulfulness of the warrior experience. A lot of movies don’t go that way, they kind of go along the more visceral, more experiential route.

What is the quality you most admire in a comrade?

What I actually admire most is hard to come by in our community: vulnerability. When it’s a vulnerability to look at your military experience, I really love meeting those people.

Who was the most inspirational person you encountered while serving?

I would say my interpreter on my second tour. She’s the one I based the movie on, or it’s inspired by her. She’s an Afghan-American woman, naturalized as an American citizen, but born over there. The deck was stacked against her, and she looked inside herself to find out what she thought was right and wrong. It wasn’t something that someone told her to do. She just had incredible integrity.

If you could change one thing about your service, what would it be?

I wouldn’t want one of my guys to be wounded or for any of my guys to die.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I would probably say chasing down my wife. It was a long shot, and it worked out. In 2010, after my first tour, I flew to New York without knowing she was there. We hadn’t spoken in a long time. We knew each other as children, when we were 13, and I hadn’t seen her in a number of years. I thought I could track her down, and so on Facebook messenger, I basically said, “Hey, I just landed in New York. Let’s hang out. We haven’t seen each other in a decade.” We went on one date and then a few more dates. She started me writing me a lot of letters when I was in Afghanistan again for my second tour, and we decided to be together.

How can the rest of us, as civilians, do more to support veterans?

Just look at them as people first. I feel like there’s a big divide on some level, but a lot of it is imagined. The fact of the matter is that all of those veterans are just people. I would look at them that way first and then look at their experience.

To you, what does it mean these days to be a veteran?

Well, it’s inescapable, I suppose. The definition of being a veteran is you can never not be a veteran one once you are one. And that speaks to, I think, how profound that experience is. There’s no way you can stop being a veteran.

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

Pompeo warns Taliban against attacking U.S. troops

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has held a video conference call with the Taliban during which the top U.S. diplomat warned the insurgents against attacking American troops in Afghanistan, the Department of State says.

A statement said Pompeo and the Taliban’s Qatar-based chief negotiator, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, on June 29 discussed implementation of a February agreement between Washington and the militants.


These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

“The Secretary made clear the expectation for the Taliban to live up to their commitments, which include not attacking Americans,” department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

Earlier, the Taliban said Baradar reaffirmed during the call the group’s commitment to the peace process in Afghanistan and reiterated a pledge not to strike U.S. forces.

The call comes as U.S. President Donald Trump faces mounting pressure to explain his actions after being reportedly told that Russian spies last year had offered and paid cash to Taliban-linked militants for killing American soldiers.

The White House has said Trump wasn’t briefed on the intelligence assessments because they haven’t been fully verified and were not deemed credible actionable intelligence.

U.S. – Taliban deal

Meanwhile, the U.S.-Taliban deal is at a critical stage at a time violence in Afghanistan has continued since a three-day cease-fire at the end of May. The Afghan National Security Council said June 30 that, since February, the Taliban had on average staged 44 attacks per day on Afghan security forces.

Under the accord, the United States agreed to reduce its forces in Afghanistan from 12,000 troops to 8,600 by mid-July. If the rest of the deal goes through, all U.S. and other foreign troops will exit Afghanistan by mid-2021.

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

The New York Times reported last week that U.S. intelligence officials concluded months ago that Russian military intelligence offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. troops.

Subsequent reports by The New York Times and Washington Post reported several American soldiers may have died last year as a result of the bounties.

In particular, U.S. officials are investigating an April 2019 attack on an American convoy near Bagram Airfield, the largest U.S. military installation in Afghanistan.

At the time of the attack, the Defense Department identified those killed as Marine Staff Sergeant Christopher Slutman, Sergeant Benjamin Hines, and Corporal Robert Hendriks.

The Taliban and the Department of State did not specifically say whether Pompeo and Baradar spoke about the report.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said in a series of tweets that the two sides discussed “foreign troop withdrawal, prisoner release, start of intra-Afghan dialogue, and reduction in [military] operations.”

“We are committed to starting inter-Afghan talks, as we have said before, but delays in the release of prisoners have delayed inter-Afghan talks,” Shaheen tweeted, referring to a pledge by Afghan authorities to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners as a condition to start the negotiations.

Baradar “noted that according to the agreement, we will not allow anyone to use Afghan soil against the security of the United States and other countries,” he also wrote.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist Bobby Blackhat Walters

UPDATE: THE VOTING IS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON MONDAY, SEPT. 25, 2017 AT WE ARE THE MIGHTY!

Welcome to the finals for Mission: Music, where veterans from all five branches compete for a chance to perform onstage at Base*FEST powered by USAA. CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW TO VOTE every day to determine the winner!

Bobby Blackhat is a Coastal Virginia Bluesman and an award-winning recording artist, harmonica player, vocalist, songwriter, producer, comedian, and actor. He’s been playing harp for over 40 years.


These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones
From left to right: Bobby Blackhat Walters (USCG) and guitarist Tom Euler

After 27 years of service in the U.S. Coast Guard, which included serving as Military Aide to the President and being awarded the Coast Guard Medal for Heroism, Bobby started to pursue music professionally. He is a proud graduate of two Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) programs: Piano and Comedy Bootcamp.

“I love doing what I do because music allows me to get fingers poppin’, toes tappin’, hip shakin’, and faces smilin’. Through music I can bring joy and happiness to the lives of others. I am a prime example that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams and check an item off that pesky bucket list.”

Return to the voting page and check out the other finalists!

For every vote, USAA will donate $1 (up to $10k) to Guitars for Vets, a non-profit organization that enhances lives of ailing and injured military veterans by providing them with guitars and a forum to learn how to play. Your votes help those who served rediscover their joy through the power of music!

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones
MIGHTY TRENDING

Have a look at Earth from 94 million miles away

Capturing images of our home planet from the perspective of faraway spacecraft has become a tradition at NASA, ever since Voyager, 28 years ago, displayed our “pale blue dot” in the vastness of space.


But the view of Earth from NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope is quite something else.

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

This Kepler image of Earth was recently beamed back home. Captured on Dec. 10, 2017, after the spacecraft adjusted its telescope to a new field of view, Earth’s reflection as it slipped past was so extraordinarily bright that it created a saber-like saturation bleed across the instrument’s sensors, obscuring the neighboring Moon.

Also read: You can boldly go with this NASA mission to ‘touch the sun’

At 94 million miles away, Kepler’s interpretation of Earth as a bright flashlight in a dark sea of stars demonstrates the capabilities of its highly sensitive photometer, which is designed to pick up the faint dips in brightness of planets crossing distant stars. Some stars in this image are hundreds of light years away.

The scientific community celebrated Earth’s transit across Kepler’s field of view by using #WaveAtKepler on social media. As Kepler only takes pictures in black and white, some in the science community have taken the data and used color to highlight details in grayscale images.

Related: 21 of the most stunning images of our planet NASA ever took

The mission marks its nine-year anniversary in space on March 7, 2018. More than 2,500 planets have been found in the Kepler data so far, as well as many other discoveries about stars, supernovae and other astrophysical phenomena. The mission is in its second extended operating phase and is known to have a limited lifetime. Its scientific success in discovering distant planets has paved the way for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which is launching on April 16. TESS will monitor more than 200,000 of the brightest and nearest stars outside our solar system for transiting planets.

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