To shed light on the epidemic of veteran suicide, BraveHearts — the nation’s leading equine rehabilitation program for veterans — started its first of three Trail to Zero rides Sept. 7, 2019 in northern Virginia.
The 20-mile ride in each city commemorates the number of veterans lives lost on average each day. The ride educates people on equine-assisted services benefits and healing effects.
Army veteran Tim Detert was one of the Trail to Zero riders. Detert served from 2005-2010 with the 82nd Airborne, deploying to Iraq twice for 18-month and 13-month tours. Following his service, Detert said he started suffering from depression and anxiety, turning to alcohol and opiates. Four friends ended their lives. After a suicidal spell, a friend recommended equine therapy to him.
“It’s completely turned around my life,” said Detert, who has been sober two years. “It’s given me a lot of hope and joy. I was so depressed and down before I came to this program. I was just looking for something and I hadn’t found it until I started working with the horses.”
Army Veteran Mitchell Hedlund, one of the Trail to Zero riders, served in Afghanistan in 2011-2012 and now uses equine therapy.
The BraveHearts president and chief operating officer said she’s seen veterans greatly improve their well being through equine therapy.
“I can’t even tell you now how many times I’ve heard veterans tell me personally that they wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the horses,” said Meggan Hill-McQueeney. “They find peace with the horses, they find hope with the horses, and they find purpose with the horses. Alternative therapies like equine therapies are tremendous opportunities.”
Currently, 64 VA medical centers across the country participate in therapeutic riding programs. These programs use equine assisted therapeutic activities recreationally to promote healing and rehabilitation of veterans for a variety of physical disabilities and medical conditions, said Recreation Therapy Service National Program Director Dave Otto. These include traumatic brain injury/polytrauma, blind rehabilitation, other physical impairments, post-traumatic stress disorders and other mental health disorders.
Children on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall talk to a BraveHearts rider Sept. 7, 2019, during the Trail to Zero ride.
Additionally, VA awards adaptive sports grants annually for organizations and groups that provide adaptive sports opportunities for veterans with disabilities, Otto said. These grant recipients also partner with VA facilities within their region to coordinate such adaptive sports opportunities for Veterans. During fiscal year 2018, VA awarded nearly id=”listicle-2640279831″ million to 12 grant recipients providing equine assisted therapy to Veterans with mental health issues. VA will award up to id=”listicle-2640279831″.5 million of these grants in fiscal year 2019.
BraveHearts is the largest Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) program in the country and serves veterans at no cost to veterans. The program offers equine services to provide emotional, cognitive, social and physical benefits. Veterans at BraveHearts have reported increased self-esteem, self-worth, trust for others, community integration, and decreased depression, anxiety, post traumatic disorder symptoms and self-inflicting thoughts.
In addition to the Sept. 7, 2019 ride, Trail to Zero plans rides for Sept. 14, 2019, in New York City and Sept. 28, 2019, in Chicago.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
When the Navy called on women to volunteer for shore service during World War II to free up men for duty at sea, 102-year-old Melva Dolan Simon was among the first to raise her hand and take the oath.
“I went in so sailors could board ships and go do what they were supposed to be doing,” said Simon. She recalled her military service as “something different” in an era when women traditionally stayed home while men went off to war. “I helped sailors get on their way.”
Simon was the first woman in her hometown of Bridgeport, Pa., to join the WAVES, according to a yellowed clipping of a 1942 newspaper article. She was also among the first in the nation to join the service. It was just three months earlier, on July 30, 1942, that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had signed the law establishing the corps.
“I had a good job with the school, but I felt I would be doing more for my country by being in the service,” said Simon.
The seventh of 12 children, Simon said she chose the Navy because several of her brothers were already serving in the Army, Air Force, and Coast Guard.
WWII Navy WAVES Veteran Melva Dolan Simon’s service memorabilia includes her rank and insignia, photos and official documents.
“They were all enlisted, and I thought, well, what’s wrong with joining the Navy?” said Simon. “I decided I wanted to go, and I was accepted.”
“That’s where we learned the basics of the Navy,” said Simon. “We were trained to march, we studied hard, and they drilled into us how important what we were doing was.”
After completing basic, many of the WAVES trainees spent another 12 weeks at the college for advanced training in secretarial duties.
From Oklahoma, Simon was assigned to active duty at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, which during World War II employed 40,000, built 53 warships and repaired another 1,218. She and her fellow yeomen earned anywhere from to 5 in basic pay per month, depending on their rank, plus food and quarters allowance, unless provided by the Navy.
Simon lived on the all-female fourth floor of the Benjamin Franklin Hotel in Philadelphia. WAVES personnel were under strict orders not to visit any other floors of the hotel – an order Simon said she followed.
“I didn’t go on the other floors,” said Simon, sternly. “It was none of my business.”
Simon’s military responsibilities included taking dictation from the officer in charge, performing clerical duties and driving officers around the base.
“They gave me a driver’s license for the Navy, and I would drive these officers, sometimes just very short distances,” Simon said, smiling as she motioned from her seat at a dining room table to the far side of her kitchen. “I thought that was interesting because it would have done them some good if they’d just walked.”
Simon wrote letters home to her family at first, then sent her parents money to have a home phone installed. Simon said that home phones were a luxury at the time. Before they installed the phone, her family used a telephone at a nearby store to call her.
“I sent them money every payday to keep the phone bill paid,” Simon said. “It was much easier to call than to sit down and write, especially since I was writing all day at the office.”
The phone also allowed her future husband, Joseph “Joe” Simon, to keep in touch with her. The two had met at the high school where Joe Simon worked as an agriculture teacher, and he’d visit with her when she was home on leave. They married in July 1945, just a few weeks before Melva Simon received an honorable discharge from the Navy in August 1945.
WAVES standing in formation.
