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MIGHTY MOVIES

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

On Sept. 11, 2012, a retired SEAL sniper took a small team to Blackwater’s former facility in the swamps of Virginia where he shot at a target from 911 yards 79 times — once for every Naval Special Warfare casualty since 9-11, those killed in both combat and training.


How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
Until It Hurts features the target with the 79 bullet holes highlighted in red. (Photo: Eric Wickham)

He sent the first round downrange at 8:46 AM, the time the first airliner hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center, in honor of Petty Officer First Class Neil Roberts — the first SEAL killed during the war in Afghanistan. The shot found the target, and the bullet hole was labeled with Roberts’ name by a volunteer spotter downrange.

“I’d take the shot, and they’d find the bullet hole,” the sniper recalled. “They’d write the name down next to the hole. I’d hand the brass to my wife who had the list of names and she’d label it. It was kind of a sacred process.”

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
Until It Hurts target artwork.

Several days after the shoot, the SEAL sniper’s wife convinced him to show the target to one of the contractors working on their house who had a brother who supposedly did “target art.” The SEAL Googled him — Ellwood T. Risk — and realized the guy was the real deal.

The contractor called his brother on the spot, and without hesitation the artist said, “I’m in; I’ll do it for free.”

Risk had been saving military-related front pages of major newspapers since 9-11, waiting for just such an opportunity. The result is a powerful piece of art called Until It Hurts.

Until It Hurts features the target with the 79 bullet holes highlighted in red. The target is flanked by the front pages with headlines announcing the news of the wars over the years. At the bottom of the piece the 79 names of the fallen are listed in chronological order.

Former Navy SEAL Jason Redman, a well-known wounded warrior, author, and founder of Wounded Wear, a company that specializes in providing free clothing to wounded vets, heard about the artwork and contacted Norfolk-area businessman Todd Grubbs, who eventually bought the piece at auction for $10,000. That money was put towards clothing for wounded vets and the Navy SEAL Foundation, a non-profit that funds education for the dependents of fallen SEALs.

Redman and Grubbs see the sale of the piece as just the beginning of its utility.

“The art should be perceived as a celebration of life,” said Grubbs, who has no desire to let Until It Hurts languish on a wall in his home.

“My biggest fear is we give guys clothing and they kill themselves in it,” Redman said. “We’re not helping them find their purpose. The American people aren’t helping. You see nothing on the news anymore. Even those we’re still losing guys. We have to keep the discussion going, to contextualize the sacrifice for the entire country. This artwork helps.”

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
Former Navy SEAL and vet entrepreneur Jason Redman addresses the audience following the premiere of Until It Hurts in Norfolk, Virginia. (Photo: Eric Wickham)

Among Grubbs’ business concerns is film production, so naturally he thought of turning the artwork and the events surrounding it into a film. He enlisted the help of director Scott Hanson and together they created Until It Hurts, which premiered in Norfolk, Virginia on Feb. 21.

“Doing this documentary gave me the chance to work with SEALs and learn more about their families and what they do,” Hanson said following the premiere. “It makes me way more appreciative that I can do what I do.”

“It hits everybody in different ways,” Redman said. “A wounded warrior sees one thing, a Gold Star family member sees something else, and a civilian sees something else. And that’s what’s so great about it.”

“This was the first showing to a civilian audience,” Jake Healy, son of Senior Chief Dan Healy who was killed when the Chinook attempting to extract four SEALs trapped on a mountain was hit by an RPG — a tragedy well-documented in Marcus Luttrell’s book Lone Survivor and the associated major motion picture. “Their response to the movie tonight was powerful and reassuring.”

“I hope it will…highlight the sacrifice of Americans who understand what it took to make this country.” Redman said.

You can watch the full documentary right here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjUgPYiM2gg
WATM field correspondent Briggs Carroll contributed to this article.
Articles

This hard-luck WWII soldier survived the Bataan Death March, torture and the atomic bomb

Army Sgt. Joe Kieyoomia was captured by Japanese forces in 1942 as the Philippines fell to the Japanese war machine. Unfortunately for him, that was the start of 43 months of captivity that began with the infamous Bataan Death March and only ended with the surrender of Japan.


How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
Joe Kieyoomia in uniform.

When he was captured by the Japanese, Kieyoomia – like tens of thousands of other Filipino and American POWs – was forced to walk some 60-70 miles in the sweltering heat, under constant enemy mistreatment. When he finally arrived at a prison camp, he watched as his captors forced them to dig their own graves and then shot them.

Kieyoomia was eventually sent to the Japanese mainland, because of his looks and his name. The enemy assumed he was Japanese American, but unfortunately for Kieyoomia in this instance, he was a Navajo. When he arrived on the mainland, he was beaten and tortured daily.

