Purple Heart recipient gets 'back into the fight' with adaptive sports - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SPORTS

Purple Heart recipient gets ‘back into the fight’ with adaptive sports

“Back in the days when I got injured while serving overseas, the program to recover wasn’t like the WTB (Warrior Transition Battalion) is now,” explained Capt. David Espinoza, a wounded warrior athlete who is competing at the 2019 Army Trials, March 5-16, 2019.

Espinoza is a light-hearted, Florida-native, and also a Purple Heart recipient who has spent over a decade serving his country. Currently assigned to WTB-Hawaii, he is recovering from a motorcycle accident and receiving care at Tripler Army Medical Center. There he completed seven surgeries and received 26 pins in his left hand.


“The WTB is a great program because the unit has given me time to recover and get ‘back into the fight,'” he said. “And being a part of the WTB has also helped me to recover from my previous deployments.”

Espinoza was first led down the road to recovery in 2007 when the signal officer, a sergeant at the time, was deployed to Iraq. During a night convoy mission, Espinoza’s squad was ambushed by insurgents when his Humvee got hit by an IED and he fractured his left arm and femur.

Purple Heart recipient gets ‘back into the fight’ with adaptive sports

Staff Sgt. Kohl McLeod, a wounded warrior athlete from Fort Benning gets ready to shoot a bow at archery practice during the 2019 Army Trials.

(Photo by Leanne Thomas)

“I saw a bright light and my life flashed right before me … it was like shuffling a deck of cards,” he said. “The first card was me as a kid … then I recalled my entire life, all the way to current time.”

That experience, he explained, “Was an eye-opener, and it makes me feel grateful for what I have now.”

While recovering from injuries sustained during combat, Espinoza entered the U.S. Army Reserves and said he made a full recovery but went through the experience alone. Now assigned to a Warrior Transition Unit and competing in adaptive sports, Espinoza has the opportunity to heal alongside soldiers who have faced or are going through similar situations.

“It’s an honor to experience this event with other fellow warriors,” Espinoza explained.

The 2018 Pacific Regional Trials was Espinoza’s first adaptive sports competition. There he established a baseline to see where he stands as a competitor.

“I’ve seen a lot of improvement … mind, body, and soul,” he said. “This experience has made a big impact on me, and also for my family.”

Now a rookie athlete at the 2019 Army Trials, Espinoza is competing in seven of the 14 sports offered: cycling, powerlifting, archery, shooting, wheelchair basketball, rugby, and swimming.

“I’m really looking forward to competing in wheelchair basketball, but one thing I didn’t know is that I’m actually good at cycling,” the athlete explained. “It’s like a mind game and you’ve got to tell yourself ‘I’ve got this,’ because it’s seven laps, and those seven laps take a long time to finish.”

During the Trials, Espinoza, along with nearly 100 other wounded, ill, or injured soldiers and veterans are competing for the opportunity to represent Team Army at the Department of Defense Warrior Games, coming June 2019 to Tampa, Florida.

“Hopefully this experience keeps going so I can continue to learn and grow as I take this journey to the next level,” he said.

Articles

The top 5 stories around the military right now (July 9 edition)

Good morning. Here’s the news you need to show up to morning quarters informed:


Now check this out: We asked civilians to name the highest medal awarded for bravery. Here’s what they said. 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mississippi airmen help restore communications on Tyndall

Total devastation. No power. No running water. The scene on the ground at Tyndall Air Force Base was a grim, ‘post-apocalyptic’ one when a five man team from Keesler AFB’s 85th Engineering Installation Squadron arrived in mid-October 2018, just days after Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Gulf Coast.

Hurricane Michael was the strongest storm to hit Florida in nearly a century. Tyndall Air Force Base took a direct hit, resulting in catastrophic infrastructure damage.

“The closer we got to Tyndall, there was more and more devastation. All the trees were snapped and laid over, buildings completely devastated with no power, no clean water, when we first got to the base,” said Capt. Nathan McWhirter, 85th EIS operations flight commander.


Quickly getting to work, the engineering team began assessing the buildings for any useable equipment and materials to get base communications up and running.

“We were doing all of our inspections using headlamps and hard hats, going into these buildings that are completely gutted. It looked like a complete war zone honestly,” he said. “We were one of the first teams on base, so there were very few people here at the time too. It was kind of eerie and surreal surveying some of these buildings.”

Despite the power outages and limited communication material, the crew has been able to successfully restore connectivity and avenues of communication around base. The engineering team has been able to get the base-wide ‘giant voice’ mass notification system up and running, as well as patching up new antennae’s and fiber work to get air to ground communications connected. The biggest challenge to completing these projects McWhirter said, was the lack of usable equipment and lack of power.