The couple purchased a 22-acre farm in 1947 in Mt. Pleasant Township, Pa., where they supplemented Joe’s teacher’s salary by growing and selling sweet corn.
“It sold like hot fire because it was good sweet corn,” Melva Simon said. “Then Joe planted apple trees, and that’s what we decided to do.”
The couple started an apple orchard — Simon’s Apple Orchard — that remains family-run today. The orchard opens its doors to customers every fall, offering everything from pure sweet cider still made using the Simons’ original recipe to bags of fresh McIntosh, Stayman, Rome, Jonathan, red and yellow delicious, and other apple varieties.
At the VA
Melva Simon worked the orchard alongside her husband, then took over when he died in 2004 at the age of 88. Still spry at 102, she drove tractors, harvested apples, made cider and worked the counter at a small shop on the property until just a few years ago.
Blessed with a lifetime of good health, Melva Simon only recently discovered she is eligible for health care benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. With the help of her daughter, Melvajo Bennett, the World War II veteran has, since August, received care through VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System’s Westmoreland County VA Outpatient Clinic.
“It didn’t dawn on her to go to the VA because she’s always had such good health and never really had to see the doctor,” said Bennett. “But they’ve been wonderful with how they are treating her.”
Asked for the secret to good health and a long life, Melva Simon gave a simple answer.
“There is no secret,” she said. “All it takes is simple living. I eat simple food. I don’t drink, and I don’t smoke.”
As for her military service, Melva Simon said she’d do it all over again.
“That was all I ever wanted to do, was to do something for the government and the country,” she said. “I’d do it again.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
In 2018, Navy veteran Anthony Price burned through more than 450 gallons of gasoline and three sets of tires. He spent more than 700 miles in the rain, many days in temperatures above 100 degrees, and at least one day in the snow. He did all of it to honor the families who lost a loved one to America’s wars. And he’s going to do it again in 2019, as he has for the past six years.
The Gold Star Ride of a lifetime.
Price began his ride for Gold Star families in 2013 as a means of calling attention to those families and saying thank you in his own way. Since then, he has been to more than 44 states, enduring extreme temperatures and conditions just to ensure the families of fallen service members are taken care of. As the Gold Star Ride website says, “We ride because they died… We do the work that our fallen heroes would do if they hadn’t fallen for all our freedom.”
Soon the Minnesota-based Price and his fellow riders were a full-fledged nonprofit, dedicated to the mission of helping those in need. Gold Star Riders actively support, comfort, and provide education benefits to Gold Star Families throughout the United States directly with personal visits via motorcycle. They also vow to partner with any group who actively helps these Gold Star families.
“The families themselves are not looking for any stardom or any fame or any glory,” Price says. “They’re just looking for someone to remember, to remember a huge sacrifice.”
The title of Price’s book is a reference to Abraham Lincoln’s “Bixby Letter,” a letter the 16th President penned to Mrs. Lydia Bixby, a widow believed to have lost five sons during the Civil War. In it, the President is said to have written his regret at her loss and his attempt to console her by reminding the mother of the Republic they died to save. He ends the letter with “Yours, Very Sincerely and Respectfully.”
Price in an interview with a Fox affiliate.
The letter is an apt reference, as Price describes on commercial producer Jordan Brady’s “Respect the Process” Podcast. Price mentions that he would talk to twenty or so people a day, on average, for two months straight. He found that 19 of those 20 didn’t know what a Gold Star Family was. In one case, even a Gold Star Family did not realize they were a Gold Star Family.
To be clear, a Gold Star Family member is the immediate family of any military member who lost their life in military service – mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, wives, and children.
“One of the reasons we do this is because no one else was doing it,” says Price. “Every once in a while I hear someone say ‘you’re adding an element that makes [the loss] a little more palatable… the work you’re doing is helping me make sense of the tragedy I have to go through.'”
Detectives believe it was Tran who circled behind Stone and stabbed him in the Oct. 8 incident. Tran is not believed to be the man seen hitting a woman, the incident that sparked the altercation.
The stabbing incident occurred Oct. 8 at around 12:45 a.m. between 20th and 22nd street in Sacramento. Stone was stabbed “multiple times” in the chest following an altercation, police told KCRA-TV. Sacramento Police reported the incident as not being terrorism-related, tweeting that alcohol was believed to be a factor since it happened near a bar.
Police told CBS Local that Tran — who did not know Stone — has a criminal history.
Stone was one of three Americans who thwarted an attack on a French train in August. During the attack, Stone, 23, tackled and disarmed the gunman, who slashed him in the neck and nearly sliced off his thumb with a box cutter, according to NBC Bay Area.
Stone, who was the rank of airman first class at the time of the attack in France, was promoted to Staff Sgt. on Monday. He had only recently recovered from the serious wounds he sustained during the night club altercation. Stabbed four times, he had to have open heart surgery to save his life.
Army National Guard Veteran, Tom Wilder, and Army Reserves Veteran, Neil McCannon, set out to build an empire of home-brewed beer in their hometown of Virginia Beach, VA in 2012. After successfully crowd funding their endeavor via Kickstarter, Tom and Neil were delighted to open their doors for business roughly 18 months ago, making them among the first veteran-owned breweries by vets, for vets.
What makes them special is the idea behind their brewery and how frequently they give back to their own community.
“For Young Veterans Brewing Company brewing is about love,” Tom said. “Since our first batch, we have been delighted by the artistry of the process and the creativity of recipe development and perfection. We are captivated by the detail and scientific precision required during the production and maturation processes. Mostly though, we love the joy we provide with our distinctive, high quality beer.”
Tom and Neil began experimenting after a stint as roommates.
“We lived together in a house together with like six other people in our twenties,” Neil said. “We had a home brew kit brought over and we made it together; it was a brown ale and it turned out well. If it hadn’t turned out better than we expected, I don’t think we would have continued.”