“They didn’t believe me,” he told The Deseret News when he was 72 years old. “The only thing they understood about Americans was black and white. I guess they didn’t know about Indians.”

But Kieyoomia wasn’t a code talker. He was deployed to the Philippines with New Mexico’s 200th Coast Artillery. When the Japanese needed to know what the Najavo code was, they came to Kieyoomia – but he didn’t know the code. He didn’t even know about the existence of the code.

The Japanese then had him listen to radio broadcasts – he was surprised to hear his native language. The broadcasts made no sense. His jailers didn’t believe that he couldn’t understand the messages and he was forced to stand naked in six inches of snow on a parade ground in below freezing temperatures.

Kieyoomia’s feet froze to the ground. When he was forced back inside, his skin stuck to the ground and he left a bloody trail on the parade ground. He was tortured for months on end.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
Joe Kieyoomia before his 1997 death.

“I salute the code talkers,” he said in the interview with Deseret News. “And even if I knew about their code, I wouldn’t tell the Japanese.”

The Japanese came to Kieyoomia with written words, transliterated into English. The Japanese tortured him to learn the Navajo code, but it was very different from mere words from the language. Kieyoomia couldn’t tell them if he wanted to it was gibberish, and it was designed to sound that way, even if someone spoke the language.

The Navajo soldier tried to end his own life with a hunger strike, but that only earned him more beatings from his Japanese captors.

His troubles were only ended by the second atomic bomb dropped on Japan. On Aug. 9, 1945 “Fat Man” detonated over the city, killing 40-75,000 people instantly.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
Nagasaki, August 1945.

Kieyoomia miraculously survived the nuclear blast because of the way he was sitting next to the concrete wall in his cell. He was abandoned for three days before a Japanese officer freed him.

After the war, Sgt. Joe Kieyoomia returned to the Navajo nation, recovered from his wounds, and lived to age 77. He died in 1997.

Lists

5 reasons why ‘Bangin’ in Sangin’ was like the Wild West

In October 2010, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines started clearing the Taliban insurgency from the Sangin District in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Once 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines handed over the area of observation to 3/5, things escalated quickly, making this campaign one of the bloodiest in American history.


Marines who headed out to clear the enemy-infested area were met by a dangerous environment and an extremely complicated IED threat — as a result, casualty rates climbed.

Eventually, the actions of the Marines of 3/5 were unofficially dubbed, “Bangin’ in Sangin.” The narrative that unfolded there was very close to that of a story set in the Wild West. Here’s why:

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

Marines of 3/5th Marine patrol through unpredictable, enemy terrain in Sangin, Afghanistan.

Paved roads were scarce

In most parts of the world, people drive on paved roads with designated lanes. Well, for British and American forces, the only option was to drive and patrol on roads made from loose gravel. The main roads in the district were described as nothing more than “wide trails.”

Since the majority of the Sangin population uses animals to haul their cargo, in the troops’ perspective, it was like jumping into a time machine and transporting back to the Old West.

The local cemeteries

How many Westerns have we seen where the cowboys, on horseback, encounter an eerie cemetery as they travel through uncharted land? Too often to count, right?

Well, Sangin was no different. Many of the graves were decorated with rocks and flags tied to wooden staves — just like the movies.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

HM3 Mitchell Ingolia, assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment conducts a security patrol through the dangerous area known as Sangin, Afghanistan.

(Photo by U.S. Marine Cpl. David Hernandez)

The nasty terrain

In many Westerns, the cowboys add days to their journeys because of some unmarked obstacle blocking their path, forcing them around.

In Sangin, the rough terrain provided for some unique challenges. Harsh conditions plus the fact that mud structures can be destroyed and rebuilt quickly made keeping maps current nearly impossible.

The locals lived in tribes

In the old days, Native Americans lived in settlements and did every they could to make ends meet while answering to the chief of the tribe. In Afghanistan, Marines commonly patrolled through similar villages — and the locals answered to their Islamic religious leader, known as the “Mullah.”

Though modern in many ways, social organization on the local level remains tribal.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jose Maldonado (left) and Cpl. Rocco Urso (right), both with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, provide over watch security during an operation in Sangin Valley, Afghanistan, on Oct. 7, 2010. The Marines conducted a two-day operation to clear insurgents from the Wishtan area.

(USMC photo by Cpl. David Hernandez)

The Marines lived like cowboys

When Marines left the wire for several days, they packed ammo, food, and their sleeping system. Since they didn’t know where they were going to be sleeping each night, Marines found rest in places most people couldn’t even imagine.