Purple Heart recipient gets ‘back into the fight’ with adaptive sports

Tech. Sgt. Skyler Shull, Airman Hunter Benson and Staff Sgt. Charlie Hegwer, 85th Engineer Installation Squadron, install three recycled antennaes on fabricated mounts for the Tyndall Enterprise Live Mission Operations Center facility at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 2, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

“The hurricane knocked out all sorts of antennae’s so we’ve been scrounging around, taking them off damaged towers and putting them on good towers. There’s no material here, so we are just trying to salvage what we can,” he said.

“A lot of the buildings don’t have power still so that’s a big limiter. [Civil engineering] is working super hard and trying to do it smartly. We don’t want to turn power on to a building that’s been destroyed and risk having a fire,” McWhirter added. “We are trying to work on relocating these large communication nodules safely and cost effectively.”

Although it has a long way to go before it’s fully functional again, McWhirter said the base has come a long way in the short amount of time their team has been there. A tent city has been set up, with places to sleep and hot meals being provided, as well as clean water for bathing and drinking, making life easier for the on the ground reconstruction teams and returning personnel.

“More and more people started coming in, we were able to bring more and more assets in,” he explained. “Just seeing the difference from when were first got here to today, is remarkable. There is still obviously tons of work that needs to be done, but just in these short couple of weeks things have gotten way better.”

As the team prepares to transition back to Keesler AFB, conditions at Tyndall AFB have improved dramatically. More and more resources and personnel are arriving, all dedicated to bringing Tyndall AFB back to life. While they were just one piece of the overall restoration effort, McWhirter acknowledges that his team played a key role in the early recovery efforts.

“I just want to say how proud I am of my team and the work they are doing and the support we are getting back home from the 85th EIS and the 81st Training Wing; getting us out the door quickly and making sure we have everything that we need,” said McWhirter. “The guys out here are really killing it and I’m proud to be part of a restoral effort. This is unprecedented thing to be able to build up a base that’s been devastated. We’ve come a long way.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

Two Hellfire missiles found on a passenger flight

Serbian officials got a surprise last Saturday when a bomb sniffer dog found two Hellfire missiles on a passenger flight that had arrived from Lebanon.


Purple Heart recipient gets ‘back into the fight’ with adaptive sports
US Navy sailors load an AGM-114N Hellfire missile into its case onboard the USS Jason Dunham. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Deven B. King

Some reports have stated that the missiles were live, but Serbian officials investigating the incident told Reuters that the Hellfire missiles may have been training rounds.

The weapons arrived on an Air Serbia flight and were scheduled to fly on another plane from Belgrade to Portland, Oregon. The Lebanese military said in a statement that they were sending the missiles to Portland so that they could be turned in as part of a deal with the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin.

Air Serbia operated the aircraft where the missiles were found and has assisted in the investigation.

AGM-114 Hellfire missiles can be launched from aircraft, boats, and land vehicles and is primarily designed to defeat enemy armor. It carries either an 18 or 20-pound warhead and can travel up to five miles at 995 mph to destroy a target.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The US Navy is learning about Arctic operations from the Canadians

The US Navy’s Arctic muscles have atrophied over the years, so the service is working to relearn how to operate in this increasingly competitive space.

One way the Navy is doing that is by working with US allies and partners with the necessary knowledge and skills, picking their brains on how best to operate in this unforgiving environment.

Lt. Samuel Brinson, a US Navy surface warfare officer who took part in an exchange program aboard the Canadian frigate HMCS Ville de Quebec as it conducted Arctic operations, recently talked to Insider about his experiences.


Although he declined to say exactly where he went, Brinson said that he “didn’t know anyone who had been as far north” as he traveled on his Arctic mission.

The US Navy’s 2nd Fleet was reactivated last summer to defend US interests in the North Atlantic and Arctic waterways, as great power rivals like Russia and even China are becoming increasingly active in these spaces.

But there’s a learning curve.

“2nd Fleet is a newly-established fleet, and we just haven’t been operating in the Arctic as a navy much recently,” Brinson told Insider.

Purple Heart recipient gets ‘back into the fight’ with adaptive sports

HMCS Ville de Quebec.

“We need to get up there. We need to practice operating. We need to practice operating with our allies. We need to get up there and experience it for ourselves as much as possible.”

That’s exactly what he did. He went on a one-month fact-finding mission in the Arctic.

Brinson, who had previously deployed to the 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operations (Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf), was approached by 2nd Fleet for this opportunity, which involved reporting on how the Canadian navy carries out its activities in the Arctic effectively.

“The most striking difference [between the Arctic and other deployment locations] is how remote it is,” he explained to Insider. “There are just not many towns. You go forever without seeing other ships. You go forever without seeing other establishments. The distance is a lot further between the places we were operating than it looks on a map.”

