The Orlando Police Department is crediting a Kevlar helmet with saving the life of an officer who responded to the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
The department on Sunday posted a picture of the officer’s helmet showing damage from being struck by a bullet during the incident. The green paint is chipped, parts of the fabric is torn and there appears to be a small hole.
“Pulse shooting: In hail of gunfire in which suspect was killed, OPD officer was hit. Kevlar helmet saved his life,” the department tweeted on its Twitter account. The make and model of the helmet weren’t immediately known.
The officer, who wasn’t identified but was presumably a member of the department’s SWAT team, suffered an eye injury, Danny Banks, special agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Orlando bureau, told CNN.
The incident was the deadliest mass shooting in American history, with at least 50 individuals confirmed dead and another 53 injured. The shooting began around 2 a.m. Sunday at a packed Orlando nightclub called Pulse, which caters to the LBGT community.
The gunman, who was shot and killed in a shootout with police, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, during a 911 call, CNN reported. He was identified as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old U.S. citizen and Muslim who lived in Port St. Lucie, Florida, and whose parents were of Afghan origin, Fox News reported.
“This was an act of terror and an act of hate,” President Barack Obama said during a press conference at the White House.
Obama credited first responders with preventing an even deadlier attack by quickly responding to the scene and rescuing hostages. Mateen reportedly held dozens of people hostage until about 5 a.m., at which point the Orlando Police Department’s SWAT team raided the building using an armored vehicle and stun grenades, and killed him, The New York Times reported.
“Their courage and professionalism saved lives and kept the carnage from being worse,” Obama said. “It’s the kind of sacrifice our law enforcement professionals make every day.”
ISIS used oil to raise money — the places they’d based out of (Iraq and Syria) were rich in the black liquid. However, Afghanistan, the base of operations for the Taliban, doesn’t have a drop. So, the Taliban turned to another means to generate income. After all, radical Islamic groups who harbor terrorists still need to make payroll every month.
To pay their fighters, the Taliban have turned to drug production. Specifically, they’re making heroin. A September 2017 article from the Quad City Times notes that two kilograms of black tar heroin seized in a bust was worth $600,000. While the Taliban likely doesn’t pocket 300 grand per kilo, the lower amount they do receive likely goes a long way in funding their operations.
Part of the strategy to weaken the Taliban has been to cut off their income. With Secretary of Defense James Mattis loosening rules of engagement, American troops now have a much freer hand when it comes to using artillery and air strikes. As a result, the Taliban’s drug labs have become fair game.
The video below shows how such strikes are being carried out in Afghanistan. A M142 HIMARS is used to send the Taliban’s drugs up in smoke. The HIMARS fired five of the six rockets it can carry. Based on the impacts, unitary warhead versions of the rockets were used in this particular strike. The Taliban will have to figure out if their fighters will accept smoke signals as payment.
For as long as there have been men sailing the high seas, there have been tales of ghost ships. From legends of the Flying Dutchman appearing near ports during inclement weather to the very real tale of the Mary Celeste, which was found adrift in the Atlantic Ocean in 1872 completely abandoned and in good working order, it can be hard not to be drawn into these tales of mysterious happenings on the great waterways of our planet.
Of course, it makes perfect sense that men and women would occasionally go missing during an era of long and often grueling voyages across the high seas. For all of mankind’s domination of nature, the sea has long been too vast to manage and too treacherous to tame. For much of humanity’s history, traveling across the ocean was always a risky endeavor.
But by the early 1940s, however, sea travel had become significantly less hazardous, and mankind had even managed to find new ways to avoid the ocean’s wrath — like flying high above it in aircraft or hot air balloons. At the time, Americans had largely moved past their fear of the high seas in favor of new concerns about what was lurking within them: German U-Boats.
The Navy’s L-8 blimp was a former Goodyear Blimp repurposed for naval duty.