“The military has played a pivotal role in both our lives, shaping us as men and as citizens. Combined with our love of craft beer and experience in home-brewing these last five years, our idea took shape and we are ready to begin our new careers as small business owners and as brewers.” — Neil McCannon
This set them apart from most home brewers because they began experimenting shortly after their third batch whereas many will brew from standard kits.
“When you first start home brewing, they supply you with basically everything you need to brew beer,” Tom said. “After the third one we basically said screw the kit and began experimenting on our own, becoming addicted to brewing.”
In opening the brewery, the name was the easy part. Tom and Neil are natives of the area and both served in the military.
“To us, Young Veterans is where we’re from,” Neil explained. “We’re vets and we wanted to open our own business. We’re making a call to where we’re from, and the name was the easy answer. We do have a lot of focus on veterans charities and the military because it meant a lot to us. It was something [the military] we wanted to keep in our lives.”
“We were really worried that someone was going to steal our idea because we were YVBC about two years before we opened,” Tom said. “It would have been easy for someone to come in with a decent amount money and say, ‘Nice name’ and take off with it. We’re lucky that didn’t happen. We were very much among the first of veteran-themed breweries to pop up and shortly after we opened, Veterans Brewing popped up in Chicago, who is a high-volume, money making contract brewery. It puts pressure on us to stand out.”
Originally, the two were looking to start a grandiose brewery with a large concert space and a tap room, but after considering the options they had in regard to venue size, budget and production, Tom and Neil opened a small brewery near Oceana Naval Base in Virginia Beach, completing their transition from home brewers to brewery owners.
Tom explained that in order to get their feet on the ground Neil attended the Siebel Institute in Chicago and Munich and obtained an International Degree in Brewing Science last year to further their goal and his knowledge as a brewer and Tom gained experience working in multiple facets of a distributing company.”
Today, they can barely keep up with the foot traffic from their 40/60 military to civilian customer base and are looking to expand. They recently found that they’ll be sharing the area with a veterans service group just up the street. Several of YVBC’s craft beers have become a staple in the Hampton Roads community, even traveling to other venues for “steal the taps” events in the area. The tap room features a membership club called ‘Canteen Command’ with military themed swag and a personalized mug that allows members to drink unreleased brews before they debut to the general public.
The duo is known for a variety of incredible brews with catchy names and nostalgic labels like “Pineapple Grenade,” “Jet Noise,” “Semper F.I.P.A.,” “Night Vision,” “New Recruit,” “DD-214,” and “Big Red Rye.” For more information about Tom, Neil and the gang at YVBC, they can be found at yvbc.com or on Instagram: @YVBC.
Brittany Slay is the Editor of American Veteran Magazine and a US Navy veteran, completing a 9 month deployment to Bahrain in 2014. She’s a fan of dark humor and enjoys writing, visiting breweries, and meeting people.
Marines and sailors from India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, make their way to a Marine Medium Tiltorotor Squadron 365 MV-22 Osprey | Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga
The father of a Marine killed in an MV-22B Osprey crash last year plans to sue the manufacturer of the aircraft, saying design flaws contributed to the tragedy.
Mike Determan lives five miles from Arizona’s Marana Northwest Regional Airport, best-known to some as the site of the deadliest crash in the short history of Marines’ tiltrotor aircraft.
On April 8, 2000, an Osprey attempting to land at the airport stalled and then plummeted in a phenomenon known as vortex ring state, killing all 19 Marines on board. Determan knew the history, but never guessed that tragedy involving the aircraft would strike again much closer to home.
But on May 17, 2015, another Osprey went down — this time at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Hawaii. The aircraft had hovered twice for brief periods in severe brownout conditions during a landing attempt, resulting in significant dust intake and “turbine blade glassification,” or the melting of reactive sand at high temperatures, according to an official command investigation obtained by Military.com.
Two Marines aboard the aircraft were killed: Lance Cpl. Matthew Determan, 21, an infantry squad leader with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines out of Camp Pendleton, California; and Cpl. Joshua Barron, 24, an Osprey crew chief with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161, out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California. The other 20 Marines aboard the aircraft sustained injuries of varying severity.
The investigation into the tragic crash recommended new guidelines limiting cumulative Osprey hover time in reduced-visibility conditions to 60 seconds, called for more advanced technology to mitigate brownout conditions, and ascribed partial blame to the pilots of the aircraft and the commanders of the squadron and Marine expeditionary unit it was attached to, saying better decision making and a more effective survey of the landing site might have prevented disaster.
The Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization program, or NATOPS, would ultimately recommend pilots spend no more than 35 seconds at a time hovering in reduced-visibility conditions.
Suit to name suppliers
But Mike Andrews, an attorney with the Montgomery, Alabama-based law firm Beasley Allen who represents the Determan family, said the problem lies solely with the Osprey. Andrews confirmed he is preparing a lawsuit against Osprey manufacturer Boeing Co. on behalf of the Determans, asking for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. The suit, which he said will also name other manufacturers of V-22 parts, will be filed in Hawaii in coming weeks, though Andrews said he had not determined whether to file it in federal or state court.
Boeing spokeswoman Caroline Hutcheson declined to comment on the pending litigation.
“I can tell you that this is an unsafe aircraft,” Andrews said. “Our feeling in this case is, our military boys and girls need to have the best equipment possible, and the V-22 is not it.”
He was previously involved in a 2002 lawsuit against Osprey manufacturers Boeing, Textron’s Bell Helicopter unit, and BAE’s U.S. subsidiary following a December 2000 Osprey crash near Jacksonville, North Carolina, which killed all four Marines aboard.
“This is a situation in which we feel the Marine Corps, the military in general, is doing the best they can with a defective product,” Andrews said. “They’ve been sold a bill of goods and they’re trying to work with it. It’s inexcusable.”