From an operations perspective, that makes logistics a bit more difficult. “The biggest challenge for going into the Arctic is logistics,” Brinson said.

“You have to have a plan where you are going and really think about where you are going to get fuel, where you are going to get food, and if you need to send people or get people from the ship, how and where you are going to do that. Everything is pretty far apart.”

“You don’t have a lot of refueling points, resupply stations,” he added. “When you get up into the Arctic, there is not really anything there, and if someone had to come get you, like if they had to send tugs to come get us, it was going to take days, like lots of days.”

The emptiness of the Arctic isn’t just a problem from a resupply standpoint. It also creates navigational problems.

“Because it’s less developed up there, it’s also been less charted,” Brinson told Insider. “We spent a lot of time switching between electronic charts, paper charts, you know, Canadian charts, Norwegian charts, etc. to navigate around where we were going. You have to use whichever chart was most complete and most up to date.”

“There’s a lot of headway that could be made on that in the future,” he added. “The more we operate up there, the more we know that, but before we send ships in to some of these places, we probably need to just survey it first.”

Purple Heart recipient gets ‘back into the fight’ with adaptive sports

Views of a U.S.-Canada joint mission to map the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean in 2011.

(Public domain)

There’s also frigid temperatures and ice to worry about.

Brinson, a native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was in the Arctic in August, a warmer period when the daytime highs were in the low 30s. “It was cold to me, but [the Canadians] all thought I was being silly,” he said.

In the spring, fall, or winter, the temperatures are much lower, and there is a risk of getting iced in while at port. “Right now, you pretty much only want to be up there June, July, August, and then as it starts getting into September, it starts getting too cold,” Brinson told Insider.

Even though the temperatures were higher when Brinson was there, ice was still a bit of problem. “There is enough around that you need to be extra careful, especially if it’s nighttime or foggy. There were icebergs that were bigger than the ship,” he said.

“If you were to hit something like that, it’s a huge problem,” Brinson added, recalling that he saw a polar bear roaming about on one of the icebergs with plenty of room to move around.

Purple Heart recipient gets ‘back into the fight’ with adaptive sports

Polar bear and two cubs.

(NOAA)

From the Canadians, Brinson learned how to deal with cold temperatures and ice, how to keep your water supply from freezing, which side to pass an iceberg on if there are pieces coming off it, and how to sail through an ice flow, among other things.

“Working with partners like Canada is key because they’ve never stopped operating up there,” he said. “They know things like that.”

Brinson told Insider that the US Navy has fallen behind and lost a step when it comes to Arctic operations. “What we need to do is just get back to doing it,” he said. “We need to start getting the level of knowledge back.”

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

Articles

This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project

In 2016, an Iraqi-American artist sat down with Bahjat Abdulwahed — the so-called “Walter Cronkite of Baghdad” — with the idea of launching a radio project that would be part documentary, part radio play, and part variety show.


Abdulwahed was the voice of Iraqi radio from the late 1950s to the early 1990s, but came to Philadelphia as a refugee in 2009 after receiving death threats from insurgents.

“He represented authority and respectability in relationship to the news through many different political changes,” said Elizabeth Thomas, curator of “Radio Silence,” a public art piece that resulted from the meeting with Abdulwahed.

Thomas had invited artist Michael Rakowitz to Philadelphia to create a project for Mural Arts Philadelphia, which has been expanding its public art reach from murals into new and innovative spaces.

Purple Heart recipient gets ‘back into the fight’ with adaptive sports
Bahjat Abdulwahed, Michael Rakowitz, and Hayfaa Ibrahem Abdulqader. Courtesy photo via VOA News.

After nearly five years of research, Rakowitz distilled his project into a radio broadcast that would involve putting the vivacious and caramel-voiced Abdulwahed back on the air, and using Philadelphia-area Iraqi refugees, and local Iraq war veterans as his field reporters. It would feature Iraqi music, remembrances of the country and vintage weather reports from a happier time in Iraq.

“One of the many initial titles was “Desert Home Companion,” Rakowitz said, riffing on “A Prairie Home Companion,” the radio variety show created by Garrison Keillor.

Rakowitz recorded an initial and very informal session with Abdulwahed in his living room in January 2016. Two weeks later, Abdulwahed collapsed. He had to have an emergency tracheostomy and was on life support until he died seven months later.

At Abdulwahed’s funeral, his friends urged Rakowitz to continue with the project, to show how much of the country they left behind was slipping away and to help fight cultural amnesia.

Purple Heart recipient gets ‘back into the fight’ with adaptive sports
Michael Rakowitz. Courtesy photo via VOA News.