Concerns about encroaching Nazi U-Boats near American shores had led to a number of novel sub-spotting approaches. One was using L-Class rigid airships, or blimps, to float above coastal waterways and serve as submarine spotters.
On themorning of August 16, 1942, Lieutenant Ernest Cody and Ensign Charles Adams climbed aboard their L-8 Airship, which was a former Goodyear Blimp that the Navy had purchased a few months prior to deliver equipment to the nearby carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) out at sea. Their mission that day was simple: head out from their launch point on Treasure Island in California to look for signs of U-Boats beneath the surf in a 50-mile radius around San Francisco.
A bit more than an hour into their patrol, the two sailorsradioed that they had spotted an oil slick on the water and were going to investigate.
“We figured by that time it was a submarine,” said Wesley Frank Lamoureux, a member of the Navy’s Armed Guard Unit who was aboard the cargo ship Albert Gallatin. “From then on, I am not too positive of the actions of the dirigible except that it would come down very close over the water. In fact, it seemed to almost sit on top of the water.”
This image of the L-8 was taken prior to the mission that would see Cody and Adams go missing.
In Lamoureux’s official statement, he recounted seeing the blimp drop two flares near the slick and then circle the area — which was in keeping with sub-hunting protocols of the day. The nearby Albert Gallatin cargo ship, seeing the blimp’s behavior, sounded their submarine alarms and changed course to escape the area. Unfortunately, these reports would be the last time anyone would see the blimp with the crew onboard.
A few hours later, the former Goodyear Blimp appeared sagging and uncontrolled over the shores of Daly City, California. It drifted over the town until it finally dipped low enough to become snagged on some power lines and come crashing down onto Bellevue Avenue. Crowds quickly formed around the downed blimp, and a number of people ran to the wreckage in hopes of saving the crew… only to find the cabin was completely empty.
The pilot’s parachute and the blimp’s lifeboat were both right where they belonged. The pilot’s cap sat on top of the instrument panel, and the blimp’s payload of two bombs were still secured. A briefcase containing confidential documents that the crew had orders to destroy if they feared capture remained onboard as well.
The Navy’s L-8 Blimp, crashed and crew-less.
The L-8’s crew had seemed to vanish without a trace, prompting a slew of differing theories. Some assumed both the pilot and ensign had simply fallen out of the airship, though for such a thing to happen, they would have had to both fall overboard at the same time. If there was something damaged that required both men to address on the external hull of the vessel, there was no evidence to suggest what it could have been in the wreckage.
Anothertheory suggested the two men lowered their blimp enough to be taken prisoner by the crew of the U-Boat or a Japanese vessel in the course of investigating the oil slick. Still, others wondered if the two men may have been entangled in some sort of love triangle that drove one to kill the other and then escape by diving into the sea. Despite a thorough investigation, no conclusion could ever be drawn.
So what really did happen to the two-man crew of the L-8? Did they simply fall out of their blimp and die? Were they captured by Nazis that didn’t bother to check for any classified material on the blimp? To this day, their remains have never been found, and no other details have surfaced. For now, it seems, the legend of the L-8 “ghost ship in the sky” will live on for some time to come.
A 10th Mountain Division squad leader credited with saving the lives of three of his soldiers by throwing himself atop a suicide bomber in Iraq will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the White House announced March 12, 2019.
Staff Sgt. Travis W. Atkins went above and beyond the call of duty on June 1, 2007, while his unit — Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team — conducted route clearance southwest of Baghdad.
During the mission, Atkins, 31, of Bozeman, Montana, heard a report over the radio of suspected insurgents crossing an intersection in the Iraqi town of Abu Samak.
As the truck commander in his Humvee, Atkins ordered the driver to pull the vehicle up to the intersection so they could interdict the suspected insurgents. Once stopped, Atkins exited the vehicle and approached one of the men to check him for weapons while another soldier covered him.
When Atkins attempted to search him, the man resisted. Atkins then engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the insurgent, who was reaching for an explosive vest under his clothing, according to an award citation.
