The United States Marine Corps gave its final goodbye to one of its most famous and most revered alums, actor and Vietnam veteran R. Lee Ermey, on Jan. 18, 2018 as his remains were laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. The revered Gunny died on Apr. 15, 2018 at age 74 from complications during pneumonia treatment.
His body was cremated after death, and his ashes were buried with full military honors.
Ermey as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in 1987’s “Full Metal Jacket.”
There was more to R. Lee Ermey’s life than just the 1987 Stanley Kubrick film that made his career while defining the image of the Marine Corps Drill Instructor. He was the living embodiment of a Marine who never gives up, being forced into the military, working a bar and brothel after leaving the service, and taking advantage of the opportunities presented to him.
The man we know as “Gunny” was medically discharged in 1972, and didn’t even make the rank of Gunnery Sgt. until after his military career. That’s how important his image is to the Corps. Even though his Hollywood career began to flag as he aged, he was always a vocal supporter of the military and the troops who comprise it.
His internment at Arlington was delayed due to the backlog of funeral services there. The backlog for eligible veterans to be buried there is so great that even a veteran of Ermey’s stature – a Vietnam War-era Marine who served in aviation and training – must wait several months before the services can be performed.
Military uniforms have been made from a variety of fabrics over the years: Cotton, wool, polyester blends… all have had their turn as what uniforms are made of. Now a new spin on one of the oldest fabrics could come into play.
That fabric, of course, is silk, which first entered the scene in China almost four millennia ago. Only this isn’t the silk that is used for the high-fashion dresses you see on the red carpet. That is from silkworms. According to a report from Marketplace.org, this silk is from spiders.
Okay, before you get carried away – no, this is not quite like the Spider-Man suits. The key, though is that the spider silk is strong. It has to be. Spider silk makes webs, which spiders usually use to catch food.
There’s just one problem. You need a lot of spiders to make silk, and spider’s just don’t get along with each other. We’re not talking things that can be worked out. Face it, when the critters you are counting on to produce material try to eat each other, productivity’s gonna be taking a nosedive. That doesn’t get the uniforms made.
So, the answer has been to genetically engineer silkworms to produce spider silk. This is not the only method in operation. Michigan State University researchers have figured out how to make a silk-like product from the deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, of spiders, and DNA sequencing is becoming much cheaper than it was in the past.
Either way, the material that is produced will have far more applications than the Kevlar used in the uniforms of present day. The spider silk could also be used to make protective underwear as well as improved body armor. That’s good news for the troops.
The second season of The Mandalorian brought much content out of the Star Wars franchise Legends and into the new Canon. From Boba Fett’s return to the Krait Dragon, season 2 was a Star Wars fan’s dream come true. Included in the revival of Star Wars past were the Empire’s deadly dark troopers. More than just a commentary on the color of their armor, dark troopers were among the most feared of the Empire’s tools of war. While a garrison of them seemed more than a match for Mando and his allies (but not a Skywalker in a hallway), there’s an aspect of dark troopers that was touched on that made them darker than you may think.
The Clone Wars that led to the rise of the Empire saw the Grand Army of the Republic’s clone troopers pitted against the Confederacy of Independent Systems’ droid army. Whereas the droids could be more easily mass-produced and overwhelm their enemy with superior numbers, the clones were more creative and genetically-based on the legendary bounty hunter Jango Fett. However, the clones had to be modified with an age accelerator that doubled their growth rate in order to meet the manning needs of the GAR. As a result, clones reached the end of their combat life more quickly than a regular person. Anyone in the military will tell you that time in the service already adds additional years of wear and tear on the body. For the clones, three years of constant and intense combat on top of their age acceleration took a heavy toll.