Rakowitz recalibrated the project, which became “Radio Silence,” a 10-part radio broadcast with each episode focusing on a synonym of silence, in homage to Abdulwahed.

“The voice of Baghdad had lost his voice,” Rakowitz said, calling him a “narrator of Iraq’s history.”

It will be hosted by Rakowitz and features fragments of that first recording session with Abdulwahed, as well as interviews with his wife and other Iraqi refugees living in Philadelphia.

Rakowitz and Thomas also worked with Warrior Writers, a nonprofit based in Philadelphia that helps war veterans work through their experiences using writing and art.

The first episode, on speechlessness, will launch Aug. 6. It will be broadcast on community radio stations across the country through Prometheus Radio Project.

One participant is Jawad Al Amiri, an Iraqi refugee who came to the United States in the 1980s. He said silence in Iraq has been a way of life for many decades.

Purple Heart recipient gets ‘back into the fight’ with adaptive sports
Radio Silence Session with Michael Rakowitz, April 2017, Philadelphia, PA. Photo via Warrior Writers.

“Silence is a way of survival. Silence is a decree by the Baath regime, not to tell what you see in front of your eyes. Silence is synonymous with fear. If you tell, you will be put through agony,” he said at a preview July 25 of the live broadcast. He said he saw his own sister poisoned and die and wasn’t allowed to speak of it.

When he came to the US in 1981, his father told him: “We send you here for education and to speak for the millions of Iraqis in the land where freedom of speech is practiced.”

Lawrence Davidson is an Army veteran who served during the Iraq War and works with Warrior Writers also contributed to the project. He said the project is a place to exchange ideas and honestly share feelings with refugees and other veterans.

The project kicks off on July 29 with a live broadcast performance on Philadelphia’s Independence Mall — what Rakowitz calls the symbolic home of American democracy. It will feature storytelling, food from refugees and discussions from the veterans with Warrior Writers.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The new nuclear posture actually deters the use of nuclear weapons

The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review emphasizes the capabilities needed to correct adversary miscalculations and, in doing, deters the use of nuclear weapons, the deputy undersecretary of defense for policy said Feb. 23, 2018, at National Defense University.


David J. Trachtenberg spoke at an NDU Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction seminar on Feb. 16, 2018.

The 2018 Nuclear Policy Review is the Defense Department’s fourth review of U.S. nuclear policy, posture, and programs since the end of the Cold War. The newest review, Trachtenberg said, “reaffirms long-standing bipartisan principles of U.S. nuclear policy, while at the same time recognizing the reality that a much more challenging nuclear threat environment has emerged since the previous 2010 Nuclear Posture Review.”

Also read: Why America built 3,000 of these simple nuclear weapons

Three outcomes

The review’s three corresponding outcomes comprise the “reprioritization of nuclear roles, the clarification of our nuclear policy, and the recommendations for deterrence capabilities, each of which has been subject to considerable mischaracterization in much of the public commentary today.”

The first outcome is that the 2018 review returns deterrence of nuclear attack against the United States, its allies, and its partners to the top priority of U.S. nuclear policy, he said.

Purple Heart recipient gets ‘back into the fight’ with adaptive sports
Weapons Storage and Security System vault in raised position holding a B61 nuclear bomb. (USAF photo)

Second, he said, to strengthen deterrence, the review notes that the United States will consider the use of nuclear weapons only in response to extreme circumstances that threaten its vital interests.

Third, the review recommends two nuclear programs to strengthen U.S. capabilities to deter attack and assure allies: the modification of a small number of existing submarine-launched ballistic missiles to include a low-yield option, and the pursuit of a nuclear sea-launched cruise missile, Trachtenberg said.

Effective deterrence

“These specific capabilities are recommended to strengthen the deterrence of war and the assurance of allies, thereby helping to ensure that nuclear weapons are not employed or proliferated,” he emphasized.

“Effective deterrence is about tailoring our capabilities to a potential adversary’s calculations regarding the use of nuclear force to ensure that it never can appear to be a useful option,” Trachtenberg explained. “We must assess our capabilities relative to the doctrine, exercises, statements, threats, and behavior of potential adversaries.”

The goal of DOD’s recommendations is to deter war, not to fight one, he pointed out.

“If nuclear weapons are employed in conflict, it is because deterrence failed,” he said. “And the goal of the 2018 NPR is to make sure that deterrence will not fail.”

Related: The 9 most devastating nuclear weapons in the world

Modernization of the U.S. nuclear deterrent, adoption of tailored deterrence strategies with flexible capabilities, and clarification of the roles of nuclear weapons all send a strong deterrence message to potential adversaries, while also reassuring U.S. allies, Trachtenberg noted.