Atkins then grabbed the suicide bomber from behind with a bear hug and slammed him onto the ground, away from his soldiers. As he pinned the insurgent to the ground, the bomb detonated.
Atkins was mortally wounded by the blast. With complete disregard for his own safety, he had used his own body as a shield to protect his fellow soldiers from injury. They were only feet away.
Soon after, another insurgent was fatally shot by one of Atkins’ soldiers before he could detonate another suicide vest.
For his actions, Atkins was initially given the Army’s second-highest award, the Distinguished Service Cross. Now that award has been upgraded to a Medal of Honor.
President Donald J. Trump will present the medal to Atkins’ family on March 27, 2019.
Before he joined the Army, Atkins worked for concrete and painting contractors and as an engine mechanic in Montana. He enlisted into the infantry in 2000 and less than three years later he deployed to participate in the invasion of Iraq.
Then-Sgt. Travis Atkins poses with battle buddies in Iraq, 2007.
Atkins left the Army in late 2003, but rejoined two years later and was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division.
He deployed to Iraq again with the division in the summer of 2006 and became a staff sergeant in May 2007, a month before his death.
At Fort Drum, New York, the division honored Atkins by naming a fitness center after him in 2013.
During the dedication ceremony, then-Sgt. Aaron Hall, who was Atkins’ battle buddy, described the staff sergeant as a “quiet professional” who always had the respect of others.
“When my 4-year-old son Travis tells me his favorite superhero is Captain America and asks me who my favorite superhero is, my reply always has and will be Staff Sgt. Travis W. Atkins,” Hall said.
According to his obituary, Atkins was also known to hunt, fish, camp, and ride snowmobiles. His first love, though, was his son, Trevor Oliver, who was 11 years old at the time of his father’s death.
Atkins was buried June 12, 2007, in his hometown of Bozeman in south-central Montana. He is also survived by his parents, Jack and Elaine Atkins.
For the second time in two decades, John “Russ” Orders was hopeful he would receive a Purple Heart for his sacrifice during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge.
A ceremony planned for last month, during which Orders would have been awarded the Purple Heart, has been postponed. Orders’ award status remains in limbo because of a missing document that details how and when Orders received his injuries.
“Obviously, the government takes a little longer than normal, but they sent us back a reply when we requested the Purple Heart and they said that they needed more information,” said Dave Bowen, a chaplain for Access Home Care and Hospice who has served as liaison between the US Army and Orders. “But all the information they requested was on the paperwork that I submitted, so I’m not sure what they are looking for.”
Currently, Orders is a resident at the Cottonwood Cove retirement home in Pocatello.
It was a freezing January night in 1945 and Orders — a member of the US Army’s 102nd “Ozark” Infantry Division — was driving a supply truck to the front lines when a German artillery round struck his truck, exploded on impact, and knocked him unconscious. When he awoke, he was in a hospital bed in France with severe injuries to his left hand.
Six months later, the US Army honorably discharged Orders, and in addition to the European African Middle Eastern Campaign Ribbon, he received two Bronze Stars, a Good Conduct Medal, and the American Theater Ribbon.
Despite his injures, Orders did not receive the Purple Heart.
For decades, he didn’t pursue the award because he thought that it was reserved for those who had been shot. Before her passing in 2012, Orders’ late wife, Jeanne Orders, interviewed and documented his service record during the war.
But the US Army cannot rely on Jeanne’s notes and must confirm the information through an action report that details how and when his injuries would have occurred.
The only problem is that the action report may not exist, according to Orders’ son-in-law, Kevin Haskell.
Haskell said any specific records for Orders’ were stored in St. Louis, Missouri, and were likely destroyed in the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center.
“I haven’t got a clue what (the US Army) is looking for,” Haskell said. “Fifteen years ago, my wife (Jolynn Haskell) and my mother-in-law ( Jeanne Orders) went through this whole process. Before Dave brought it back up, we had totally forgotten about it.”