MIGHTY TRENDING

6 types of Afghan soldiers you’ll meet on deployment

When you’re forward deployed to the front lines of Afghanistan, you will experience a new culture, taste some delicious flatbread, and meet a variety of different people. Ever since the U.S. became involved with GWOT, we’ve teamed up with the Afghan National Army, training alongside them and even teaching them in order to help make Afghanistan a safer place.

Afghan troops are a one-of-a-kind type of people and, like us, they all joined their military for a reason — but not all of them are necessarily patriotic. In fact, it’s pretty rare when they go above and beyond like our troops do.


Depending on where you are stationed, you can work with a squad of them or an entire company; however, within that group of soldiers you’ll notice a few surprising personalities that will easily stick out.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ann Bennett)

The English-speaker

Even though English-speaking troops are rare, you can usually find one or two of them out and about. Many of the troops who speak our language aren’t typically native to the front lines. Most come from a larger city like Kabul, where they went to school.

They probably aren’t fluent, but they can hold their own during a conversation.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

The ones who don’t want to listen

Unfortunately, many of the troops didn’t join to fight to help regain control of their country. They did it to earn some cash for their family, which we can respect. Now, because of their lack of patriotism, those guys are less likely to give a sh*t when a firefight breaks out or when one of their Afghan troops gets injured. Their brotherhood isn’t nearly as strong as ours becomes.

Most notably, they don’t listen to allied forces when it comes to making important suggestions because they flat out don’t want to hear what we have to say.

It gets annoying.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

(Photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

The one who legitimately cares

In contrast to number two on this list, this soldier does give a f*ck and wants to do his part. He takes initiative and wants to become a better soldier.

Unfortunately, in our experience, these motivators don’t stay around long. They end up getting promoted and leaving their frontline duties. It’s a bummer.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

(Photo by Gunnery Sgt. William Price)

The trigger happy one

This guy is cool in his own right but he is unpredictable. You aren’t quite sure when he will open fire. But rest assured, he will squeeze that trigger when the time comes.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

(Photo by John Scott Rafoss)

The one you’re convinced is a bad guy

It’s hard not to stereotype Afghan soldiers, especially when there have been documented times when friendly fire has broken out between them and us. Because of that, it’s hard to build trust. The truth is, it’s not unrealistic to suspect that the Taliban has infiltrated the Afghan National Army.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

(Photo by Spc. Theodore Schmidt)

The one who is rarely ready-to-go

99.9 percent of the time, U.S. troops are ready for patrol once they step outside the wire. In contrast, many Afghan troops aren’t well-trained and therefore sometimes forget to bring specific gear or familiarize themselves with the mission route.

It’s annoying, but that’s the world we live in these days.

The most important thing when working with any foreign military is to reach across the divide and get to know the men and women who share your mission. Building trust is key.

MIGHTY HISTORY

After 75 years, members of 101st Airborne share ties to Battle of the Bulge

Seventy-five years ago in Bastogne, Belgium, German soldiers captured American Pfc. Marold Peterson of the 422nd Infantry Regiment, 106th Infantry Division. Peterson escaped from the work camp where we was held prisoner, only to be captured again and killed by Hitler Youth.

Sgt. Travis Paice, the great-grandson of Peterson, said it is surreal to be in Bastogne where Peterson lived his last moments.

“Maybe he was standing right where I stood,” Paice, a soldier with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, said.


Paice is one soldier with family ties to the World War II Battle of the Bulge who participated in the 75th anniversary commemoration ceremonies and parade. Sgt. Coleton Jones of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101 Airborne Division, is another.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

US infantrymen crouch in a snow-filled ditch, taking shelter from a German artillery barrage during the Battle of Heartbreak Crossroads in the Krinkelter woods, December 14, 1944.

(Pfc. James F. Clancy, US Army Signal Corps)

Jones’ great-uncle Ed Jones was a Sherman tanker with the 10th Armored Division during World War II. While Jones is unsure of his great-uncle’s rank, he heard stories growing up about his service from his father and uncle. During the Battle of the Bulge, three of Ed Jones’ tanks took extreme damage.

On his last time evacuating a Sherman tank, he took shrapnel from a German stick grenade in his leg and was captured as a prisoner of war. He was missing for about four months until a Canadian HAM radio operator intercepted a message from the Germans including the locations of POWs from both American and Allied forces.

“It’s amazing to feel like I am walking in his footsteps,” said Jones of walking through the streets where his great uncle served. “To see Bastogne and where he was is a sobering feeling.”