When the Empire rose from the ashes of the Republic, the fate of the ageing clone troopers came into question. The vulnerability of a genetically-pure army was made apparent during the Clone Wars and the Empire needed to cut spending across the military to fund the Death Star. Rather than continue to clone and raise their army from birth, the Empire returned to more traditional recruitment and training to fill the ranks. However, these new recruits could hardly match the lethality and professionalism of the clones that came before them. “Since the Empire has redirected the clone trooper program to other pursuits and stepped up recruiting inferior humans from the Outer Rim, the operational effectiveness of this army has declined significantly,” noted Clone Commander Cody. Cody was a Clone War veteran and one of the best-trained clones that the Republic had produced. His years of experience made him, and other clones like him, a valuable asset to train the new recruits. However, there was one other program that could make use of the clones’ combat experiences.
While the bodies of the clone veterans were deteriorating past their combat usefulness, their minds were full of tactical, operational, and strategic knowledge that could still be useful to the Empire. This idea led to the creation of the Dark Trooper Program. Using much of the same cyborg technology used to transform Darth Vader into a cyborg after his duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi on Mustafar, the Empire began transforming clone troopers into cyborg dark troopers. The process involved integrating the trooper’s brain and nervous system with a mechanical exoskeleton that could perform even better than a clone in his prime. With over 70% of their bodies replaced with enhanced cybernetics, the clones were able to return to combat deadlier deadlier than ever. Equipped with more heavy weaponry than a regular human could carry, the dark troopers were also fitted with jump packs that allowed them to transit the battlefield quickly. Like Vader, the clones were more machine than man; their bodies discarded and their minds now sealed in durasteel.
In the finale of The Mandalorian Season 2, the evolution of the dark troopers is revealed. When Mando asks how many troopers are armed in the dark trooper suits aboard Moff Gidedon’s cruiser, he gets an answer that he doesn’t like. “These are third-generation design. They are no longer suits,” Doctor Pershing explained. “The human inside was the final weakness to be solved. They’re droids.” Though the fate of the cyborg dark troopers is not revealed, it’s unlikely that the Empire gave them a severance package and a gold watch so that they could retire peacefully on Naboo. Despite their loyal service to the Republic as clone troopers and their sacrifice to continue serving the Empire as cyborg dark troopers, it’s likely that they were attritted out of service or simply discarded like other obsolete military equipment. Whatever the case, the gruesome fate of the clones who were turned into dark troopers is yet another tragic story from the galaxy far, far away.
Rescuer turned rescuee this week as a British diver involved in saving the trapped Thai soccer team last year needed the help of emergency services himself when he got trapped in a cave in Tennessee, The Guardian reported.
Josh Bratchley was rescued on April 17, 2019, after spending more than a day underground. Bratchley was part of the British cave diving team that helped in the high profile rescue of 12 Thai school boys and their soccer coach from the flooded Tham Luang cave last summer.
He had explored a cave in Jackson County, Tennessee on April 16, 2019, but failed to return to surface with the rest of his group at around 3.00 p.m. His fellow divers alerted 911 at 1.00 a.m. the next morning.
The Jackson County Emergency Management Agency said that specialized divers from Arkansas and Florida had to be flown in to help with the “highly technical issue,” CNN reported.
This NBC News video shows the moment the expert diver was brought to safety that same evening.
Diver Rescued After Being Trapped For 27 Hours In Tennessee Cave | NBC Nightly News
The expert diver was awake, alert, and oriented, EMA spokesman Derek Woolbright said a press conference.
“His only request when he got to the surface was that he wanted some pizza,” Woolbright said, according to The Guardian.
Edd Sorenson, a veteran technical cave diver, told journalists that he found Bratchley waiting in the mud with his gear off, NBC reported. The British diver’s expertise likely saved his life, Sorenson said.
“Most of the time on rescues, when I get there, they’re hysterical, they’re panicked, and that makes it very dangerous for me,” he said. “[Bratchley’s] mental state was impeccable. He’s a consummate professional.”
Sorenson said he was expecting the worst because there was limited visibility in the small cave system.
“Putting people in body bags all the time is no fun, and when you get to send one home, it’s an exceptional feeling,” he said.
Lieutenant Brian Krebs, from Chattanooga Hamilton County Rescue Services, also praised Bratchley’s composure, saying: “Most of what happened today here was Josh. His mental state when he came out was excellent.”