Haskell continued, “What’s disappointing is the US Army doesn’t want to act on the evidence we have provided — they want to go off the paperwork.”
The same technicality prevented Orders from receiving the Purple Heart several years before Jeanne died, so to reach the same point again has left Kevin and Jolynn wondering if Orders will ever get the recognition they think he deserves.
“Jolynn was quite disappointed because we thought that the process was all worked out,” Kevin Haskell said. “We were told that it was approved and thought that they had progressed it through, but now it’s postponed because there are more forms that (the US Army) needs.”
Haskell said that it’s not the fact that Orders hasn’t received the Purple Heart, but that the process reached a point where the retirement home scheduled a pinning ceremony that Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo planned to attend, only to find out just days before that more information was necessary.
“It was definitely a surprise,” Haskell said. “We thought he was finally going to get it. We are getting asked by residents in the center why he’s not getting the award and we don’t know what to tell them. To go that far and then all of a sudden put a stop to it is pretty disappointing.”
Though there’s a chance that Orders will receive the Purple Heart, Bowen said he is uncertain how probable that outcome will be considering this isn’t the first scenario in which further documentation was missing.
But that hasn’t stopped him from trying.
“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure this happens,” Bowen said. “We will push this until we get an absolute no from the Army.”
North Korea on Monday said it interpreted a tweet from President Donald Trump as a declaration of war and threatened to shoot down US B-1B Lancer strategic bombers even if they weren’t flying in its airspace — but such an attack is easier said than done.
The US frequently responds to North Korea’s provocative missile and nuclear tests by flying its B-1B Lancer — a long-range, high-altitude, supersonic bomber — near North Korea.
The move infuriates North Korea, which lacks the air power to make a similar display. North Korea previously discussed firing missiles at Guam, where the US bases many of the bombers, and it has now discussed shooting one down in international airspace.
On Tuesday, South Korean media reported that North Korea had been reshuffling its defenses, perhaps preparing to make good on its latest threat.
But the age of the country’s air defenses complicates that task.
“North Korea’s air defenses are pretty vast but very dated,” Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst for Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence platform, told Business Insider.
Lamrani said North Korea had a few variants of older Soviet-made jets and some “knockoff” Soviet air defenses, such as the KN-06 surface-to-air missile battery that mimics Russia’s S-300 system.
From the ground, North Korea’s defenses are “not really a threat to high-flying aircraft, especially if you’re flying over water,” Lamrani said.
But North Korea does have one advantage: surprise.
When aircraft enter or come close to protected airspace, intercepts are common. Very often, military planes will fly near a group of jets and tell them they are entering or have entered guarded airspace and that they should turn back or else.
Though the US, South Korea, and Japan all have advanced jets that could easily shoot down an approaching North Korean jet before it got close enough to strike, the US and North Korea are observing a cease-fire and are not actively at war. Therefore, a North Korean jet could fly right up to a US bomber or fighter and take a close-range shot with a rudimentary weapon that would have a good chance of landing.
North Korea would have “the first-mover advantage,” Lamrani said, but if the North Korean aircraft shot down the US’s, “they would pay a heavy price.”
For that reason, Lamrani said he found the scenario unlikely. The last time the US flew B-1s near North Korea, four advanced jet fighters accompanied it. North Korea’s air force is old and can’t train often because of fuel constraints, according to Lamrani. The US or its allies would quickly return the favor and destroy any offending North Korean planes.
Additionally, South Korean intelligence officials told NK News that North Korea couldn’t even reliably track the B-1B flights. To avoid surprising the North Koreans, the US even laid out its flight path, an official told NK News.
At this point, even North Korea must be aware it’s largely outclassed by the US and allied air forces, and that taking them on would be a “suicide mission,” Lamrani said.
A commission formed by Congress to assess military and national service is calling for women to be included in selective service registration, Military.com has learned.
