Recent investigations show that the Department of Defense has issued thousands of other-than-honorable discharges to veterans with mental health and behavioral health diagnoses.
U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal and seven other senators introduced legislation to change that.
On April 3, Murphy, veterans, and advocates for veterans held a press conference in Connecticut and called upon Congress to take action.
“I can’t stand the idea of a veteran risking her or his life for this country, suffering the wounds of battle, and then being kicked to the curb as a result of those wounds,” Murphy said. “But that is exactly what has happened to tens of thousands of men and women who have fought and bled for our country.”
“This is common sense,” Murphy added. “We are breaking our promise to those who served.”
Murphy said there is also a stigma that comes with an other-than-honorable discharge that is a heavy burden for veterans to live with. “A lot of these so-called offenses are very minor,” Murphy said.
The legislation Murphy helped introduce would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide mental health and behavioral health services to diagnosed former combat veterans who have been other-than-honorably discharged. The bill would also ensure that veterans receive a decision in a timely manner and requires the VA to justify to Congress any denial of benefits that they issue to a veteran.
Up until recently, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Murphy said, denied it had the legal authority to provide any care to former combat veterans who received OTH or Bad Paper discharges.
The VA has reversed course on the matter, Murphy said, adding that now it’s time for Congress to act to ensure mental health and behavioral health services are provided to these veterans.
Since January 2009, the Army has “separated” at least 22,000 soldiers for misconduct after they came back from Iraq and Afghanistan, said Murphy.
“These soldiers who fought for our country suffered serious mental health problems or traumatic brain injury as a cost of their service. And we turned our back on them,” Murphy said, adding that they also return home from combat with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
But instead of being directed to the care and treatment they need, they’re being given other-than-honorable discharges or so-called “bad paper discharges,” disqualifying them from VA care, especially the mental and behavioral health services many of them desperately need, said the senator.
Murphy’s strong support for the bill was echoed by Blumenthal, who is a sponsor but was not at Monday’s press conference.
“This bill will make crystal clear that all combat veterans should have access to the full array of mental and behavioral health care they need and deserve,” Blumenthal said. “We cannot wait for a crisis to provide essential mental health to veterans suffering from the terrible invisible wounds of war.”
He said 20 veterans per day are lost to suicide.
One of those in attendance at the press conference Monday was Conley Monk, a Vietnam veteran from New Haven who developed PTSD as a result of his military service.
In 2014, Monk and four other plaintiffs brought a class action lawsuit because they were issued OTH discharges. They won the suit, which was brought on their behalf by the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School and the Pentagon agreed to upgrade their discharges to honorable.
Another veteran to speak Monday was was Tom Burke, president of the Yale Student Veterans Council and a U.S. Marine corps veteran.
In 2009, Burke was a Marine infantryman in Afghanistan.
It was when he was in the Helmand Province that he witnessed deaths of many young children who were killed by an unexploded rocket-propelled grenade. One of Burke’s responsibilities was to cart away the dismembered bodies.
“I began smoking hash,” Burke said, adding that in a matter of weeks he was charged for misconduct for his drug use and was told he would be kicked out of the Marines.
Burke said he “tried to commit suicide a few times.”
He said he was later locked in a psychiatric hospital and subsequently given an OTH discharge later in 2009.
In 2014, Burke said he applied for an honorable discharge, but was denied.
Burke tells his story often, these days, not to elicit empathy for his own case, but to try and draw attention to the bigger issue of the thousands like him who are being denied benefits.
“Veterans are dying,” Burke said. “These aren’t men and women who are trying to take advantage of the system.”
Margaret Middleton, executive director of the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, said veterans need relief.
Under the current system, a veteran trying to get an honorable discharge often “requires the expertise and cost of an attorney and lengthy research,” something that veterans returning from combat shouldn’t be forced to endure, she said.
Murphy concluded: “Our veterans made a commitment to our country when they signed up. I introduced this legislation to make sure that the VA keeps its commitment to help veterans with mental and behavioral health issues. I won’t stop fighting until they get the care and benefits they deserve.”
We asked the sailors of the Submarine Bubblehead Brotherhood, a Facebook group for U.S. Navy submariners, what some of their funniest experiences were while underway and got over 230 funny comments. Here are 11 of the best replies:
*Note: identities kept anonymous per group’s request.
1. The shoe polish prank.
The best items for this prank are binoculars, periscopes and sound powered telephones. Yes, it’s a bit childish but hilarious when you’ve been cooped up for weeks on end.
2. When civilians or people not in the submarine community ask if the subs have windows.
Facebook group comment: When people ask if we had windows I’d tell them we had a big screen just like on Star Trek and that we could communicate face to face. You should have seen their faces.
3. Sending a NUB (Non Useful Body) to machinery to get a machinist’s punch.
4. Sending a NUB to feed the shaft seals.
Shaft seals are mythological creatures new sailors are sent to go looking for on a fool’s errand by another sailor. The shaft seals are actually a series of interlocks and safety mechanisms that ensure the integrity surrounding the ship’s main propulsion shaft, and not nautical mammals.