On December 14, 2019, American and Belgian soldiers, along with members of the Bastogne community and World War II veterans, marched in a parade through the town center. Guests of honor, including Prime Minister of Belgium Sophie Wilmes, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and the US Ambassador to Belgium Ronald Gidwitz threw walnuts from the balcony of the Bastogne City Center into the crowd.

The nut throwing, or “Jet de Noix,” commemorates Gen. Anthony McAuliffe’s famous response of “Nuts” when petitioned by the Germans to surrender.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

Anthony C. McAuliffe, left, and then-Col. Harry W.O. Kinnard II at Bastogne.

(US War Department)

Both Jones and Paice said they felt a great sense of pride knowing their unit has lineage to World War II and the Battle of the Bulge.

Paice had the opportunity to fly his great grandfather’s flag at the 101st Airborne Museum in Bastogne. He plans on gifting the flag to his grandfather, who is also a veteran.

Before arriving in Bastogne, Paice was given documents by the Army which provided an account of his great grandfather’s capture. He brought these documents with him as a reminder of what his family had endured. While Paice said the documents do not go into much detail, it is just enough to be harrowing.

“I never knew him, and my grandfather never knew him, but to get, somewhat, a little bit of closure was a little surreal,” Paice said.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

Sgt. Coleton Jones of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101 Airborne Division, center, meets reenactors at a community event at the Bastogne Barracks in Bastogne, Belgium, December 14, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Erica Earl)

Paice said the most emotional part of his great grandfather’s history is knowing that American soldiers liberated the prisoner camp Stalag IX-B, also known as Bad Orb, the day after he was killed in his effort to escape.

According to Army documents, soldiers in that prison were starved, with many men weighing only between 70 and 80 pounds when they were rescued.

As soldiers lined up to prepare for the parade, there was a mixture of snow, rain and harsh winds as temperatures dropped, but participants acknowledged that was nothing compared to what Soldiers who had gone before them endured.

Jones said if he could say something to his great uncle, it would be “thank you.”

“Thank you for paving the way for us and giving everything for our values, our freedoms and our allies’ freedoms,” Jones said in heartfelt appreciation to both is late great uncle and veterans of World War II.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What the Army should keep in mind when crafting a new slogan

Well guys, the Army’s slogan of “Army Strong” has officially been put on the chopping block. It had a solid run between 2006 and now, but it’s time to close that chapter and move on to the next slogan.

“One of the major responses we get when we survey folks who don’t have experience with military service is strength, so we know the ‘Army Strong’ resonates… but I don’t think it tells the story, the full story of being a soldier,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Dan Dailey told defense reporters.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
With Sgt. Maj. of the Army Dan Dailey’s record of doing logically better things for the Army, we’re all in favor.
(DoD Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann)

The U.S. Army has had a mixed bag of slogans, from the out-freaking-standing, like “Be All You Can Be” and “I Want You,” to that awkward, blue falcon-inspired “Army of One.” Using those guidelines and past experiences, let’s focus in on what makes a good recruiting slogan. For all practical purposes, the slogan should be on par with a commercial product’s brand — after all, both try to entice the public and leave a lasting impression.


First thing to look for is how well it will stick in someone’s head. The idea of any slogan, for recruitment or otherwise, is to build brand recognition. The Navy ran an ill-fated “A Global Force for Good” slogan back in 2009. It sounds polite and it puts the Navy in a positive light, but it’s not turning any heads — it’s simply literal.

Just hearing that, even in context, doesn’t make any random person think, “Oh! I should join the Navy!” Their response to selling America’s Navy better in the eyes of younger potential sailors? Simply, “America’s Navy.” That lasted a whole two years before going to the objectively better “Forged by the Sea.” The Army needs a slogan that is uniquely Army.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
It will also help if its something that won’t be used by other branches to mock us.
(Meme via Dysfunctional Veterans)

Audiences have been quick to ask, “why not go back to ‘Be All You Can Be?'” The fact is, there’s no way of knowing whether young adults today will share the same connection with it as older Army vets once did. Put bluntly, the new slogan isn’t meant to reenlist retirees, but those who lived by the words should still be proud to say them. So, the goal is to make the slogan resonate with today’s young adults without making something embarrassing years down the line.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
(U.S. Army)

Brevity is also the key to a great slogan. The Army isn’t looking for some tired, furniture-salesman jingle. Something short, sweet, and to the point. “Army Strong” was good for this — keeping a two-to-four-word limit is a must. These slogans are easier for audiences to remember. After all, leaving a lasting, positive image of the Army is the goal. Many of the greatest ad campaigns in history have all been short and direct.