The 11-member National Commission on Military, National and Public Service is set to release a final report with 164 recommendations Wednesday, following two-and-a-half years of research and fieldwork on topics including propensity to serve in the military; the civilian-military divide; and the future of the U.S. Selective Service System.
One of the most hotly debated questions considered by the panel is whether women should be required to register for the draft for the first time in U.S. history.
A source with knowledge of the report confirmed that the commission had recommended that women should be made eligible for selective service. Politico first reported Tuesday on the commission’s findings.
Other recommendations include keeping the U.S. Selective Service System and keeping the registration requirement, which currently applies to American males within 30 days of their 18th birthday.
The panel was created as a result of debate over whether women should be made to register for the draft. In 2016, the same year all military ground combat and special operations jobs were opened to women for the first time, two Republicans in Congress, both veterans, introduced the “Draft America’s Daughters Act of 2016.” The move was intended to provoke discussion; both lawmakers planned to vote against their own bill.
But the provision ultimately became law as part of the 2017 defense policy package. From that initiative, the commission was formed to further study the issue.
During 2019 hearings on the question, Katey van Dam, a Marine Corps veteran who flew attack helicopters, argued eloquently in support of including women in selective service registration.
“Today, women sit in C-suites and are able to hold any military job for which they are qualified,” she said. “As society expects opportunity parity for women, it is time to also expect equal civic responsibility. In the event of a major war that requires national mobilization, women should serve their country to the same extent as male citizens.”
In an interview with Military.com earlier this month, Joe Heck, the chairman of the commission and a brigadier general in the U.S. Army Reserve, said the issue of including women in draft registration had inspired passionate debate among the commissioners.
“The recommendations made represent the consensus of the commission,” he said. “We believe that the commission’s recommendations specifically in regard to [the U.S. Selective Service System] will best place the nation as able to respond to any existential national security threat that may arise.”
Heck also said the commission planned to chart a “cradle-to-grave pathway to service” for Americans.
In addition to the report, the commission will release accompanying draft legislation Wednesday to assist Congress in turning its proposals into law. A future hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee is also planned to discuss the commission’s findings.
Laura Miller apologized more than once for getting emotional as she spoke at the Airborne Special Operations Museum on Monday.
But after seeing battle-hardened Special Forces soldiers dissolve into tears at the loss of their dogs, she said the love these men felt for their dogs — and of the dogs for them — can lead to tears at times.
Miller, a retired veterinarian technician who served 26 years, including 10 with caring for Special Operations Forces dogs, spoke to a crowd of several hundred about the sacrifices of military dogs — and the number of military lives they have saved.
“To see these big, strong soldiers break into tears over the loss of their dog, you realize this is a special bond,” Miller said. “There is a love that runs deeper.”
“The love for their dog and of the dog for their handler…” she paused as the emotion of the moment again caught her. “Just appreciate everything. Life is too short. The evidence of that is right here.”
She waved over to the nearby ASOM Field of honor, where more than 600 flags caught a light breeze.
In addition to the ceremony, the ASOM offered a series of concerts, exhibits, and first-person displays. Military experts offered visitors hands-on experience with military equipment from World War I through the Vietnam era.
Ron Wolfe, a retired Army sergeant, let youngsters try on his flak jacket and helmet from Vietnam, laughing when they complained about their weight and heat.
“Yeah, they can get a bit heavy,” Wolfe said. “Just wait until you had to wear them all day in the summertime.”
The ASOM K-9 Memorial honors more than 60 trained dogs who have died in service to Special Forces as well as partner groups in Great Britain and Australia. It was dedicated in 2013.
The history of drones goes back much further than most people are aware. Not only were unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) — aka drones — used against targets in World War II, but four competing programs were tested during the first World War.
The first two were in the United Kingdom and focused on gliders that would explode when they impacted the ground. Both designs were unsuccessful and neither were used in the war.