In addition, he said, the review helps to ensure that U.S. diplomats speak from a position of strength.

Nuclear triad modernization

“Russia has little incentive to negotiate seriously about nuclear reductions without a robust and ongoing U.S. modernization program,” Trachtenberg said. “In fact, the 2018 NPR calls for the modernization of all three legs of our strategic nuclear triad.”

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis recently told Congress that Russia is unlikely to give up something to gain nothing, he noted.

Purple Heart recipient gets ‘back into the fight’ with adaptive sports
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

“Critics who favor eliminating U.S. nuclear systems in the face of what is clearly an expansive Russian nuclear modernization effort, I believe, are undermining America’s greatest bargaining leverage and the prospects for future arms agreements,” Trachtenberg said.

The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review is one of several important reinforcing U.S. national security documents meant to guide U.S. policy in an increasingly complex and challenging world, he noted.

Read more: Why Mattis did an about-face on nuclear weapons

“Much as we might prefer otherwise, nuclear weapons are a regrettable necessity in the real world,” Trachtenberg said. “After the slaughter of two world wars, [nuclear weapons] have prevented large-scale great power conflict for more than seven decades. This is not a trivial outcome. In an era of renewed great power competition, adversaries, allies and the American people should know that the United States has the will and the flexible resilient nuclear forces needed to protect the peace.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

At the Navajo Nation, an injection of hope

One month ago, RN Terri Whitson was mucking out hurricane-damaged houses in Lake Charles, LA. On Tuesday, she was at the Navajo Nation vaccinating frontline workers against COVID-19.

Making that vaccine delivery was very emotional for Whitson, who retired from the Navy in 2016 and has spent much of the past year volunteering on feeding operations and assisting with hurricane relief with Team Rubicon.

“What I heard more times than not, is ‘it’s the beginning of the end.’ We’re just hopeful that things are going to get back to normal and people are not going to be sick anymore. People are not going to be dying,” said Whitson of her first day providing vaccines. “And, to think that I had a small, itty bitty part in that is pretty amazing.”

Purple Heart recipient gets ‘back into the fight’ with adaptive sports
Greyshirt Terri Whitson vaccinates a fellow nurse at Gallup Indian Medical Center.

Whitson, who served in the Navy Nurse Corps, deployed as a volunteer nurse with Team Rubicon at the Gallup Indian Medical Center on December 6 having no idea she’d be there when the vaccine arrived. When she heard it was coming she asked to extend her deployment by another week so that she could help get the vaccine into the arms of people who need it most.

“I feel pretty fortunate to have been involved in this, and to be involved in something that I think is so huge—so huge that it could possibly bring everybody’s lives back to normal again and provide protection for these frontline workers in the hospitals who are just so overwhelmed,” Whitson says, before stopping to dry some tears. She gets a little emotional thinking about the losses Americans, and medical workers, have experienced over the past nine months.

Before the vaccine arrived at the Navajo Nation, Whitson had spent weekdays at the Medical Center working with employee health services, where she would talk with people about their test results—hard, emotional work in itself given the number of positives and knowing how short-staffed the system already was. On the weekends, when health services was closed, she swabbed noses at the drive-through coronavirus testing site, which is open to the public.

Purple Heart recipient gets ‘back into the fight’ with adaptive sports
COVID-19 vaccine on ice at Gallup Indian Medical Center.

When the vaccine arrived at the Navajo Nation at 10 a.m. on Monday, Whitson was on the team that began setting up a vaccination space. It’s a place, Whitson says, that people might receive a bit of hope. On Tuesday, she delivered her first COVID-19 vaccination there.

For now, IHS and the team are focusing on vaccinating those frontline workers who have the most exposure to COVID-19 patients, such as people working in the emergency department, anesthesiologists, and hospitalists. The hospital, which has more than 1,300 employees, has received 640 doses of the vaccine.

By the end of the day Tuesday, the team had vaccinated 80 of their fellow doctors and nurses; on Wednesday, they expect to vaccinate another 95 more.

“You can feel an excitement, and people were joking and laughing,” says Whitson of her time administering the first shots. Everyone also wanted to either have a picture taken or be videotaped making history. “It was joyous. It was such a good feeling.”

That joy was a lift for Whitson, too. She’d spent the prior week hearing codes called in the hospital and hearing ambulances come and go, and knowing for herself just how devastating the pandemic has been in this community.

“It was a good day. It was a really good day, and it felt really good to give people … to hear them say, ‘you know, this is the beginning of the end’,” Whitson says, stopping to clear her throat. “You know, we were giving them an injection of hope.”

Purple Heart recipient gets ‘back into the fight’ with adaptive sports
Greyshirt Terri Whitson prepares for a day of vaccinating frontline medical workers at Gallup Indian Medical Center.