The former meteorologist was honored by UK Prime Minister Theresa May, and was appointed to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, according to The Guardian.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thiisInsider on Twitter.
Compounding the M16’s troubles was its lack of a proper cleaning kit. It was supposed to be so advanced that it would never jam, so the manufacturer didn’t feel it needed to make them. But the M16 did jam.
“We hated it,” said Marine veteran John Culbertson. “Because if it got any grime or corruption or dirt in it, which you always get in any rifle out in the field, it’s going to malfunction.”
The troops started using cleaning kits from other weapons to unjam their rifles.
“The shells ruptured in the chambers and the only way to get the shell out was to put a cleaning rod in it,” said Wodecki. “So you can imagine in a firefight trying to clean your weapon after two or three rounds. It was a nightmare for Marines at the time.
Towards the end of 1965, journalists picked up on mounting reports of gross malfunctions. The American public became outraged over stories of troops dying face down in the mud because their rifles failed to fire, according to a story published by the
Small Arms Review.
Thankfully, the reports did not fall on deaf ears. The manufacturer fixed the jamming problems and issued cleaning kits. The new and improved rifle became the M16A1.
This video features Vietnam Marines recounting their first-hand troubles with the M16:
Navy veteran and creative writing gold medalist Patrick Ward is excited to share his work at this year’s Vet Gala at the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival (NVCAF). His featured story can be found among the 15 short stories and poems displayed in Writers’ Row at the festival’s Artist and Writer Exhibition.
“Writing has helped bring me back to the person that I want to be,” Ward said. “I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to be here and to share my story with others. We all have stories to tell. My hope in telling mine is that it inspires someone while I’m here.”
Inspiration and healing
Gary Beckwith, creator of the annual Veterans Literacy Jam at Battle Creek VA Medical Center and one of this year’s NVCAF writing event organizers, says he hopes veterans realize their potential and leave feeling healed.
Navy Veteran and creative writer, Patrick Ward (right), listens during a discussion at the writing workshop at the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival. Ward’s story is among the 15 short stories and poems displayed in Writers’ Row at the festival’s Artist and Writer Exhibition.
“I believe that writing can be a cathartic experience,” said Beckwith. “The writing workshops and Vet Gala were designed to, not only highlight the talents of our writers, but were organized with the hopes that veterans leave here feeling inspired.”
During the festival, writers take the opportunity to speak about their writing and how it has affected their health, emotional well-being and recovery.
Army veteran Otto Espenschied has used writing to help him overcome Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and cope during a nine-year battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Recently receiving a gold medal for his short story titled, “I Don’t Have PTSD,” he explains that writing and participating in this year’s festival has helped him understand that he is stronger than he ever knew.
“It’s hard to dream when you’re barely holding on,” he said. “Writing has helped get me through some tough times, but I’m alive. I can hug my daughters and my wife each day. What more can I ask for?”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Two British ISIS fighters who are part of a group of British militants sometimes referred to as “the Beatles” have been captured by Syrian Kurdish fighters, according to a report from The New York Times.
Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh were reportedly involved in the torture and killing of Western hostages. Both men previously lived in London, and are considered foreign terrorists by the U.S. State Department.
“As a guard for the cell, Kotey likely engaged in the group’s executions and exceptionally cruel torture methods, including electronic shock and waterboarding. Kotey has also acted as an ISIL recruiter and is responsible for recruiting several UK nationals to join the terrorist organization,” the Department said on its website about the 34-year-old British national.
Elsheikh, who is 29 years old, “was said to have earned a reputation for waterboarding, mock executions, and crucifixions while serving as an ISIS jailer.”
“It was 2006, I was working in hotel management,” Gina Elise says. “There were all these stories about the Veterans Administration struggling to treat returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. I wanted to do something to support them and to support the hospitals who treated them.”