The first American program was led by three scientists working for the Navy to create an “aerial torpedo.” They were Elmer Sperry, inventor of auto-pilot; Dr. Peter C. Hewitt, a specialist in radio signals and vacuum tubes; and Carl Norden, who would go on to create the Norden bombsight for World War II bombers.
The men initially tried to create a radio-controlled aircraft that could fly to its targets, essentially attempting to create the suicide drones of today almost 100 years ago. When remote control failed, they settled on mechanically “programming” the drones to fly to their targets and detonate.
The resulting aerial torpedo could fly 50 miles with a 300-pound payload.
A successful test was conducted on November 21, 1917. Army Maj. Gen. George Squier was at the demonstration and ordered that the Army begin its own program.
The Army developed the “Kettering Bug” with the help of Charles Kettering and the famed Orville Wright. The “Bug” relied on an auto-pilot system to maintain steady flight, but had a mechanical system to shutoff its engine and jettison its wings after a set distance. The fuselage, filled with explosives, would then impact the target.
Unfortunately, both systems were plagued by problems with accuracy and neither was completed in time to aid the war effort. Research did continue though, leading to the drone missions of World War II.
It’s hard enough to get motivated to do PT a few times a week. Try doing it when you’re missing a limb . . . or three.
That’s how former NFL player David Vobora found the inspiration to shift away from his lucrative training business and lend a helping hand — and add a little bit of inspiration — to vets and others who face the challenges of life-changing injuries.
Marine veteran Brian Aft, left, assists fellow double-amputee Lawrence Green during a workout. (photo by Brandon Thibodeaux)
Vobora left the NFL after five seasons when a severe injury scuttled his short career. He then started a personal training business helping serious athletes in Dallas, Texas, dubbed The Performance Vault.
But his life changed when he met former Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills, who was injured by an IED blast in Afghanistan. Mills is one of only five living quadruple amputee vets in the U.S.
“I looked at him and I said, ‘When is the last time you worked out?’ ” Vobora recalled. “He looked down at his prosthetics and said, ‘I don’t want to make you feel like an idiot, but I don’t have any arms and legs.’ ”
That got Vobora thinking.
Not long after his encounter with Mills, Vobora started the Adaptive Training Foundation, which aims to create custom workout programs for amputees that lies somewhere between basic rehabilitation and Paralympic training.
“I realized if Travis is in this position and can’t go to a typical gym … all of these veterans and civilians with physical disabilities — they’ve sort of been sidelined,” Vobora said. “Where do they go … that has this community to push each other?”
The Adaptive Training Foundation is a non-profit organization that’s featured in Starbucks Coffee’s “Upstanders” campaign, which aims to highlight inspiring stories of individuals who go above and beyond to inspire positive change in their communities. Produced by Howard Schultz and author Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the Upstart initiative uses video shorts, podcasts, and stories in hopes of raising awareness for causes like Vobora’s.
In 1944, the U.S.’s progress in its island-hopping campaign through the Pacific brought it to Ulithi Atoll. From March to September, they bombed the Japanese forces stationed there until they eventually withdrew, believing the atoll was too small to accommodate an airfield and therefore not of value to either side.
Being a Marine taught me the importance of giving back. But my last mission may be my most crucial: Instilling the same values in my son.
Two years ago, I was built like a tank. I’ve been built like that my entire life, having grown up as a wrestler in high school and college. Once, way back then, someone looked at me and said, “What the hell are you?”
I look much different now. It’s hard for me to speak for long periods of time, and I’m about half the size I used to be. Now, I’m happy to just get up and walk, which is a mental challenge all by itself. The guy I used to be has been destroyed by chemotherapy.
In late 2015, I was diagnosed with stage-four cholangiocarcinoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that starts in the bile ducts. I don’t know how much time I have left; I may not even make it to my 55th birthday this December, but I’m happy that I can go knowing I’ve lived my life in complete service to others and to my family.
Except I have a teenage son, and there’s still so much to teach him.