A great slogan subconsciously tells people of the benefits of their brand. In the Army’s case, it’s the benefit of being a soldier. At their cores, that’s why “Be All You Can Be” and “Army Strong” worked. They tell potential recruits that enlisting will improve their lives — and just as importantly, that they’re missing out on something if they don’t enlist.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
Because we can’t rely on a massive cultural shift to do the heavy lifting for us nowadays.
(U.S. Army)

Finally, the slogan should tell the truth of what it means to serve and should apply to all soldiers, from the beastly Special Forces operator to a regular training room clerk in the National Guard. Slogans like, “Be a Bad Mother F*cker” may grab eyeballs, but it isn’t exactly applicable.

Following all of these guidelines, the best slogan for convincing young adults who are thinking of enlisting is something along the lines of, “Become greater than yourself.” Simple, effective, true, and it’s a feeling that all soldiers feel when they serve — regardless of generation.

Only time will tell when the Army will adopt a new slogan. I wouldn’t be worried though. The bar is set at pretty low — just do better than “Army of One.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Team Rubicon’s co-founder receives the Pat Tillman Award for Service

Jake Wood has seen and done a lot in his life, so you know when he calls receiving the Pat Tillman Award for Service “humbling,” it’s a meaningful statement. The co-founder and CEO of Team Rubicon was a United States Marine and scout sniper in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s testified in Congress on veterans’ mental health and briefed the last three Presidents of the United States about the issues returning veterans face.

Now, he’s been recognized by the ESPY awards, the annual presentation from ESPN and ABC honoring athletes for their performance in sports and sports-related activities. While deploying American military veterans to help disaster areas other rescue organizations won’t touch isn’t necessarily a sport, one can argue it’s definitely athletic.

But you don’t have to argue for Jake Wood.


How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

Tillman as a Ranger and as a Cardinal.

The Pat Tillman Award for Service is presented at the ESPYs to honor an individual with a strong connection to sports who has served others in a way that echoes the Tillman legacy. Previous honorees include 2016’s Sgt. Elizabeth Marks, who overcame hip injuries sustained in Iraq but still became the world’s number one paraswimmer. In 2015, it was awarded to Danielle Green, who joined the military after playing basketball at Notre Dame and lost her arm in Iraq. Green returned to help other veterans struggling to adjust to life after the military.

For Jake Wood, this award hits close to home. Wood was playing on the offensive line at the University of Wisconsin when Pat Tillman was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2004. It was after Tillman died that Wood told his coach he was off to join the Marine Corps, where he spent four years.

He was out for just three months before he saw the devastation in Haiti. It was in Port-Au-Prince that a handful of volunteers formed the first heartbeat of what would be come Team Rubicon. Now, the organization is 80,000 members strong.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

Wood in Haiti on Team Rubicon’s first mission.

And Jake Wood, the former o-lineman for the Badgers, is being recognized for forming a group that helps those most in need while giving struggling military veterans a new mission in life.

Pat Tillman would be proud.

Articles

U.S. general admits F-35 is actually three separate airplanes

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
Image: Lockheed Martin


The whole idea behind the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was for it to be, you know, joint. That is to say, the same basic plane would work for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps and foreign countries.

Lockheed Martin is designing the F-35 to meet all the requirements of all three U.S. military branches from the outset, with — in theory — only minor differences between the Air Force’s F-35A, the Marines’ F-35B and the Navy’s F-35C.

The variants were supposed to be 70-percent common. But Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, head of the JSF program office, told a seminar audience on Feb. 10 that the three F-35 models are only 20- to 25-percent common, mainly in their cockpits.

In other words, the F-35 is actually three different warplanes. The F-35, F-36 and F-37.

There are very few examples of plane designs that effectively meet the requirements of all three American armed services that operate fighters. The F-4 Phantom was a successful joint fighter, but only because McDonnell Douglas developed it for the Navy — and the Marines and Air Force adopted it after the fact without complicating the design process.

By contrast, the JSF’s design has taken the services’ competing, even contradictory, needs into account from the outset. The F-35A is supposed to be able to pull nine Gs. The B-model has a downward-blasting lift fan to allow it to take off and land vertically. The C-variant has a bigger wing and systems for operating from aircraft carriers. Even trying to bend each variant toward the same basic airframe resulted in a bulky, blocky fuselage that limits the F-35’s aerodynamic performance.

And the compromise didn’t result in a truly common design. It’s “almost like three separate production lines,” Bogdan said, according to Air Forcemagazine. A real joint fighter, the program boss said, is “hard” because each branch is adamant about its requirements. “You want what you want,” Bogdan said.