A September report from Naval Air Systems Command generated in response to the Bellows crash underscores Mike Determan’s contention that Osprey power loss during reduced visibility landings is far from an isolated incident. The report, obtained by Military.com, highlights three other such events dating back to 2013, one involving the CV-22 Air Force variant of the aircraft.
Two years prior to Bellows on Aug. 26, 2013, a Marine Corps Osprey crashed after experiencing engine compressor stall in a brownout near Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, according to the report. All four crew members walked away, but the aircraft was damaged beyond repair, according to officials.
On Feb. 24, 2015, another disaster was narrowly avoided when a deployed Marine V-22 experienced engine compressor stall in reduced visibility conditions, then recovered and successfully returned to base. Since no mishap occurred, this incident was never reported publicly.
On Dec. 1, 2013, an Air Force CV-22 operating out of North Africa experienced a compressor stall shortly after landing in brownout conditions, resulting in a Class C mishap, signifying damages between $50,000 and $500,000.
The report also found six additional undocumented aircraft power loss incidents in areas that contained “reactive sand,” or sand containing high levels of elements with low melting points. It also found that a second Osprey at Bellows on May 17 had experienced a “near-miss,” though it ultimately avoided stall in the sand cloud.
Determan said he believes the Marine Corps deserves some of the blame for the Bellows crash because officials were slow to apply lessons learned from previous MV-22 stalls in brownout conditions.
“They knew that there was a problem with restricted visibility; they knew it from Creech Air Force Base a year prior,” Determan said. “To send my son and the other Marines in that morning knowing that the sand is reactive and it’s very dangerous … by not doing the pre-work, they’re just putting these guys at huge risk.”
A former V-22 test pilot who spoke with Military.com under condition of anonymity because he is well known in the aviation community said the Osprey is uniquely susceptible to ingestion of sand and dust, which can melt at high temperatures inside the engine, changing airflow and making the engine less efficient. Because the aircraft can fly like an airplane and then tilt its rotors skyward for take-off and landing like a helicopter, its engine inlets are vertical as it descends, the pilot said, making it even more vulnerable to dust intake.
“The Osprey ingests one hell of a lot of dirt and sand,” the test pilot said, adding that the aircraft had higher disc loading than other helicopters, meaning its smaller rotors had to pump a larger volume of air at a higher velocity. “You hover over that sand and you make one hell of a mess.”
Mike Determan has a solution for the Marine Corps: Ground the Osprey until a third-generation tiltrotor, the Bell V-280 Valor, is ready to deploy. That aircraft will not have prototypes ready for a first test flight until 2017, and it’s not yet clear what the Corps’ fielding or purchasing plans with regard to the V-280 might be.
A Marine Corps spokeswoman, Capt. Sarah Burns, said the service has no plans to ground the MV-22, which is quickly becoming the centerpiece of its strategy for crisis response and long-range lift.
“By its very nature, there will always be inherent risk in combat aviation. This is due to the expeditionary nature of U.S. Marine Corps operations and the varied types of missions we fly,” Burns said.
“When mishaps occur we diligently investigate them, and we are transparent with regards to the findings of each investigation,” she added. “In this investigation there were no indications that there is an issue beyond that of the aircraft involved and consequently did not lead to a determination that a grounding of the fleet would be warranted.”
According to figures provided by Burns, the Osprey’s Class A mishap rate, which is calculated based on mishaps involving loss of life or $2 million or more in damage, is roughly in line with or better than comparable aircraft platforms.
Since fiscal 2010, the Osprey has a mishap rate of 3.06 per 100,000 flight hours, Burns said, compared with 3.63 for the CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter; 3.09 for the CH-46 “Phrog” retired by the Marines last year; 4.18 for the UH-1 N Twin Huey and Y Venom choppers; and 1.54 for the AH-1 Z Viper and W Super Cobra. These figures, however, don’t take into account the Jan. 15 tragedy in which two CH-53E Super Stallions collided off the coast of Oahu, killing all 12 Marines aboard.
Marine Corps leaders have staunchly supported the V-22 as the revolutionary future of Marine Corps aviation, along with the brand-new F-35B Joint Strike Fighter. Recent experiments have highlighted the Osprey’s ability to cover long distances at high speeds for raids and inserts; a squadron of Ospreys is now deployed to the Middle East with the Marines’ crisis response force in the region for personnel recovery missions and support of the coalition fight against Islamic State militants.
‘Where are the Ospreys?’
“The question used to be, ‘Where’s the carrier? Where’s the [amphibious ready group/Marine expeditionary unit]?'” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told an audience at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 11. “Now the question is, ‘Where are the Ospreys?'”
Still, some worry that the Osprey may prove increasingly fragile as it replaces other workhorse Marine Corps rotary-wing platforms and weathers more years of deployment wear and tear.
The fact that Naval aviation was still learning about the Osprey’s vulnerabilities and attempting to mitigate them more than eight years after the aircraft was first deemed deployable in 2007 was a function of the platform’s complexity, the pilot said.
“[Ospreys are] encountering things, they’re going places they have not been before” as the Marine Corps becomes more dependent on the platform, the pilot said. Despite Osprey deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2007, the pilot characterized the aircraft’s use to date as “ash and trash” — transportation and lift, rather than combat.
“You can’t go into a hot [landing zone] with the aircraft. If you do, you’ll break it,” he said. “The aircraft has never been tested to do the extreme maneuvering.’
The level of complexity in the tiltrotor aircraft increases the number of “unk-unks” — unknown unknowns — which are very difficult to test for, the test pilot said. And that doesn’t sit well with Determan, who fears more Marines may be lost to tragic mishaps as new vulnerabilities come to light.
“Nobody really knows how the airframe is going to react when it gets older and older,” Determan said. “Learn from the mistakes and make a better aircraft, and don’t hold back on the cost.”