5. Farting into the ventilation that takes air from one compartment into another.
Facebook group comment: We had a mech who’d stand watch on the ERUL (engine room upper level) that used to fart into the ventilation return that took air from the ERUL to the maneuvering control room. Then we’d all look around to figure out who sh-t themselves. About a minute later, we’d see him staring through the window at us with a grin bigger than Tennessee.
6. Preparing a NUB to go hunting when the 1MC (the ship’s public address system) announced “the ship will be shooting water slugs.”
Water slug refers to shooting a submarine’s torpedo tube without first loading a torpedo — like firing blanks with a gun.
7. Waking a sleeping shipmate and shouting “Come on man, we’re the last ones!!” while wearing a Steinke hood or SEIE.
A Steinke hood is used to escape a sub stranded on the ocean floor.
8. Trimming a shipmate’s webbed belt when he is trying to lose weight.
Facebook group comment: I’d trim about a quarter inch every couple of days from his webbed belt while he was trying to lose weight. He will say, “I’ve lost 10 pounds,” to which I’d respond, “why is your belt still tight?”
9. Pranking the XO (Executive Officer) by stealing the door to his stateroom.
It is tradition to prank the XO by stealing the door to his stateroom before transferring to another unit. This is huge because the CO (Commanding Officer/captain) and the XO are the only ones aboard who don’t have to share their rooms. It’s all in good fun, as is the XO’s retaliation. For example, we’ve heard of an XO who replaced his missing door with a tall sailor. Yes, that’s right, a real person. He even held a handle and made creaking noises when the XO opened the door.
10. Getting drunk sailors back on the boat after a port visit.
Facebook group comment: We’d laugh as we came face to face with the stumbling fools reeking of booze and debauchery. Me and the other watch stander would tie a line around the drunks and lower them down the aft battery hatch. The first few times were rough, they’d bang around going down but we eventually became good at it. Hell, sometimes I was one of those stumbling fools but they took care of me as I took care of them.
11. Pranking the JOOD (junior officer of the deck) with a trim party.
The prank is performed on a newly qualified Dive Officer, Chief of the Watch or JOOD where men and other weights are shifted fore and aft to affect the trim of the boat.
Trim definition (for non-sailors): Both on a submarine and surface vessels, a ship is designed to float as level as possible in the water. When the majority of the cargo weight is shifted to one end of the ship, the ship will begin to tilt.
Russia’s political-military leadership frequently criticizes the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for its enlargement and for staging military exercises close to Russian borders. This pattern has intensified since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014 and the subsequent downturn in its relations with the United States and its allies.
Surprisingly, therefore, Moscow’s official reaction has been somewhat muted during the current run up to the active phases of NATO’s largest exercise in Europe in 25 years—though some Russian military experts have been making critical comments to the media.
On January 23, the US Department of Defense confirmed that a redeployment of United States military personnel had commenced, transferring forces from the homeland to Europe as part of the NATO exercise Defender Europe 2020. The wide-spanning maneuvers will focus on the Baltic States, Poland and Georgia, involving more than 36,000 personnel from 11 countries (Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020).
Russian news outlets have highlighted that this year’s Defender Europe exercise scenario is based on a war breaking out on the continent in 2028, between NATO and an enemy close to its borders. Additional reports stressed the scale of the exercise, with 28,000 U.S. military personnel participating, including the deployment of 20,000 from the United States. Referring to the magnitude of the drills, Vadim Kozyulin, a professor at the Russian Academy of Military Sciences, compared them to the 1983 Able Archer, which resulted in Soviet forces being placed on alert.
Despite the scale of Defender Europe 2020 not even coming close to Able Archer 1983, a number of the upcoming exercise’s features may well cause concern for the Russian defense establishment (Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020). Kozyulin asserted, “Such large-scale exercises will seriously aggravate the situation. Moreover, the main events will be held in Poland, Georgia and the Baltic countries, which not only border Russia, but also [exhibit] an unfriendly attitude toward our country” (Km.ru, January 27).
These reports also stressed a number of aspects of the exercise that may help explain the lack of an official response from Moscow thus far. Defender Europe will become an annual NATO exercise with a large-scale iteration planned for even-numbered years and smaller versions occurring in between. US military personnel will constitute the bulk of the force this year, with European allies collectively providing only 8,000 personnel.
As Russian analysts expect, moving the forces, equipment and hardware will prove quite challenging to the North Atlantic Alliance forces. Moreover, Defender Europe 2020 is the first exercise of its kind, which may have persuaded Russia’s defense leadership to cautiously study the exercise in all its various elements before responding to it (Km.ru, January 27, 2020; Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020; Rusvesna.su, January 25, 2020).