This article originally appeared on TEAM RUBICON. Follow TEAM RUBICON on Twitter @TEAM RUBICON.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war

The trials of Odysseus are really not that different from the struggles of those learning to readjust after wars of today, modern veterans are finding.


A small group of military veterans has been meeting weekly in a classroom at the University of Vermont to discuss The Iliad and The Odyssey for college credit — and to give meaning to their own experiences, equating the close-order discipline of men who fought with spears, swords, and shields to that of men and women who do battle these days with laser-guided munitions.

Homer isn’t just for student veterans. Discussion groups are also being offered at veterans centers in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The Maine Humanities Council has sponsored sessions for veterans incarcerated at Maine’s Kennebec County jail, as well as for other veterans.

Also read: 4 myths about veterans you can dispel at work right now

For many in the UVM class, Homer’s 2,800-year-old verses seem all too familiar: the siege of Troy, the difficult quest of Odysseus to return home after 10 years at war, his anguish at watching friends die, and his problems readjusting to civilian life.

Stephanie Wobby, 26, a former Army medic originally from Sacramento, California, is a combat veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and is one of two women in the UVM course; she has been to traditional post-traumatic stress therapy sessions, but said, “this is far more effective for me.”

“It still resonates, coming home from war, even if it was however many years ago,” said Wobby, a junior majoring in chemistry. “It’s the same.”

In a recent class, Dan Wright, 26, an Afghanistan veteran and UVM junior, wore a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Down with my Demons” while the group discussed The Iliad.

Purple Heart recipient gets ‘back into the fight’ with adaptive sports
Odysseus departs from the Land of the Phaeacians. (Painting by Claude Lorrain)

“It was talking about being scared to die and, like, when you are on the field, you don’t think about it,” said Wright, 26, of Halifax, Vermont. He said he was involved in near-daily firefights during a nine-month combat tour in Afghanistan in 2012.

Enrollment in the class taught by John Franklin, an associate professor of classics, is limited to veterans; the current class includes veterans from wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. There are no papers or tests, and the grade is based entirely on class participation and an understanding of the material.

More: Irreverent Warriors combat PTSD with comedy and community

The people who work with the veterans at UVM felt it was a tragedy when they heard last week that a former Army rifleman expelled from a program to treat veterans with PTSD took three women hostage in California and fatally shot them. With Homer, they are working to avoid the idea of the damaged veteran, said David Carlson, the coordinator of student veterans’ services at UVM and a Marine veteran of Iraq in 2005 and 2006 who sits in on the classes.

“From my end, all it does is make me think the work we do with veterans every day is that much more important,” Carlson said.

Homer-for-veterans is the brainchild of Dartmouth College classics professor Roberta Stewart, who is now hoping for a grant that will allow her to expand the idea nationwide.

Purple Heart recipient gets ‘back into the fight’ with adaptive sports
an episode from the ancient Greek epic poem the Odyssey. (Artwork by Arnold Böcklin)

Stewart read some blog posts by U.S. service members fighting in Iraq in 2003. She recognized their graphic descriptions of war and the difficulties many faced readjusting to life after combat and reached out to one veteran who appeared to be having a hard time.

“I said to him, ‘Homer can help you. Homer knows,'” Stewart said.

Stewart never heard back from the veteran she told about Homer, but the light bulb stayed on. A decade ago, she wrote to the Department for Veterans Affairs hospital in White River Junction, Vermont, suggesting the idea. Officials were skeptical at first, but she eventually won and started her first group.

Related: This psychedelic drug could be approved to treat PTSD

Navy Cmdr. Amy Hunt, the operational support officer for the Naval Special Warfare Command in San Diego, hopes to set up programs for still-serving Navy Seals and overseas support personnel.

“Using Homer, because of the distance involved and also it’s great storytelling, is a way to break into those experiences,” Hunt said.

In its different guises at the locations where classes and discussions have been offered, veterans from World War II to those just home from Afghanistan have seen themselves in the struggles described by Homer.

“It was no different then, the soldiers coming home war from war and dealing with these issues than it is now,” said Norman “Ziggy” Lawrence, of Albion, Maine, a Vietnam-era veteran who now leads some of the discussion with jailed Maine veterans. “It opens that avenue so that they can speak to issues that they are having.”

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?

MOSCOW — The 15 Russian military planes that delivered much-needed medical equipment to Italy last week to deal with the coronavirus outbreak were branded with the slogan “From Russia With Love.”

And that sentiment was reciprocated.

Italian Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini offered official thanks to his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu. Italian singer Pupo posted a video of himself performing a popular Soviet song, and signed off saying: “I love you Russia. Thank you.”