The 2020 holidayseason — particularly Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Years — will be different. Much different. Common sense and COVID protocols demand that families avoid gathering. This is the smart way to approach the holidays amidst a global pandemic — better to see family over Zoom now, than to risk COVID and never seeing them ever again — but the realization of smaller tables and fewer in person season’s greetings still stings.
But, if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we are nothing if not resilient — and a bit more nimble than we once thought. And with a bit of creativity and flexibility, we can make the best of our particular circumstances. So, with this in mind, we wanted to offer a list of small, nice things that families everywhere can do to stay connected with the relatives they can’t see this holiday season. From sharing recipes and table settings to scheduling Zoom happy hours and cookie baking get togethers, the list offers some suggestions of ways to get together to help family and friends stay close this season. And, hey, we may even get a few new traditions to add to celebrations in the years ahead.
34 Small, Nice Things to Do For Family You Can’t See This Holiday Season
Send portioned-out ingredients for a beloved family recipe to everyone you normally see, so everyone can enjoy the recipe together.
Even better, schedule a Zoom call so that everyone can prepare the recipe together and enjoy all the normal reminiscing, laughter, and passive aggression that takes place in the kitchen over the holidays.
Have the kids make some place settings for the whole family and send them to relatives. Then, when you get together on Zoom, there’s a sense of togetherness and holiday joy.
Host a Jeopardy-style quiz game over Zoom, the questions of which are all comprised of inside jokes or family lore. “This relative always passes out before Thanksgiving begins.” “Who is Uncle Mark?”
Have your kids draw family members or festive scenes and get them printed as a canvas painting on Snapfish or another service. It’s a great personal gift that captures a moment in time.
Bake something — say, a pumpkin pie from scratch in a really nice baking dish — and overnight it. You can use specialty shipping from FedEx and get it delivered for Thanksgiving dinner.
Send flowers. It’s a nice touch.
Who doesn’t appreciate a big hunk of meat? Head over to to Crowd Cow or similar service and send something special — maybe a prime rib, maybe a pork shoulder — to cook and enjoy around the holiday.
Set up a family streaming movie date with Disney+ Group Watch or Netflix Party to maintain that ‘we watch these movies every year’ tradition
Set up Zoom cookie-making or -decorating party with family and friends. If you are within driving distance, mask up and distribute the ones you made.
Order everyone matching pajama sets to wear on the holiday so you can still act silly together.
Set up a family game night over Zoom with games you don’t need set pieces for, like charades or Pictionary
Create and share a playlist of holiday music so everyone can have the same holiday soundtrack.
Secret Santa works over Zoom. Also, you can re-brand that gifting game for any holiday (Secret Turkey? Secret New Year’s Baby?) We could all use a gift right now.
You know when family sits around the table with beers and plays games late into the evening? Why not do that over Zoom? If you have a particularly rowdy family, make it a drinking game.
Have the kids put on a play and livestream it to the rest of the family. Even if it’s a complete nonsensical disaster, what’s not to love?
Two words: Family PowerPoint. Whether it turns into a slideshow of the good times you all had over the years together or a lecture on sleep apnea and why it’s time Uncle Jim really did get that snoring checked out, it’ll be a lot of fun.
Order a regional favorite food on Goldbelly and send it to family so that the entire clan can have, say, their New York bagel tradition in tact on holiday mornings.
Have old VHS or super8 family movies? Convert them to digital — or just curate digital family footage. Then organize a family-wide digital film festival.
Send family members/grandparents a photo book (try Shutterfly, etc.) with photos of last year’s holidays so everyone can reminisce about better times.
Do you live close enough to relatives to drop-off food? Do it. Portion out dinner into Tupperware containers, mask up, and drop it on their doorstep.
Have a “secret” family recipe you haven’t shared? Write it down in a card and mail them out to people so everyone can be surprised with finally knowing — and sharing in — the secret.
Even better: Send everyone the same recipe and have a British Bake-off style contest where the best version of the recipe wins a prize.
Schedule time to drink coffee together the morning of over Zoom. Holiday afternoons tend to get hectic. But morning coffee? That casual holiday routine is one of those lovely traditions that can — and should— be shared.
Mail holiday cards. Lots of cards.
Send everyone ingredients for the same holiday cocktail.
Bombard family with lots of photos via text: What the kids are wearing. What you’re wearing. What you’re eating. What you’re drinking. The kids doing crafts. The kids napping. An adult napping. Just go big with photos of the day.
Get the family working together online to solve puzzles and find their way out of a Virtual Escape Room.
Among Us is the game of the moment for a reason: It’s the fun of murder mystery with the interactivity of video game. If your family is tech-saavy enough, it’s a great way to have holiday game night.
Have a Zoom family joke night. Everyone goes around and shares their funny holiday-themed joke. The one with the most laughs wins.
Bring some family members along via Facetime when there’s a snowball fight, the kids go sledding, or you go out to such festive — and safe — activities as a visit to the holiday lights at the local botanical gardens. Feeling like a part of the group from afar does wonders for someone’s spirit.
Whatever you do let your relatives know that you miss them and love them and can’t wait to celebrate safely together soon.
Ognjen Gajic, a lung expert and critical care specialist at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in the northern U.S. state of Minnesota, was interviewed by Ajla Obradovic, a correspondent with RFE/RL’s Balkan Service, about the coronavirus and the disease’s symptoms and treatment.
RFE/RL: How fast does a person’s health worsen after becoming infected? It seems that patients diagnosed with the coronavirus die rather quickly but recover more slowly compared to other diseases? Or is that an incorrect impression?
Ognjen Gajic: Critical illness [in people with the coronavirus] occurs on average after seven days of mild symptoms. From the moment one starts experiencing shortness of breath, [a patient’s condition can worsen] rapidly, sometimes within a few hours, and then intensive monitoring in a hospital intensive care unit is critical.
RFE/RL: How are COVID-19 patients treated? Is there a standard procedure?