In a detailed commentary in Izvestia, the Moscow-based military analyst Anton Lavrov assesses the implications of the exercise, and identifies areas that will be closely monitored by Russia. Lavrov notes that Defender Europe will work out how the Alliance will fight a “war of the future” by testing an experimental strategy and some of its latest military equipment, adding, “Almost 500 American tanks, self-propelled guns and heavy infantry fighting vehicles, hundreds of aircraft, [as well as] tens of thousands of wheeled vehicles will take part in the exercises.”
The force buildup for the maneuvers will continue until April, and then NATO will conduct a series of drills forming part of the overall exercise. Crucially, this will provide an opportunity for the US to road-test its latest doctrinal development, namely “multi-domain battle,” which adds space and cyberspace to the traditional domains of land, sea and air. Lavrov states, “The concept will be tested in a series of command and staff exercises of the allied forces” (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
The exercise divides into three related elements: transferring 20,000 US troops from the homeland to Europe and back again, moving US personnel based in Europe, and conducting a series of smaller exercises alongside allied forces.
Lavrov also points to the fact that Defender Europe 2020 will rehearse both defensive and offensive operations. One feature of the offensive operational aspects relates to US airborne forces conducting three joint airborne assault landings. In each case, the leading role is assigned to US forces. In the drop into Latvia, they will be joined by forces from Spain and Italy; in Lithuania, they are aided by personnel from Poland; and an additional multilateral airdrop is planned for Georgia (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
As noted, one key challenge relates to the logistical tasks of moving troops and equipment over such vast distances. US military personnel and equipment will land at airports across Europe and seaports in Antwerp (Belgium), Vlissingen (Netherlands), Bremerhaven (Germany) and Paldiski (Estonia).
Russian military expert Vyacheslav Shurygin explained the nature of the challenge: “The transport infrastructure of Europe has not encountered such large-scale movements of military equipment for a long time.” Indeed, the redeployment of forces and hardware involved cannot be compared to standard US battle group rotations (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
Clearly, one of the objectives of the exercise is to assess the efficiency of these deployments into a potential theater of military operations. Lavrov adds, “Even for the modern US Army, the transfer of heavy tank and infantry divisions from continent to continent is a difficult, lengthy and expensive task. Twenty thousand units of equipment that the Americans will use in the maneuvers will arrive from the US, and another 13,000 will be received by the military from storage bases on the spot.
In Europe, there are now four large storages of American military equipment. Each one has everything, from tanks and artillery to trucks and medical vehicles, to equip a tank brigade. Another similar base is being built in Poland and will be commissioned in 2021″ (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
One commentary in the Russian media stressed not only that NATO was deploying forces for exercises close to Russia’s borders but pointedly also referenced Belarus, which fits with Moscow’s scenario planning for its Zapad series of strategic military exercises: “However, the fact that such a powerful group of US and NATO forces is practicing deployments near the borders of Belarus and Russia, against the background of a growing American military presence in Poland and the Baltic countries, is a matter of concern” (Rusvesna.su, January 25, 2020).
It remains to be seen whether Russia’s political-military leadership will continue to be cautious about Defender Europe, restricting its criticism to public rhetoric, or if it will ultimately try to engage the Alliance in political or information warfare on this front.
Going to college is a huge step in every veteran’s life after they get out of the military. You just finished serving your country, now you can go to school full time and get it completely paid for – and get paid while you’re doing it.
We earned a pretty epic deal.
But the benefits of being a veteran don’t have to stop there. If you play your cards right, you can flex your “veteran” title and receive some less-than-official bonuses.
Check out these insightful ways to pull the veteran card in your school – but please use these tips for good and not evil.
1. Getting accepted
Colleges around the country tend to have a strict application process which weed out many student hopefuls. Having the government willing to pay your full tuition is a huge benefit in the school’s eyes — everyone likes to get paid.
It’s a fact.
It’s important that you fill out all the necessary paperwork in a timely order or risk sitting at home for a whole semester.
Please stop clapping like that — its only community college. (Image via Giphy)
2. Receiving extra time for homework and other projects
The majority of colleges have procedures in place for veterans who have “focus issues,” which is great. As long as you let your teachers and the school’s administration know you may have this issue because of your deployments, the more lee way you’re bound to get.
We know you do! (Image via Giphy)
3. Booking classes
Sometimes classes just fill up too quickly, and a veteran can’t register for one of the spots in time — we know it sucks.
Here’s what you do — tell whoever is in charge of booking the classes that you won’t get your monthly VA benefits unless you can get in, followed by the sweetest smile you can muster.
Last month, the news that Ukraine would receive FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles from the United States generated headlines. It’s not surprising that the move got attention from the public, given the fact that Russia and Ukraine have been fighting a low-level war since 2014. But Ukraine is not the only neighbor who has received weapons from the U.S. under the Trump Administration.
According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the Republic of Georgia will be receiving 72 launchers and 410 FGM-148 Javelin missiles. Why might this be a big deal? Well, in 2008, Georgia and Russia fought a war over Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia lost the war and Russia seized the territory. Russia claims that the disputed territories are now independent nations, but if you believe that… well, then we’ve got some lovely beachfront property in North Dakota to sell you.