Bogdan declined to say whether the Pentagon’s next generation of fighters should be joint. But Lt. Gen. James Holmes, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for plans and requirements, said in mid-February 2016 that the Navy and Air Force would probably design their next fighters separately.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Adam Driver’s TED Talk voices regret of any vet without a combat deployment

Before he was wielding lightsabers in Star Wars or blowing up Twitter with Marriage Story, Adam Driver was a Marine with 1/1 Weapons Company, 81’s platoon, out in Camp Pendleton, California.

“I joined a few months after September 11, feeling like I think most people in the country did at the time, filled with a sense of patriotism and retribution and the desire to do something,” he stated in his opening remarks.

He joined the Marines and found that he loved it.

“Firing weapons was cool, driving and detonating expensive things was great. But I found I loved the Marine Corps the most for the thing I was looking for the least when I joined, which was the people: these weird dudes — a motley crew of characters from a cross section of the United States — that on the surface I had nothing in common with. And over time, all the political and personal bravado that led me to the military dissolved, and for me, the Marine Corps became synonymous with my friends,” he shared, voicing the brotherhood that many veterans feel while in service.

Then, months before deploying to Iraq, he dislocated his sternum in a mountain-biking accident and was medically separated.


My journey from Marine to actor | Adam Driver

www.youtube.com

My journey from Marine to actor | Adam Driver

“Those never in the military may find this hard to understand, but being told I wasn’t getting deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan was very devastating for me,” he confessed.

Those of us who wore the uniform but never deployed know exactly what he means.

It’s a different type of survivor’s guilt, a common response to surviving a life-threatening situation. In this case, it’s about not even going into that situation. In the eighteen years since the 9/11 attacks, our military has kept a high deployment tempo. Many of our friends never returned.

And for those of us left behind — whether because our mission was elsewhere in the world or, like Driver, we were medically ineligible for combat — well, it’s a shitty feeling.

“I have a very clear image of leaving the base hospital on a stretcher and my entire platoon is waiting outside to see if I was OK. And then, suddenly, I was a civilian again,” blinked Driver.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

“It’s a powerful thing, getting in a room with complete strangers and reminding ourselves of our humanity, and that self-expression is just as valuable a tool as a rifle on your shoulder.” Or a lightsaber at your hip?

“I was surprised by how complex the transition was from military to civilian. And I was relatively healthy; I can’t imagine going through that process on top of a mental or physical injury. But regardless, it was difficult,” he shared, voicing what many veterans have felt after their service.

Also read: 10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

He struggled with finding a job. “I was an Infantry Marine, where you’re shooting machine guns and firing mortars. There’s not a lot of places you can put those skills in the civilian world,” he joked.

He also struggled with finding meaning in acting school while his friends were serving without him overseas.

“Emotionally, I struggled to find meaning. In the military, everything has meaning. Everything you do is either steeped in tradition or has a practical purpose. You can’t smoke in the field because you don’t want to give away your position. You don’t touch your face — you have to maintain a personal level of health and hygiene. You face this way when “Colors” plays, out of respect for people who went before you. Walk this way, talk this way because of this. Your uniform is maintained to the inch. How diligently you followed those rules spoke volumes about the kind of Marine you were. Your rank said something about your history and the respect you had earned.”

Find out more about how he went from Marine to actor in the video above — and how he has found peace in service after service — in the video above.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

China is voicing support for the possible U.S.-North Korea summit, despite concerns that it will be left out of talks that could dramatically alter regional security and political dynamics.


U.S. President Donald Trump surprised the world when he agreed to accept North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s offer to meet about ending Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

Also read: South Korea’s plan to convince President Trump to visit North Korea

The rapid turn toward diplomacy could defuse building tensions over the North’s accelerated testing of missile and nuclear devices to develop a nuclear-armed long- range missile that can target the U.S. mainland.

The Trump administration has led a “maximum pressure” campaign that imposed tough sanctions on Pyongyang, and planned for possible military action, if needed, to force the Kim government to give up its nuclear program.

 

Chinese support

Chinese President Xi Jinping said he was delighted with the progress being made to reduce regional tensions and facilitate direct talks between Trump and Kim.

The Chinese leadership has closely consulted the U.S. and South Korea on the prospects of talks. Lu Chao, a North Korea expert at the Liaoning Academy of Social Science in China said Beijing has nothing to fear from being left on the sidelines of the upcoming summit between Washington and its ally in Pyongyang.

More: North Korea is so short on cash it’s selling electricity to China

“Beijing’s role will not be diminished. Neither will China’s interests be compromised if the U.S. engages in direct talks with the North Koreans,” said Lu.

The Global Times, China’s Communist Party newspaper, also reacted to the prospect of a Trump/Kim summit by urging the Chinese people to “avoid the mentality that China is being marginalized.”

Also anxiety

Yet other China scholars in the region worry that Trump’s diplomatic initiative could undermine Beijing’s influence and further strain already tense relaxations between Xi and Kim.