Gajic: Most patients have mild symptoms and there is no specific treatment thus far other than controlling the symptoms — paracetamol (aka acetaminophen) for fever, weakness, and the like. Untested forms of treatment can be dangerous due to side effects and should not be used until research shows they are efficient.
I deal with the treatment of the critically ill, so I can say more about [those patients]. In many of them, the [COVID-19] disease progresses to severe bilateral pneumonia characterized by shortness of breath and hypoxia (that means oxygen deprivation in body tissue).
These patients should be immediately taken to the hospital for oxygen treatment and their condition should be constantly monitored so it is possible to respond in time [to these problems] with intense respiratory support, including respirators. Sophisticated intensive care with control and support of all organs is successful in about 50 percent of the most severely ill cases, although some patients may be on a respirator for several weeks before recovering or dying.
So far there is no proven specific treatment [for COVID-19] and untested experimental drugs should not be prescribed without the proper research [being conducted]. We are working with colleagues around the world on a day-to-day basis on research projects for new treatments and prevention.
RFE/RL: Is there any data so far on the underlying diseases that are, in some way, more pernicious in combination with the coronavirus?
Gajic: Rather than specific diseases, more important is [someone’s] physiological condition as far as their lungs and [general fitness]; elderly patients who are not fit and those with severe forms of chronic lung or heart disease have little reserve and little chance of successfully enduring intensive respiratory treatment.
RFE/RL: How much more infectious is the coronavirus than other communicable diseases and what is the best way for people to protect themselves? In the Czech Republic, for example, they require everyone to wear masks in public, while the World Health Organization has not cited this as essential for people who are not infected. Can you give some specific tips on protection?
Gajic: Masks should be left to health-care professionals. A thorough hand washing with soap and water is by far the most important tip and, at this point, isolation from all but essential contacts — especially groups — must be respected. Also, before coming to a health-care facility, first make contact by phone, since it is safer to stay home for home treatment if one is showing mild symptoms.
RFE/RL: I understand you worked with your colleagues from Wuhan. What is it that other countries can learn from them and apply in their response to the pandemic?
Gajic: Several colleagues from Wuhan hospitals have been at the Mayo Clinic in recent years and we have been doing joint research. At the beginning of the epidemic in Wuhan, we sent support in terms of treatment guidelines and [medical] staff protection. Now they are helping us. After some initial setbacks, our colleagues in Wuhan, with rigorous isolation measures, adequate equipment, and training, were able to prevent their health-care professionals from becoming sick despite working with critically ill patients.
RFE/RL: The latest information shows that the United States now has the largest number of infected people. Did the U.S. response to the epidemic come too late?
Gajic: I’m not an epidemiologist so I can’t comment on that. When it comes to the critically ill, U.S. hospitals provide fantastic care in these difficult conditions.
Over the weekend, you may have heard that the Argentinean submarine ARA San Juan, and its crew of 44 sailors, has gone missing. This is not unusual. In 1968, the Skipjack-class nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Scorpion (SSN 589) went missing – and was declared “overdue and presumed lost.”
Let’s be honest about submariners. They are doing a very dangerous job – even in peacetime. They are taking a ship and deliberately going underwater – where immense forces are acting on the vessel. When submarines sink – either by accident or due to an act of war, the usual outcome is that all hands are lost.
Sometimes, though, the crews beat the odds, like for about half the crew of USS Squalus (SS 192). They survived the sinking of their vessel, and were later rescued. In fact, one device first developed and proven in the rescue of the Squalus survivors, the McCann Rescue Chamber, is still in service today.
According to a release from Southern Command, this chamber can reach a submarine as far as 850 feet below the surface of the ocean. Six sailors can be brought to the surface at a time. While this is a good start, keep in mind, some submarines can have as many as 155 personnel on board.
That said, there are parts of the ocean that are a lot deeper than 850 feet where a submarine could still maintain enough integrity to keep crews alive. For those rescues, the Navy can turn to the Pressurized Rescue Module. This can reach submarines as far down as 2,000 feet, and it can retrieve 16 personnel at a time. These are known as the Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System. Both systems have been deployed to render aid to any survivors on the San Juan, assuming the sub can be located in time.
Now, you may be wondering, “Where are the DSRVs?” Well, that’s the bad news. The United States had two Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicles, named Avalon and Mystic. Those vessels could go as far down as 5,000 feet and could pull up 24 personnel at a time.
The United States sent a NASA P-3 and a Navy P-8 to help look for the San Juan. Hopefully, the sailors can be found and rescued.
A Russian fighter came within 20 feet of a United States Navy maritime patrol aircraft over the Black Sea. However, unlike past encounters, this close approach doesn’t have the Navy angry.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, the Russian plane was armed with six air-to-air missiles.
Despite that, the plane’s crew described the encounter as “safe and professional,” a marked contrast to incidents such as the buzzing of USS Porter in the Black Sea earlier this year.
Last year, another P-8 had a Russian plane come within ten feet of it.
The incident comes about a month before planned Black Sea exercises that the United States will be involved in. Russia has expressed concern over the deployment of American ships to the Black Sea in the past, claiming they are a threat to Russia.
“After approaching a plane at a safe distance the Russian pilot visually identified the flying object as a U.S. surveillance plane P-8A Poseidon,” the Russian military claimed in a statement.
American military officials noted that the Russian plane approached the P-8 “slowly” during the hour-long encounter.
“While this one was considered by the flight crew to be safe and professional, this sort of close encounter certainly has the possibility to become dangerous in a hurry,” an anonymous American defense official said.
Yesterday saw a Russian Su-24 Fencer come within 70 miles of the Carl Vinson carrier strike group, prompting the South Koreans to scramble two F-16 Fighting Falcons to intercept the plane.
The Fencer has been used in many of the buzzing incidents the Navy has claimed were “unsafe and unprofessional” in recent months.