So, how does the Javelin change things for Georgia? Well, most of Georgia’s current anti-tank missiles are older Russian models, like the AT-4 Spigot, AT-7 Spriggan, and the AT-13 Saxhorn 2. These missiles are generally wire-guided and, as a consequence, aren’t entirely safe. This is because most anti-tank missiles have a huge backblast that reveals their position. Worse, when you have a wire-guided system, you have to direct the launch until the missile reaches its target. If the bad guys can hit your position in the meantime, you’re likely finished.
The Javelin, on the other hand, is a fire-and-forget system with a range of roughly one and a half miles. That means that once you fire the missile, it hunts its target with on-board seekers (the Javelin uses an imaging infra-red seeker). This is much safer for anti-tank teams since they can relocate to a new firing position immediately. In essence, Georgia has just seen a substantial uptick in its capabilities against the horde of Russian tanks.
In May of 1942, U-boat 506 sank the freighter “Heredia” approximately 40 miles off New Orleans. Most of the crew onboard were merchant seamen, but there were also a handful of civilians including the Downs family, consisting of the parents, Ray and Ina, along with their two children, eight-year-old Sonny, and eleven-year-old Lucille. When the ship exploded, chaos ensued and Ina and Lucille were separated from Ray and Sonny who found refuge in a four-foot balsa wood life raft. Father and son were joined by the Heredia’s captain, Captain Edwin Colburn, and civilian George Conyea. The following narrative, excerpted from Michael Tougias’ new book “So Close to Home,” chronicles their final hours in the life raftwhen all hope seemed lost.
The baking rays of the sun pounded down on the four souls clinging to the square life raft, that was now partially submerged. If we don’t drown, thought Ray Downs, we’re going to die of dehydration. They had been drifting in the Gulf of Mexico for over fourteen hours, and Ray worried his boy Sonny wouldn’t last another hour.
Sonny was lost in his own exhausted stupor. Then he felt something against his leg. He glanced down and could not believe what he saw: a banana, perhaps the same one he had lost earlier, was bobbing in the water.
“Dad, look!” he gasped, reaching out and snatching the green banana.
“I knew you’d find it. I think that banana is really going to help us. Why don’t you unpeel it and take a big bite and then pass it around for all of us to share?”
Sonny did as he was told. It was a struggle to swallow his piece of the banana with his mouth and throat so dry. Twenty seconds later, he felt nauseous and vomited the banana bite back into the sea.
“Well, that didn’t work so well,” Ray said. “The banana wasn’t ripe anyway.”
Sonny only nodded. He was slumped forward with his head hanging so low that it almost reached his knees.
A few minutes later, Sonny said, “Dad, can we go in now?” He said it as if they were on a fishing trip and it was up to his father when to call it quits.
Rather than try to explain the situation, his father answered, “Soon, son, soon.”
Sonny looked up at his father and just nodded.
It wasn’t long after this exchange that Ray noticed fellow survivor George Conyea staring at something directly behind where Ray was sitting. Ray turned his head and saw not one but four grey shark fins lazily cutting through the sea just five feet away from the raft. When he looked over at Conyea and the captain, he saw another couple of fins. By now, all four of the survivors could see the sharks. No one said a word.
One shark turned toward the raft and then glided directly under it. The group could see the outline of its body as it passed directly beneath them. It looked to be about five to six feet long.
Sonny quickly pulled his feet out of the water.
“Take it easy, Sonny, don’t thrash around,” said his dad. “They’ll move on.”
But they didn’t move on.
The four survivors now counted seven different sharks making slow half-loops around the raft before making a pass directly underneath it. This was by far the most terrifying experience of the ordeal for both Sonny and the three adults. The raft was too small for the men to try and get their legs on top of the balsa wood. Ray was right: their best defense was not to make a commotion.
The men did not know what kind of sharks they were, only that they were as big as themselves. The life raft probably acted like a magnet for sharks, attracting their interest simply because it was a floating object, and the sharks, with their keen sense of smell, could also have been drawn in by the scent of the blood from the wound on Ray’s leg. And any movement the group made, such as switching position, would have caused a vibration in the water, and that too would attract sharks. It’s also possible that smaller fish were holding position under the shade of the raft, and the sharks came in to investigate this potential prey, and then became inquisitive about the humans.
Whatever kind of sharks were circling the Heredia survivors, they were curious and gradually moved in closer to the life raft, making their lazy half-loops just a couple of feet off the side of the raft before they submerged and swam directly under it. One shark, when passing under the raft, rolled on its back, and an anxious Sonny could see its half-opened mouth. The boy almost let out a scream, but his dad, who had seen the same thing, reached over and put his hand on Sonny’s shoulder.
“Don’t worry, they are just checking us out. We are something new to them.”
Ray had no idea if what he was saying was true or not, but the last thing he needed was for his son to go into a panic. He also hoped his words calmed the captain and George Conyea, because they were as wide-eyed as Sonny, watching every move their new visitors made.