“There is evidently anxiety on the progress being made in the absence of its [China’s] influence all of a sudden,” said Seo Jeong-kyung, a professor with the Sungkyun Institute of China Studies in Seoul.

North Korea has still not reacted to Trump’s response, nor confirmed the offer for a summit that was communicated though a South Korean envoy that met with Kim in Pyongyang.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with Chung Eui-yong, who led a special delegation of South Korea’s president. (Photo released by KCNA)

If the summit does happen, Trump would be the first head of state who Kim Jong Un will meet since he came to power in 2012. The North Korean leader has yet to meet with Chinese President Xi.

Even though North Korea is dependent on China for over 90 percent of its trade, relations between the two allies has been strained over Pyongyang’s nuclear program. The young leader of North Korea has also not cultivated friendly ties with China, and has repeatedly ignored Beijing’s calls for Pyongyang to refrain from provocative missile and nuclear tests.

Related: Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM

In contrast, Kim Jong Il, the father of the current North Korean leader, often visited with the leaders in Beijing, despite his own disagreement with China over nuclear weapons. In the 2000s China led six party talks – that included the U.S., North Korea, South Korea, Japan, and Russia — to reach a denuclearization deal. But in 2009 Kim Jong Il walked away from these talks to resume his country’s nuclear development program.

President Xi’s frustration with past failure and with the young North Korea leader may also be part the reason why Beijing is willing to sit out the denuclearization talks this time.

“China wants to play some role, but the greatest obstacle is Kim Jong Un’s hostility against China,” said Shi Yinhong, a political science professor at Renmin University in Beijing.

Improving U.S.-North Korea relations could further estrange Kim from Xi. With a nuclear deal in place, the Trump administration would no longer need Beijing’s support on sanctions and could take a more confrontational approach to deal with Chinese trade issues and to counter Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.

Aligned benefits

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
Sino-Korea Friendship Bridge, linking Dandong with North Korea.

For China, there are clear benefits to a North Korea nuclear deal. It would reduce the potential for conflict in the region and restore expanding cross border economic activity.

Rather than lead to confrontation with the U.S. on other issues, there is also speculation that Beijing could leverage its support of U.S. led sanctions to end Washington’s objections to China’s claims in the South China Sea, or to the “One China Principle” on Taiwan.

“There have been discussions about trying to obtain the cooperation of the U.S. to unify Taiwan into China, after securing a good deal with the U.S. on the North Korea issue,” said Seo Jeong-kyung, with the Sungkyun Institute of China Studies.

A nuclear deal would also increase pressure on the United States and South Korea to reduce their military presence and remove the THAAD missile defense shield that was deployed on South Korea in 2017.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The government is quiet about plutonium missing for the last year

Two Department of Energy security experts took off to San Antonio in March, 2017. Their mission was to retrieve potentially dangerous nuclear material from a nonprofit research lab. Just to be certain they were getting the goods, they were issued radiation detectors along with a disc of plutonium and a small amount of cesium to calibrate their sensors.

When these two security experts stopped for the night along the 410 beltway, they left the nuclear materials in their rented Ford SUV in a Marriott parking lot that was not in the best neighborhood. The next morning, they were surprised to find the vehicle’s windows smashed in and the nuclear materials gone.

The cesium and plutonium were never recovered, according to the Center for Public Integrity.


For the uninitiated, plutonium is one of the most valuable substances on Earth. It’s also one of few elements that will undergo nuclear fission, which is used in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. It’s an extremely deadly and dangerous substance with a half-life of just over 24,000 years. One kilogram of plutonium can explode with the force of 10,000 tons of TNT. Luckily, the Idaho National Laboratory says the amount stolen isn’t enough to make a nuclear bomb — that requires nine pounds of uranium or seven pounds of plutonium.

Something the size and weight of a kettle bell could fill the material need for a nuclear weapon.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

Pictured: terrorism.

Cesium is an element that can be used in highly accurate atomic clocks and dirty bombs. It’s one of the most active elements on Earth and explodes on contact with water.

No one briefed the public, no announcement was made in the San Antonio area, and no one would say exactly how much fissile material was stolen and is currently in the hands of someone who thinks they’re just holding cool pieces of metal while slowly irradiating themselves and those around them.

And the military doesn’t have to do any of that, so they don’t. In fact, it happens so often there’s now an acronym for it: MUF – material unaccounted for. An estimated six tons of fissile material is currently considered MUF.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

If there’s an acronym AND a powerpoint about it, you know that sh*t is happening all the time.