Russian aircraft have also approached Alaska a number of times in recent weeks, prompting the United States to scramble F-22 Raptor air dominance fighters on at least one occasion.
As tensions rise to historic heights on the Korean Peninsula, both the U.S. and China have begun taking unprecedented steps to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
Across North Korea’s border in China’s Jilin province, state-run media ran a full-page instructional package on how to survive a nuclear blast. The page doesn’t mention North Korea, but it doesn’t need to.
But China’s preparations don’t just indicate a defensive, wait-and-see approach. China’s air force engaged in exercises along “routes and areas it has never flown before” earlier this month, with surveillance aircraft over the Yellow and East seas near the Korean Peninsula, according to the South China Morning Post.
“The timing of this high-profile announcement by the PLA is also a warning to Washington and Seoul not to provoke Pyongyang any further,” Li Jie, a military expert based in Beijing, told the Post, using the abbreviation for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
In addition to flexing its military muscle against the U.S., China has been increasingly assertive in the South China Sea. It has also dispatched military spy planes to encircle Taiwan and provide up-to-date info, which the Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong told the Post was “very unusual.”
U.S. preparing to denuclearize North Korea, possibly by force
The U.S. appears resolutely determined to put the pressure on North Korea.
At a speech at the Atlantic Council last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. was preparing plans to seize loose nuclear weapons, should North Korea somehow collapse or become unstable.
President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, also flatly rejected the clearest path to peace by saying the U.S. would never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea. He recommitted the U.S. to using force if necessary.
“We’re not committed to a peaceful resolution — we’re committed to a resolution,” McMaster told the BBC. “We have to be prepared, if necessary, to compel the denuclearization of North Korea without the cooperation of that regime.”
The Trump administration’s approach to North Korea explicitly calls for every means of pressure to bear down on the country. Threats of war, military deployments, increased drills, stealthier and more lethal weapons systems, sanctions, and even a possible shipping blockade could become a daily fact of life for Pyongyang under Trump.
But North Korea is not the only one to have noticed the U.S.’s new approach. China has closely watched the U.S. ratchet up tensions along its border, and its recent military movements reflect a country that is considering all-out war a possibility.
President Donald Trump signed a landmark bill on June 6, 2018, to replace the troubled Veterans Choice Program and expand private health care options amid a fight between the White House and Congress over how to pay for it.
The bill, the VA Mission Act, would also expand caregivers assistance to the families of disabled veterans and order an inventory of the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ more than 1,100 facilities with a long-term view to trimming excess.
“This is a very big day,” said Trump, who made veterans care one of the signature issues of his run for the White House. “All during the campaign, I’d say, ‘Why can’t they just go out and see a doctor instead of standing on line?’
“This is truly a historic moment, a historic time for our country,” he continued, before signing the bill at a White House Rose Garden ceremony. “We’re allowing our veterans to get access to the best medical care available, whether it’s at the VA or at a private provider.”
In his remarks, Trump did not mention that funds to pay for the bill have yet to be identified, or that the White House and Congress are at odds on funding mechanisms. The bill’s projected costs over five years are also in dispute.
At a Senate news conference in May 2018, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and a key sponsor of the bill, and Sen. Jon Tester, the ranking member of the committee, put the total costs at $55 billion, although other estimates have it at $52 billion.
Isakson acknowledged that the bill isn’t paid for but said he is working with Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to add funding for the bill that would likely balloon the deficit. The White House has argued for funding the bill by cutting other programs.
A White House memo obtained by The Washington Post said that simply adding funding is “anathema to responsible spending” and would lead to “virtually unlimited increases” in spending on private health care for veterans.
Shelby said on June 5, 2018, that going along with the White House would result in cuts of $10 billion a year to existing programs, including some at the VA.
“If we don’t get on it, we’re going to have a hole of $10 billion in our [appropriations],” said Shelby, who predicted “some real trouble” in reaching agreement, according to a Washington Post report.
Critics of the bill have warned that over-reliance on private-care options could lead to the “privatization” of VA health care, but Trump said, “If the VA can’t meet the needs of the veteran in a timely manner, that veteran will have the right to go right outside to a private doctor. It’s so simple and yet so complicated.”
In his remarks at the ceremony of less than 20 minutes, Trump also noted that it was the 74th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy when U.S. troops “stormed into hell.”
“They put everything on the line for us,” he said and, like all veterans, “when they come home, we must do everything that we can possibly do for them, and that’s what we’re doing.”
The issue of funding has plagued the existing Veterans Choice Program since it was enacted in response to the wait-times scandals of 2014 in which VA officials were caught doctoring records to show better performance.
The Choice program allowed veterans who lived more than 40 miles from a VA facility or had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment to have access to private care, but the program was time limited and Congress has struggled to come up with money for extensions.
The program was again due to run out of funding May 31, 2018, but the VA said there was enough money remaining to keep it in operation until Trump signed the VA Mission Act.
The new bill called for $5.2 billion in funding to keep the existing Choice program in operation for a year while the VA worked through reforms to consolidate the seven private-care options into one system while eliminating the 30-day, 40-mile restrictions.
The GAO said veterans could wait up to 70 days for private-care appointments under the Choice program because of poor communication between the VA and its facilities and “an insufficient number, mix, or geographic distribution of community providers.”
Trump touts ridding VA of corruption, poor performers
Ahead of the signing ceremony, the White House put out a statement citing Trump’s accomplishments in his first 500 days in office. Veterans programs topped the list.
Trump “worked with Congress to forge an overwhelming bipartisan vote of support” for the VA Mission Act, the statement said. The vote in the House was 347-70; the Senate vote was 92-5.
The VA Mission Act and other veterans legislation will “bring more accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs and provide our veterans with more choice in the care they receive,” the White House statement said.
In his remarks, Trump hailed passage of the VA Accountability Act, which is aimed at getting rid of poor performers, and lashed out at civil service unions for opposing reform.