I won’t be able to impart my wisdom to Mason as he grows up. That’s why I’m making sure he knows, now, the importance of living a life in service, like I have. The lessons are simple: Be humble, be open, and be helpful.
Growing up, my father was constantly working, which meant he wasn’t around a ton. He did the best he could though, and I considered him my best friend. But I didn’t have someone who could mentally challenge me. I got into wrestling in the seventh grade, and my coach became that person for me instead. He ended up being a formidable figure in my life, and I’m still in touch with him today.
You could tell immediately that this man had served in the military — through his mannerisms, his attention to detail, and his level of concentration. I thought, “This guy is incredible.” At an early age, my coach gave me advice that to this day I continue to take to heart:
“Don’t be a wise guy,” he would tell me. “Don’t be a showboat.”
Eventually, I joined the Marines, and that advice is what got me through basic training. Now, it’s something I teach Mason at every opportunity. We have a lot of big talks these days — especially now that I don’t know how long I have left to live — and I try to tell him who I was before the military.
I tell him not to be that guy.
When I enlisted in 1982, I was a very private person. In fact, you could say I was pretty closed off. But interaction with people is important, and you have to be open and outgoing. There is just something about being open to new experiences that makes life more meaningful. It also makes you not afraid to help people.
There is nothing more gratifying than helping others, and there are many avenues for doing that — not just through the military.
I joined the Marines after one year of college because I simply didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. In fact, the movie “An Officer and a Gentleman,” about a guy who joins the Navy, came out right before I signed up, and that shaped what I thought the military was going to be like.
I was wrong.
My time in the military wasn’t like a Richard Gere action-romance film. It was tough and it was terrifying, but it also made me grow into a man that started to think to myself, “What can I do to give back?” What the Marines did was laser-focus my attention and instilled in me the idea that, “Hey, you’re capable of a hell of a lot more than what you’re doing now.”
I left the service in 1988 and it haunted me for a long time. I just missed it so badly. I still say that the Marine Corps was the best job I ever had. But I can no longer regret leaving, because I have the best family God could give me, and I would never have met my wife and had Mason if I had stayed.
But here’s the thing: When you serve, the experience never truly leaves you; it always stays with you. Every time something tragic occurred, I would quietly shed a tear. When 9/11 happened, I was choked up watching the coverage on TV. I felt like I should be there — I needed to help.
So off I went to Ground Zero, wearing my old and dated fatigues from the ’80s, and was able to get my way onto the search and rescue team that pulled out the first five people. It was surreal; everyone had the same look on their face, much like how they talk about the empty thousand-yard stare of soldiers who served in Vietnam. There was a gray, pinkish powder in the air, like debris mixed with blood. And it covered everything.
My cancer, my family and I believe, has a direct correlation to my time helping on the pile. But I wouldn’t take any of it back, and Mason knows that.
And that’s because service is part of me, now. I tell Mason constantly that being in service is such a selfless act. It’s contributing to something bigger than yourself. It just requires humility and the willingness to be open to help others.
Luckily for me, Mason already has most of these traits. But he’s only 14 and has a lot of growing up ahead of him and will face situations where I won’t be there to talk to him.
And that is the one thing that kills me — figuratively, of course — feeling like I’ve let down my son by dying too soon.
He’s talking right now of going to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. I hope he does. He’s smart and creative, and good in science and math. I can see him being a biomechanical engineer or something similar.
But even if he doesn’t go into military, I just want him to be happy helping people. I tell him that if he sees someone who needs help, help them. It’s a really good feeling. I promise.
Instead of the 40s-style battleship shown sinking in the original poster, the 2018 version shows the Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier, which is identifiable from the trademark “twin islands” design of its flight deck.
The message the poster is designed to convey is the same as in the ’40s, though the media are different.
In WWII, commanders were worried that people with access to military information could carelessly share it in conversation, which could eventually be picked up by hostile intelligence services and used against the U.S. military.