Gina Elise is the founder of Pin-Ups for Vets, a non-profit whose mission is based on producing WWII-style pinup calendars to support hospitalized veterans and deployed troops. After four years, she quit her job at the hotel to work with veterans full time. She has produced nine annual calendars since, but her efforts don’t stop at just calendars. Elise and her unit of celebrities and women veterans are currently on a 50-state VA and military hospital tour. To date, the pinups visited 6,000 veterans at their bedside.
“Attitude is a huge part of recovery,” says Shannon Stacy, a former Marine Corps Flight Surgeon and the 2015 calendar’s Miss April. “I think its great that an organization like this can come in really make a difference in patients lives, on top of what the doctors and nurses do.” Stacy can appreciate how attitude affects recovery, as she is also currently an Emergency Medicine Physician.
“On the surface, we’re shooting a fun, artistic calendar,” Elise says. “Under that, we’re supporting a cause that should be important to all Americans: supporting our veterans.” Most importantly, Pin-Ups for Vets buys medical equipment for VA and military hospitals and sends morale-boosting care packages to deployed American troops around the world. So far, Pin-Ups for Vets donated more than $50,000 of state-of-the-art rehabilitation equipment to VA military hospitals nationwide.
“My grandfather was a World War II veteran,” Elise recalls. “They used to paint this art on the nose of planes to boost morale for the guys going into battle to remind them of what they were fighting for.”
“When you think about the fact these soldiers painted these women on the sides of aircraft, and it gave them the confidence to go fight,” says Jovane Henry, a former Marine Corps Photojournalist and 2015’s Miss July. “What’s more empowering than that? I think it’s great. It’s a continuation of service for me. Serving was one of the greatest experiences of my life and I’m happy to be able to continue that service through Pin-Ups for Vets.”
The spirit of Pin-Ups For Vets also promotes volunteerism at Veterans Hospitals, supports homeless Veterans in shelters, and boosts morale for military wives and female Veterans with makeovers and clothing.
The recent launch party for the 2015 calendar, the first to feature 12 veterans, was held at the American Legion in Hollywood (Post 43) and featured a burlesque show headlined by an all-veteran pinup revue. It was the first of its kind. Jennifer Campbell, who worked a .50 cal in a US Army transportation unit participated in the show, but saw it as a family event.
“It gave us a chance to jump into a different period of time,” Campbell recalls. “My great aunt was a WWII poster pin-up girl. It was fun seeing the transition from then to now.”
The burlesque troop, “The Dollface Dames,” performed a variety of numbers. It was a vintage burlesque show, true to its 1940’s heritage, complete with dancing, feather boas, hula-hoops, singing, even a shadow silhouette erotic dance.
“There’s no hard, fast rule that says I can’t be a hard-charging Marine and a lipstick-wearing pinup,” Henry states. “So I choose to be both.”
The past few weeks have been rough for the Russian military, as a string of serious accidents have led to dozens of deaths and injuries.
Accidents are certainly not uncommon for the Russian military, which lost its only aircraft carrier last fall when a heavy crane punched a hole in it as the only dry dock suitable for carrying out repairs and maintenance on a ship that size sank due to a power failure, but the last few weeks have certainly been a challenge.
Over the past month and a half, the Russian military has seen a fire claim the lives of sailors aboard a secret nuclear submarine, an explosion at a ammunition depot, and, as of Aug. 8, 2019, an explosion during the testing of a rocket engine at a military test facility.
A deadly fire aboard a top-secret submarine in early July 2019.
Russia’s latest string of bad luck began with a fire aboard a secret deep-diving nuclear-powered submarine and resulted in 14 deaths.
Russian media reports that the submarine was the Losharik, a vessel designed for “intelligence gathering and, probably, the destruction of or tapping into of undersea communications cables,” A.D. Baker, a former naval intelligence officer, previously told INSIDER.
A suspected fire that ultimately triggered an explosion in the battery compartment killed 14 Russian sailors, a number of which were higher-ranking and distinguished officers. While the incident remains classified at the highest levels, a Russian Navy official said the crew’s actions had stopped a “planetary catastrophe,” a possible reference to an accident with the sub’s nuclear reactor.