“Four years ago, our entire nation was shocked and outraged by stories of the VA system plagued by neglect, abuse, fraud and mistreatment of our veterans,” he said in a reference to the wait-times scandals.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres)
“And there was nothing they could do about it. Good people that worked there, they couldn’t take care of the bad people — meaning ‘You’re fired, get the hell out of here,’ ” Trump said.
More accountability “made so much sense but it was hard,” he said. “You have civil service, you have unions. Of course, they’d never do anything to stop anything, but they had a very great deal of power.
“So we passed something that hasn’t been that recognized, and yet I would put it almost in the class with Choice. Almost in the class with Choice. VA Accountability — passed. And now, if people don’t do a great job, they can’t work with our vets anymore. They’re gone,” Trump said.
The VA has more than 360,000 employees serving the health care needs of about nine million veterans annually. Most of them are represented by the American Federation of Government Employees, which opposed the VA Mission Act.
The AFGE said that the act amounts to “opening the door to privatization of the country’s largest health care system.”
The major veterans service organizations (VSOs) also initially feared privatization but came round to backing the VA Mission Act as a catalyst for improving care while preserving the VA’s role as the main provider of health care.
In a statement after the signing ceremony, Keith Harman, national commander of the 1.7 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars, said, “The VFW and other veterans service organizations worked closely with Congress and the White House to help create a carefully negotiated bipartisan deal with the fingerprints of veterans who rely on the VA all over it.”
Bill also addresses caregivers, excess VA facilities
In addition to expanding private-care options, the bill would also address long-time concerns of the VSOs on the restrictions in the current program to provide small stipends to family members who care for severely disabled veterans.
The program has been limited to post-9/11 veterans, but the bill was aimed at expanding caregivers assistance over two years to veterans of all eras.
Advocates had argued that caregivers assistance saves the VA money by allowing disabled veterans to remain at home rather than relying on more expensive in-patient treatment.
“The more veterans and their caregivers who are eligible for support, the closer we are to fulfilling our promise to care for those who’ve sacrificed so much on our behalf,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, a chief sponsor, said in a statement.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that more than 41,000 caregivers could be added to the rolls under the new bill over the next five years at a cost of nearly $7 billion.
In reference to the caregivers section of the bill, Trump said, “If you wore that uniform, if at some point you work that uniform, you deserve the absolute best and that’s what we’re doing.”
In a statement, Delphine Metcalf-Foster, national commander of the Disabled American Veterans and herself a former caregiver to her late husband, said in a statement:
“This new law will not only extend support to thousands more deserving family caregivers that severely injured veterans rely on, but also make a number of reforms and improvements to strengthen the VA health care system and improve veterans’ access to care.”
The bill also ordered up a VA asset review in which the president would set up a nine-member Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission, with representatives from VSOs, the health care industry, and federal facility managers.
Opponents have likened the commission to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) at the Pentagon on the hot-button issue of base closings.
The panel would meet in 2022 and 2023 to issue recommendations on “the modernization or realignment of Veterans Health Administration facilities.”
At a Senate news conference in May 2018, Carlos Fuentes, the VFW’s National Legislative Services director, said comparing AIR to BRAC is misleading.
“Under BRAC, DoD moves its assets, including service members and their families. VA can’t force veterans to move,” Fuentes said.
At a panel discussion last month in the House, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said that the average age of a building at the VA is more than 50 years.
He said the VA has more than 6,000 buildings in its inventory, and about 1,100 “are not even utilized. So we’re paying millions of dollars to keep up empty buildings — makes no sense.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
I wasn’t sure what this meant, but thankfully Green Beret Chase Millsap elaborated: “If you refuse to take a shower, your friends are going to force you to take a shower.” And if anyone is still confused by this, Air Force vet Mark Harper makes it very clear: “They bring the soap to you. It’s called a blanket party. Lotta fun.”
Ohhhhhhhh. Now I get it.
I love this question because it’s the first time I’ve ever seen U.S. Army vet Rosario Eléna get effing angry. I was scared. And delighted.
“How do you break up with a woman who was a marksman in the U.S. Army. I’m not a fan of guns all around me.”
Campbell is really getting the hang of answering these dumb questions: “I would do it from at least 400 yards away. She’s a marksman, not a sharpshooter, so you should probably be alright.”
Hint: That’s the smile of a woman who can definitely take you in a fight.
“Would a modern soldier with Spartan-level training be significantly more effective than the average modern soldier in special forces?”
Let Millsap hook you up with a little dose of history here, okay? “Spartans, at the age of seven, were ripped from their mothers and sent to the agoge, where they were taught to lie, cheat, steal, bribe, and even sing, so they could become the best warriors in all of Greece.”
Other vets had answers that weren’t exactly helpful but were nonetheless important, like U.S. Navy Vet August Dannehl, who started doing impersonations from the 300 film, or Eléna who just weighed in on the fact that the soldiers would be sexier if they were Spartan.
“How would one go about buying a naval ship like a destroyer or a frigate? And how much would it be?”
“You know, Craigslist has a lot of hidden gems,” offers U.S. Marine Jen Brofer. She’s not wrong.
Dear question-asker, wherever you are, if you want to buy a Navy ship, now is the time. All of your dreams are coming true! The United States government is currently auctioning off a Halter Marine Logistic Support Vessel for id=”listicle-2639200274″,000,000.
I guessed -25, so I wasn’t too far off, and that’s something I’ll always be proud of.
“How can I prepare for joining the United States Marine Corps?”
Let’s see if you can pick out the Marines and the non-Marines in these answers:
–Have your parents yell at you for no reason
–Start wearing really little shorts
–Pick up a backpack, put your entire room in it, and start walking around for days
–Running, just keep running
–Eat every meal in four minutes or less
–Get a fistful of crayons and start coming up with recipes
–Stay awake for long periods of time for absolutely no reason