And fellow crooner Al Bano was quoted by a Russian news agency saying Italy would never forget Russia’s help.

In Russia, video of the country’s anthem playing in a quiet Italian neighborhood was quickly picked up by state TV.

“Italians are turning to us with words of thanks,” said one presenter.

“A sign of gratitude from local residents,” quipped another. “The U.S. and Europe could learn a lesson,” an anchor concluded.

While reports have emerged that some of the “grateful residents of Italy” were, in fact, from Russia, cheerleaders at home are seizing the opportunity to promote Russian diplomacy and international outreach.

Purple Heart recipient gets ‘back into the fight’ with adaptive sports

That chorus grew louder following news that Russia sent masks and medical equipment to the hard-hit United States on April 1.

Russia is not alone in sending aid abroad. The United States, Germany, and France have also sent supplies despite dealing with their own domestic outbreaks. And China — where the outbreak originated — has sought to reverse the negative fallout by providing expertise and equipment to other countries, although the delivery of faulty equipment and questionable data has been criticized.

But for Russia, such missions prove a belabored point. Since its relations with the West soured amid the Ukraine crisis in 2014, and Moscow was placed under economic sanctions by much of the world, President Vladimir Putin’s government has lobbied for the world to see it as a force for good, with a crucial role to play in the international arena.

It has not been an easy sell.

Aid … But With Strings?

While a convoy of whitewashed military vehicles containing clothes and medicine that the Kremlin sent to eastern Ukraine in 2014 was shown on loop on state TV, others saw the purported humanitarian effort as a way of secretly supplying weapons to the Moscow-backed separatists fighting Kyiv’s forces.

And Russia’s military operation in Syria, launched in 2015 with the declared aim of driving out the Islamic State extremist group from the region, was presented by federal channels as a peace mission to liberate the war-ravaged Middle Eastern state. But while Russian soldiers were shown handing out food packages to Syrian children, critics accused Russia of bombing hospitals and targeting rebel forces fighting against Syria’s Kremlin-backed President Bashar al-Assad.

As the current coronavirus outbreak took root, murals in Moscow and beyond depicted Russia as an amiable bear surrounded by doves, and one Putin likeness was depicted carrying the globe on his shoulders.

In recent weeks, China — another country exporting medical aid — has also pushed positive propaganda about its contributions to that global campaign. In Italy, one newspaper found that several videos shared by Chinese officials and appearing to show Italians applauding and thanking the Chinese were doctored or staged.

For some, Russia’s latest missions have also led to questions.

The La Stampa newspaper on March 25 cited unnamed officials in Rome saying that 80 percent of Russia’s aid package was “totally useless.” Moscow was in an uproar about the claims, which were shared widely. “The aid given to Italy is selfless,” Russia’s ambassador to Italy Sergei Razov told the RIA news agency. “Not subject to a trade-off, a settling of bills or anything of the kind.”

Then there was that video of the Russian anthem being played on an Italian street. The video originated as a post to the Telegram messenger app by a Russian journalist working for the Daily Storm outlet. “Who would have thought that our Russian hymn will play on the streets of Italy?” wrote Alyona Sivkova on March 25, in a caption to the video.

The following day, after the video had been featured in various Russian reports as evidence of ordinary Italians’ gratitude to Russia, Sivkova posted an angry Telegram post alleging that Russian state media had “stolen” the video — which was recorded by the Italy-based mother of a Russian colleague — for their own purposes.

Ilya Shepelin, who leads a program debunking fake news on independent Russian TV channel Dozhd, told the BBC that Italians who have publicly praised Russia’s aid to their country are mostly people with close business ties to Russia.

“We’re not dealing here with a pure fabrication, but manipulation,” he said of the Russian TV reports. “Hybrid lies, or hybrid truth.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The top general in Afghanistan says he needs more troops for the President’s war plan

The United States and NATO may not have enough troops in Afghanistan to carry out President Trump’s strategy to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda. That is what Army Gen. John W. Nicholson, the commander of United States Forces Afghanistan, is saying.


Nicholson, who is responsible for carrying out Operation Resolute Support, expressed that belief during a press briefing at the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels, Belgium.

Purple Heart recipient gets ‘back into the fight’ with adaptive sports
Operation Resolute Support Commander, Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., addresses the audience during the change of command ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 2, 2016.

“This year, we fought most of the year — however, at the lowest level of capability that we’ve ever had in the 16 years. So it was the lowest level of capability and the highest level of risk we’ve faced in this time. Part of the reason for the higher risk was [that] we’re only at 80 percent. We were only at an 80 percent fill on our combined joint statement of requirements,” Nicholson said during the briefing.