The Government Accountability Office doesn’t even have a thorough record of material it loaned to other nuclear nations, what the status of that material is, and if their systems are rigorously inspected. At least 11 of those sites have not been visited by U.S. inspectors since before the September 11, 2001, attacks.

In one instance, 45 pounds of enriched uranium — enough for five nuclear detonations — loaned from the military was listed as safely stored when it was actually gone as of 2009 and had been missing for as long as five years. Since 1993, the International Atomic Energy Agency tracked 270 incidents where dangerous fissile materials were trafficked with the intent of doing harm.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

“He seems totally trustworthy to me. Let’s transfer our plutonium immediately.”

The security contracting firm who lost the equipment was given an award, government bonuses, and a renewed contract. Since the Idaho National Lab considered the amount of nuclear material stolen to be of little consequence, they closed the case.

Articles

The Air Force just revealed this secret Middle East air base for the first time

For the first time in over a decade, the US Air Force is publicly acknowledging it runs an air war out of Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.


The US embassy in country recently worked with Emirati counterparts to make the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing — an Air Combat Command-run unit at the base — known, officials told Military.com.

Military.com first spoke with members of the 380th on a trip to the Middle East earlier this summer on condition the name and location of the base not be disclosed, and that full names of personnel not be used due to safety concerns amid ongoing air operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

While the 380th was established at the base on Jan. 25, 2002, the US military has had a presence on the base for approximately 25 years. The base is home to a variety of combat operations.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
Senior Airman Deandre Barnes, 1st Fighter Wing crew chief, awaits orders from Capt. Blaine Jones, First Fighter Wing F-22 Raptor pilot. USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Larkin Sr.

In addition to housing one of the largest fuel farms in the world, the wing houses such aircraft as the KC-10 tanker; the RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude drone; the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System, or AWACS, aircraft; the U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane; and the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jet.

Together, these aircraft carry out missions such as air refueling, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, command and control, ground attack, air support, and others.

The 380th also runs its own intel analysis and air battle-management command and control center known as “The Kingpin.”

Like moving chess pieces, “Kingpin has the [air tasking order] — they’re talking to people on the ground, they’re making sure these airplanes are provisionally controlled, getting them back and forth to tankers … they’re talking to the [Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar], they minimize the fog and friction for the entire [area of responsibility]” in US Central Command, according to Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles Corcoran, commander of the 380th AEW and an F-22 pilot.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’
Airmen from the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Honor Guard participate in a special Memorial Day retreat ceremony. Photo by Master Sgt. Jenifer Calhoun.

Meanwhile, the general was candid about what the US mission could be after ISIS is defeated in Iraq and Syria.

Corcoran said, “We’re fighting an enemy — ISIS — in another country — Syria — where there’s also an insurgency going on, but we’re not really invited to be” a part of that, he said. “But we can’t leave it to the Syrians to get rid of ISIS, because that wasn’t working, right? So it’s really an odd place to be.”

He added, “We know … we’re going to defeat ISIS. Their days are numbered. What next?”

MIGHTY CULTURE

How veterans are using writing to heal

Navy veteran and creative writing gold medalist Patrick Ward is excited to share his work at this year’s Vet Gala at the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival (NVCAF). His featured story can be found among the 15 short stories and poems displayed in Writers’ Row at the festival’s Artist and Writer Exhibition.

“Writing has helped bring me back to the person that I want to be,” Ward said. “I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to be here and to share my story with others. We all have stories to tell. My hope in telling mine is that it inspires someone while I’m here.”


Inspiration and healing

Gary Beckwith, creator of the annual Veterans Literacy Jam at Battle Creek VA Medical Center and one of this year’s NVCAF writing event organizers, says he hopes veterans realize their potential and leave feeling healed.

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

Navy Veteran and creative writer, Patrick Ward (right), listens during a discussion at the writing workshop at the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival. Ward’s story is among the 15 short stories and poems displayed in Writers’ Row at the festival’s Artist and Writer Exhibition.

“I believe that writing can be a cathartic experience,” said Beckwith. “The writing workshops and Vet Gala were designed to, not only highlight the talents of our writers, but were organized with the hopes that veterans leave here feeling inspired.”

During the festival, writers take the opportunity to speak about their writing and how it has affected their health, emotional well-being and recovery.

Army veteran Otto Espenschied has used writing to help him overcome Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and cope during a nine-year battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Recently receiving a gold medal for his short story titled, “I Don’t Have PTSD,” he explains that writing and participating in this year’s festival has helped him understand that he is stronger than he ever knew.

“It’s hard to dream when you’re barely holding on,” he said. “Writing has helped get me through some tough times, but I’m alive. I can hug my daughters and my wife each day. What more can I ask for?”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.