Ray felt despair like he had never known. Sundown was just three and a half hours away, and the thought of the sharks gliding beneath them at night was too terrible to contemplate. He felt absolutely helpless.
Minutes crawled by and the four survivors kept still, eyes glued on the fins lazily cutting through the water on all sides of the raft. The behavior of the sharks stayed the same; they came within a foot or two of the castaways but there was no direct contact with either the raft or the group’s legs or feet.
“How long will they stay?” asked Sonny, looking at his father.
“Don’t know, Sonny; but like I said, they are just curious.” Ray paused and continued his calming words: “If we don’t bother them, they won’t bother us.”
An hour went by and the group tried to ignore the sharks, but with little success. There was nothing else to look at, nothing else to take their mind off the seven fins circling them.
About two hours after the sharks first arrived, more fins appeared in the water not far from the raft. Sonny was terrified, thinking, not more sharks. . . .
Captain Colburn spoke up. “Hey, those are dolphins.”
Like the U-boat that had caused their ordeal, the sharks submerged and were not seen again.
Sonny experienced an incredible sense of relief and joy with the dolphins’ arrival and the sharks’ departure. He felt as if he had been holding his breath for the past two hours, afraid to move a muscle. There was no doubt in his mind that the dolphins had driven the sharks off to help him.
The dolphins’ presence not only relieved Sonny’s concern over the sharks, they also gave him something new to watch. Unlike the sharks, the dolphins swam quickly around the raft, their entire backs almost coming out of the water, and then briefly submerge and repeat the process. Up and down came their fins. But after just three or four minutes, they moved on and were gone from sight.
The group didn’t speak. Without the fear of sharks, their minds went back to the predicament of time running out for a rescue. It would be dark within the hour. Their thirst was unbearable and all felt extremely weak. Sonny was in the worst shape because of his small body. Now that the sun was low in the sky, he was shivering again. His father noticed and had him move back on his lap where he wrapped his big arms around the boy, trying to stop his shaking.
Sonny looked up at his father. “Shouldn’t a boat be here by now?” he asked.
Ray needed to keep his son’s mind occupied. So instead of discussing the lack of a rescue boat, he said “Let’s play a game. See those seagulls way up there? You choose one and I’ll choose one and we’ll count how long they go without flapping their wings. Whoever’s bird flies the longest without using its wings wins.”
Sonny perked up a bit. He didn’t really want to play the game because he was so chilled and his mouth so parched that he’d rather not talk. But he thought maybe this game was what his father needed to do.
“Okay, I’m picking the one over there,” Sonny said as he lethargically pointed at a shape off to the west.
“And I’ve got the one straight up,” answered Ray.
With heads tilted back, father and son watched the birds they had chosen. It was easy to look up because the sun was almost touching the ocean.
“Mine just flapped,” said Ray. “You win.”
Sonny gave a half-hearted nod.
“Well, let’s play another round,” said Ray.
Again they chose birds. Sonny chose one high in the sky and way off on the eastern horizon. This time the captain and George Conyea also looked up to see which birds the father and son chose. Anything to take their minds off their body’s demands for water.
Again Ray’s bird flapped its wings quickly. “You win again,” he said.
Sonny kept his eyes on his own bird. “Wow, Dad, mine is still going along without flapping.”
Ray looked closer at the bird in the distance.
“Captain, let me use your binoculars,” Ray said.
The captain removed the strap from around his neck and handed them to Ray, who hurriedly put the binoculars to his eyes. He adjusted the focus and stared intently at the bird far in the distance.
“That’s no seagull, it’s a plane!” he shouted.
“Yes, yes!” shouted the captain.
The survivors still could not hear its engines or tell what kind of plane it was, but there was no doubt it was a plane and that it was heading toward the raft.
“Quick, Sonny, take off the captain’s coat! I’ve got to get it on the board.”
Within seconds, Ray was waving the board with the white coat on it, and the others were waving their arms.
Ray couldn’t tell if the pilot had spotted the white coat, and the tension was unbearable. Please, please, he said to himself. His son’s very life was at stake. The boy could not make it through another cold night. He waved the white coat wildly.
As the plane drew closer, its metal skin briefly glittered when the sun’s rays hit it. Now they could hear the dull drone of the engine, and Sonny shouted “Help!”
“Keep waving the flag!” shouted the captain, his excitement growing. “It’s got to see us. It’s our last chance. I think it’s coming our way.”
Ray could make out the outline of the plane and, because of its unique construction, realized it was a Navy PBY. The single wing was elevated on a pylon above the fuselage rather than coming straight out from the sides. This allowed unobstructed visibility for its aviators to scan the ocean during either patrols for U-boats or search-and-rescue missions. Two engines with propellers were mounted on the wing, one on each side of the aircraft.
The plane came ever closer but it did not descend. Ray thought maybe it was going too fast to see them.
But Sonny’s heart soared. He was certain the plane was coming for them. And he was right. In one swift motion, the PBY started descending and adjusting its course slightly so it was just fifteen feet off the ocean and heading right toward the raft, banking hard so that Sonny could actually see the pilot, who was giving a thumbs-up. The boy let out a croak of joy along with the cheers of his father, the captain, and George Conyea.