During the briefing, Nicholson also noted that the force may look into hiring contractors – specifically, retired cops – to help train Afghan police. “That’s — that’s not my first choice. We’d rather have serving police officers — serving police professionals to come into those roles,” he said of that approach. Nicholson also noted that the first Security Force Assistance Brigade will be deploying to Afghanistan next year.

Purple Heart recipient gets ‘back into the fight’ with adaptive sports
Afghan National Army soldiers assault a building during their final training exercise in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Navy Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Scott Cohen.)

President Trump unveiled his Afghanistan strategy in August, in which he defined victory as “attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing Al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America.”

In October, WATM reported that American troops saw a five-year high in terms of combat in Afghanistan. Also that month, Secretary of Defense James Mattis loosened the rules of engagement that governed American troops in the theater of operations, and this past spring, the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst bomb made its combat debut when it was used against a Taliban tunnel complex.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump’s newest advisor really wants to bomb North Korea

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Army Gen. H.R. McMaster is out and John Bolton, a former US ambassador to the United Nations, is set to replace him.


In late February 2018, amid a marked thaw in tensions between North Korea and South Korea during which the prospect of diplomacy looked brighter than ever, Bolton wrote an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal called “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First.”

Also read: One huge reason North Korea can never give up its nukes

In the article, Bolton argued that North Korea had given the US no choice and must be attacked before it perfected its fleet of nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles. In his article, Bolton never mentioned South Korea, which is in range of North Korea’s massive installation of hidden artillery guns.

Experts estimate that thousands would die in Seoul, South Korea, the capital of a democratic, loyal US ally, for every hour of fighting with North Korea.

“It is perfectly legitimate for the United States to respond to the current ‘necessity’ posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons by striking first,” Bolton said to conclude his article.

Purple Heart recipient gets ‘back into the fight’ with adaptive sports
North Korea prepares for a test launch of a mobile nuclear ballistic missile. (Photo from KCNA)

After South Korean diplomats said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had expressed willingness to give up his country’s nuclear weapons, Bolton dismissed it as a trick.

“The only thing North Korea is serious about is getting deliverable nuclear weapons,” he told Fox News. Bolton frequently appears on Fox, Trump’s favorite news station, to talk about North Korea in his characteristically hawkish way.

Related: Canned soup may be fueling North Korea’s air force

Bolton’s Twitter feed is a constant stream of reminders of links between North Korea’s weapons programs and those in Syria and Iran.

Bolton believes, not without evidence, that North Korea could become an exporter of dangerous technologies that could threaten US lives.

Trump already had a North Korea hawk — Bolton is a super hawk

Purple Heart recipient gets ‘back into the fight’ with adaptive sports
Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. (Photo by U.S. Army)

McMaster isn’t exactly a dove on North Korea. McMaster is believed to have pushed the idea of striking North Korea, though perhaps in ways designed to prevent all-out war.

In November and December 2017, persistent reports came out that Trump’s inner circle was weighing such a “bloody nose” attack on North Korea. But by the new year, military and administration officials had started to pour cold water on the notion.

On March 22, 2018, the commander of the US military in the Pacific dismissed the possibility of a limited strike, saying the US military was planning for all-out war or none at all.

Intel

These veterans are keeping kids safe on dangerous Chicago streets

Purple Heart recipient gets ‘back into the fight’ with adaptive sports
Photo: Youtube


There’s a veteran’s service initiative in Chicago that is literally saving children’s lives.

As part of the “Safe Passage” program, a non-profit called Leave No Veteran Behind deploys veterans to troubled areas of Chicago to watch over kids on their way to and from school. The organization repays student loan debt for service members in exchange for community service projects like this one, and also helps with employment and transitional jobs.

“We’re here faithfully; we’ve been here since day one,” veteran Bernard Cooks told NPR. “Our intention is to be here until the last day so kids can figure out that, ‘Hey, there’s somebody that actually cares about our safety,’ and they can feel confident going up and down these streets.”

From NationSwell:

In response to the widespread violence among youth in parts of Chicago, LNVB approached the Chicago school system to see if veterans could help. Tipped off about repeated violent incidents on the corner of 35th and Martin Luther King Drive, LNVB deployed 20 veterans to the location to stand guard, positively engage with youth and maintain the peace. Several weeks of calm led to expansion, and now, more than 400 veterans have participated in the Safe Passage program, positioned at several hot spots for crime in tough Chicago neighborhoods. On any given school day, about 130 veterans patrol the streets. As a result, the Chicago police has seen a significant decline in violence in the communities served.

114 children were murdered in Chicago from 2010 to 2014, CBS News reported. Many were injured or killed by gangs. Watch how Leave No Veteran Behind is helping to bring these numbers down:

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