The four raft passengers watched with awe as the plane circled back toward them. Its 104-foot wingspan and 63-foot length made it appear enormous so close to the water. Just as the plane was barreling over their location, they saw the pilot drop a package out the window, landing just ten feet from the raft. Using the board and their hands, all four survivors paddled furiously toward what they hoped was their salvation floating in the water.
The captain grabbed the package and ripped it open. Inside were two flares, a large container of water, and a note. The captain read the note out loud: “We will send shrimp boats to come and get you. If anyone is seriously hurt, wave me in and I’ll pick them up.”
Ray thought for a minute. He knew the plane was going to search for other survivors in the few minutes of daylight left and he didn’t want to slow it down. Someone, maybe Lucille or Ina, might be hurt and the plane could rescue them. He thought Sonny could make it the half hour or hour that he expected the shrimp boat to take to arrive.
The plane made a broad circle above the raft and then moved off.
“We made it, son,” said Ray; “we’ll be on the boat in no time.”
Then the captain passed the water container to Ray, saying, “Let’s all take a drink. We may want to let our bodies adjust to the water before we take a second drink.”
When Sonny took his gulp of water, he thought he had never tasted anything so good, so sweet. It was as if the water had magical powers, because he felt better immediately. He couldn’t wait for the container to come around again for his second drink of the life-giving fluid. But the captain said again that they shouldn’t drink too much all at once, and the other adults agreed.
A few minutes later the plane reappeared, then moved off. The survivors had no way of knowing that the pilot had dropped a note to shrimp boats a few miles off that said: “Watch my direction. Follow me. Pick up survivors in water.”
A half hour went by and the survivors bobbed on their little raft in the darkening shadows. They all had another drink of water, and the captain said that he thought a shrimp boat could reach them within the next half hour.
Sonny shivered in his father’s arms. The hydrating water had eased his thirst but did nothing for his growing hypothermia.
“That plane can land on water, right, Dad?”
“Then why didn’t they just do that and pick us up?”
“They needed more time in the air to find others. But the boat will be here soon.”
“What if the boat can’t find us?”
“They will. And remember, we’ve got flares to use if we see a boat.”
Sonny had forgotten about the flares. But he also wondered how his dad would see a boat in the distance in the pitch black of night.
More time went by. The sun had set, but the survivors could still differentiate between the horizon and the ocean in the twilight. Sonny had forgotten all about the sharks, but Ray hadn’t. Ray still scanned the dark ocean around the raft for any sign of a fin. He wondered what to do if a shark appeared and thought that should one come, he could use the strong light from a flare to scare it off. But with only two flares. . . .
The prospect of another night in the water scared Ray to the core—not for himself but his concern over Sonny, who he could feel shivering in his arms. He second-guessed himself about not waving in the plane. Now there was nothing he could do to change that decision.
Editor’s note: Michael Tougias is a New York Times bestselling author and co-author of 25 books including “The Finest Hours,” “A Storm Too Soon,” “Rescue of the Bounty,” “Overboard,” “Fatal Forecast,” “Ten Hours Until Dawn,” and “There’s a Porcupine in my Outhouse.”
His latest work is an inspiring historical narrative titled “So Close to Home” that tells the story of all four members of the Downs family as they struggle for survival. Their story is contrasted against that of the daring U-boat commander, Erich Wurdemann, who pushed his crew to the limit of endurance as he laid waste to ships throughout the Gulf.
Death’s flag is the flag flying above Old Glory when the nation is in mourning. No, you can’t see it, but at least you’re thinking about it, and that’s the whole point of the American flag being at half mast.
The tradition dates back to the 1612, when the British ship Heart’s Ease arrived in Canada with her captain dead. When it next arrived in London, its Union Jack was at half mast, making room for the invisible flag of death.
The U.S. Navy first observed the custom in 1799 to mark the death of George Washington. The Navy Department ordered U.S. Navy ships to “wear their colours half mast high.” The country would follow suit after that, but no guidelines were given for when and for whom it was appropriate.
Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 7 of the United States Code outlines strict guidelines for flying the U.S. flag, and for lowering it, depending on who died. All Presidents are remembered for thirty days while the current Vice-President, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and Speaker of the House get ten days. The Department of Veterans Affairs has a handy quick reference page for flying the flag at half mast, adding “The flag should be briskly run up to the top of the staff before being lowered slowly to the half-staff position.”
President Eisenhower declared structure for lowering the flag in 1954. the President can order the flag lowered to mourn the deaths of other officials and foreign dignitaries as well as to mark tragic events in the history of a nation. And no, President Obama did not order the flag at half mast for Whitney Houston.
The flag was lowered nationally for Pope John Paul II, Neil Armstrong, Rosa Parks, Winston Churchill, Anwar Sadat, Yitzhak Rabin and Nelson Mandela. It was also lowered to mourn the shootings in Virginia Tech, Newtown, Conn., and Charleston, as well as for the Boston Marathon Bombing and the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004.
Governors of the states, territories, and the Mayor of Washington, D.C. also have the authority to lower the flags in areas under their jurisdiction.
If you can’t lower you flag because its in a fixed position on the pole, the American Legion advises you to put a black ribbon to the top of the pole.
I’m going to introduce an authorization to use Military Force against ISIL that is not limited by Time, Geography or Means. – Sen. Lindsay Graham
“The United States should not delay in leading a global coalition to take out ISIS with overwhelming force.” – Presidential Candidate Jeb Bush
“Air power is extremely important. It can do a lot but it can’t do everything.” – Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James
The Pentagon believes Congress should issue a new authorization of military force (AMF) for use against ISIS in Iraq and Syria while President Obama wants the flexibility to use Special Operations forces against the terror group’s leadership. Obama rejected long-term, large scale ground combat operations in favor of an incremental, air strike-based plan which relies on support for forces already fighting on the ground. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to determine just who the U.S. should back and the plan to back U.S.-trained rebels fell apart.
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is in favor of a new AMF, but for some in Congress, the President’s proposal isn’t enough. As Germany, France, China, and Russia ramp up their own operations against ISIS, a few in the U.S. want to take their participation a step further. Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain are calling for 20,000 ground troops to counter ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
“The aerial campaign is not turning the tide of battle,” Senator Graham told The Guardian. Part of the McCain-Graham proposal includes the U.S. handling logistics for a 100,000 strong Sunni Arab army from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. There are a number of problems with this plan, however.
The first is that it props up the terrorist organizations recruiting claims that they are the bulwark of true Islam, fighting Western apostates. It also backs up the Sunni Jihadi myth of the “Grand Battle” to be fought for Islam. Most troubling is that the Senators’ plan explicitly supports the Sunni side of what is now widely believed to be a greater religious-political civil war throughout the region (and maybe beyond). As of right now, the U.S. has taken great pains to avoid the perception of taking sides.
The McCain-Graham plan also risks antagonizing the already tense situation relationships between all players. The Russia-U.S. rivalry is well documented, as are Iranian-U.S. issues. The missions of Russia, Iran, and the Iranian-backed Shia militias in Syria and Iraq is to ensure the survival of the Asad regime, a mission antithetical to the policies of the United States and its NATO allies.
In Iraq, a similar situation exists. Iraq is a Shia-dominated country where the locals come to increasingly believe the U.S. is supporting the Islamic State, rather than fighting it, and the Iraqis would be able to win if not for U.S. intervention against them.The Iranian-backed militias are seen as the primary bulwark against ISIS aggression despite, the 3,500 ground troops in Iraq, training and advising the Iraqi forces. The call for an increased presence from Congress is a strange idea, considering the Iraqi government has specifically asked the U.S. not to increase its presence in the country.
Is it in the United States’ best interest to re-enter the conflicts of the Middle East? The Iraqis already are starting to think the U.S. is on the wrong side. It’s a well known fact the lineage of ISIS traces back to al-Qaeda in Iraq, who helped publish The Management of Savagery, a how-to guide for committing atrocities to trap the West in unwinnable ground wars in the Middle East, which was Osama bin Laden’s long-game strategy, first against the Soviet Union and now the United States. If Putin and Russia want to jump back into the Middle East fray, maybe we should consider letting him.
The 2018 Star Match between the Army and Navy women’s soccer teams lies ahead this Friday night at 7 p.m. in Annapolis. A key part of the Star Series presented by USAA, the Mids will host their service academy rivals from New York in a matchup of two of the Patriot League’s top-five teams.
Navy comes into the contest at the Glenn Warner Soccer Facility with a 8-4-3 record and a 4-1 mark in Patriot League play, while Army will enter at 6-3-5, 2-2-1 in league action.
Reentering the workforce after serving in the military can be a tough transition for former service members and their families.
Navy Federal reported in 2019 that more than 250,000 military service members transition into the workforce each year. One of the greatest anxieties for veterans is being able to find stable, well-paying work that honors the skills and experiences they’ve gained while serving in the military.
Christopher Plamp, the CEO of Hire Heroes USA, said his own experiences looking for work after spending 26 years in the Air Force inspired him to begin working at the organization.
“When service members leave the military, they may have a gap in their skills or might have never even had a civilian job before,” he told Business Insider. “They might have never made a resumé, done a behavioral interview, or made a LinkedIn profile before. Hire Heroes helps them through this process, as well as connecting veterans and military spouses with companies that want to hire retired service members and their families.”
In 2019, Navy Federal and Hire Heroes USA asked veterans nationwide what they value most in a civilian career, whether it be location, compensation, flexible hours, or working at a mission-driven organization. Both organizations then worked together to come up with a list of promising career paths for former service members. Business Insider then used Zip Recruiter to find the average annual salaries for each role.
Here are the 10 best career paths for veterans.
Healthcare was ranked as the best career path for veterans.
The healthcare profession allows veterans to use skills they may have learned in the military and channel them into a rewarding, mission-based, and lucrative career. Popular career paths for vets entering the healthcare industry include hospital operations and logistics, registered nursing, medical research, and administration (data, records, hospital functionality).
One in four veterans works in government or public administration.
Veterans gain valuable leadership skills while serving in the military, which can often translate to a successful career in government or public administration. With plenty of opportunities for career growth and flexible hours, veterans looking to enter this career path should consider applying for jobs in administration, program analysis, and public affairs.
Defense contracting offers competitive salaries and is popular among younger veterans.
Defense contracting involves creating materials that will help aid the various sections of national defense. Whether you’re building weaponry or an aircraft, defense contracting work offers competitive salaries and is directly related to the military. Potential jobs in defense contracting could include becoming an analyst, an intelligence specialist, a contract management specialist, or a quality assurance manager.
Information technology jobs utilize skills potentially learned in the military and offer competitive compensation.
Information technology jobs are expanding year after year, so veterans may want to consider joining this career. IT jobs provide competitive salaries and a clear path toward career advancement. Popular career paths in the IT field among veterans include project management, systems engineering, cybersecurity, data analysis, and information security analysis.
Financial services careers work well for younger vets eager to enter an exciting and lucrative new career.
Financial services jobs are popular among veterans, with more than one in 10 younger vets placed in a job related to finance. Salaries are competitive, and popular career paths can range anywhere from being a financial advisor to a finance manager or accountant.
Education careers are best suited for veterans who believe in mission-based work.
For veterans who value mission-based work, a career in education may be the perfect fit. Most careers in education do require a college degree, and in 2019, it was reported that 13% of career-holding veterans end up in education-related professions.
Law enforcement careers can be comparable to military experience, making it a good career fit for many veterans.
One popular career path among many veterans is law enforcement. Skills and experiences learned in the military make veterans a valuable asset to any law enforcement organization. Possible law enforcement careers for retired military members could include becoming a police officer, a crime scene investigator, an emergency dispatcher, or a corrections officer.
Retail jobs offer flexible work schedules that may be particularly well suited for veterans.
Veterans working in the retail industry can enjoy working on a team as well as the benefits of flexible hours. Employment in retail is most popular among veterans aged 45 and older, and popular career paths include sales, marketing, and warehouse logistics. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, retail employees have become even more valuable.
Manufacturing jobs often don’t require formal education, but they still offer career advancement and competitive pay.
The manufacturing industry is a viable career path for veterans without college degrees. While the average annual salary for careers in manufacturing as a whole is only $27,199, entry-level maintenance technicians reportedly make an average of $39,307 per year and manufacturing supervisors make an average of $58,129 per year.
Transportation or warehousing jobs give vets the opportunity to work with their hands and are well suited to their military experience and skills.
For veterans who prefer a more active, physical career path, working in a warehouse could be the right career choice. Plus, for veterans looking for work during the coronavirus pandemic, warehouses are in need of more employees in order to keep up with increased demand for essential goods.
America’s operators are the best in the world, but they’re focused on kicking down doors, killing terrorists, and training allies.
Special Operations Command could use more flexibility, especially when it comes to future fights. Here are 7 new special operations units America needs:
1. Chairborne Rangers
As drones become more advanced, infantry robots will eventually reach the battlefield. Chairborne Rangers are the best Call of Duty players, honed into living weapons. They controls those bots and exist off energy drinks, potato chips, and enabling parents.
2. Schmuckatelli Recovery Group
This one is pretty simple. When “Schmuckatelli,” “Joe Schmoe,” or other lackluster troops get themselves locked up in jail or a Tijuana dungeon, the SRG swoops in on black helicopters to rescue them, by force if necessary.
3. Nuptial Prevention Service
The NPS interrupts weddings between troops and anyone they’ve known for less than 72 hours. They’re focused on unions where the potential spouse is a stripper or the service member is deploying within two weeks.
4. Expeditionary PT Belt Deployment Team
When troops are under fire, conducting an assault, or just running on a dark street and find themselves without a reflective or glow belt, the Expeditionary PT Belt Deployment Team is there to lend a hand and 6 feet of reflective plastic.
5. Space Team 6
Space warfare is coming, and Space Team 6 supports NASA from staging platforms in orbit. They’d train constantly to remove space pirates from interstellar vessels, board asteroid mining rigs, and destroy alien queens.
6. 1st Special POGs Detachment
The most elite admin soldiers, waterdogs, and geospatial engineers are honed into a filing force that could clear the VA backlog in minutes or create tasty water from the Kandahar Air Field poo pond with just a mosquito net and iodine tablets.
7. Keyboard Rangers Division
Honestly, the Keyboard Rangers Division is just a way to corral all those Facebook and reddit commenters who keep talking smack about killing ISIS but can’t find a recruiter’s office to save their lives. Keyboard Rangers would be given access to computers that look completely normal, but don’t broadcast to the outside world.