A huge explosion at an ammo depot at a military base on Aug. 5, 2019.
On Aug. 5, 2019, an ammo depot at a Russian military base in Siberia said to house around 40,000 artillery shells and other weapons suddenly exploded, igniting fires that killed one and injured over a dozen other people.
The explosion created a massive fireball, and led local authorities to evacuate thousands of people from surrounding communities within 20 kilometers of the blast.
Russia has experienced ammunition depot explosions before. For example, an ammunition storage site in Chapaevsk that housed around 13 million shells exploded in 2013, injuring around 30 people.
A deadly explosion of a missile engine at a military test site on Aug. 8, 2019.
On Aug. 8, 2019, a missile engine exploded at a Russian naval base, leaving two dead and eight others injured. Among the dead and wounded were military and civilian personnel.
(Russian Ministry of Defence)
The engine, according to Russian state media, exploded while specialists at the base in the rural village of Nyonoksa, a town in northern Russia, were testing the rocket engine’s “liquid propulsion system.”
The Nyonoksa range is a critical test site for Russian missile systems, everything from intercontinental ballistic missiles to cruise missiles. Thursday’s explosion, the state-run TASS News Agency reported, triggered a spike in radiation in a nearby city.
Authorities insist everything is under control.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Once in a blue moon, Hollywood pops out a really great military movie. Not only does the film have a compelling story, but it’s also rich in technical detail — so troops don’t have to sit through 90 minutes of “dubble yew-tee-eff” when looking at uniform inaccuracies or crazy plot-lines.
But we’re not talking about those movies here. We put our collective heads together to come up with the cheesiest military movies. These are the ones that made us wince, yell at the screen, or walk out of the theater to run to the nearest liquor store.
1. Navy SEALs
In between shooting terrorists, Navy SEALs play golf polo set to “The Boys are Back in Town.” And Charlie Sheen is a cocky jerk. So we guess it’s sort of realistic.
2. The Hurt Locker
Yes, it won an Oscar. It’s also completely terrible. Put on your freakin’ EOD suit when you’re defusing bombs there, Rambo. And last time we checked, it wasn’t a good idea to leave your base at night in Iraq wearing nothing but a hoodie.
3. The Marine
Words fall short.
4. Iron Eagle
Along with the help of a retired colonel, a teenage Air Force brat steals a couple of F-16 jets without anyone really noticing. Then they both manage to take on an (unnamed) Arab state’s air force and rescue his captured dad. But totally worth it just for the bad guy’s quote of “I want these pigs … destroyed.”
5. Act of Valor
To the film’s credit, the action scenes with Navy SEALs taking down houses and shooting the hell out of enemy vehicles were top-notch. But the acting from those same real-life Navy SEALs was (understandably) forced and cheesy. And we were a bit disappointed the bad guys never said, “I want these pigs … destroyed.” And are you looking for a drinking game idea? Take a shot every time one of the SEALs calls another one “bro.”
6. G.I. Jane
A woman gets picked to go through Navy SEAL training. Actually, the movie calls it “Combined Reconnaissance Training,” which isn’t even a thing. So besides getting the name of the training course wrong right out the gate, Lt. O’Neil (played by Demi Moore) goes through training, shaves her head, and does one-armed pushups. Then she saves the day when the trainees (yes, TRAINEES) participate in a rescue mission in Libya. O-kay. (Bonus points for the shower scene, though.)
7. Jarhead 2
While “Jarhead” is based on a book written by a Marine sniper and offered a fairly realistic depiction of infantry life and all its absurdities, “Jarhead 2” is a sequel that has nothing to do with the original, has a ridiculous plot, and follows around Marines who work in supply. Yes, SUPPLY.
BONUS: Jonn over at This Ain’t Hell pointed this one out to us: “Flesh Wounds,” which he called the absolutely worst military movie ever made. To quote Jonn: “If you’re ever sitting around with your military friends and you want to have a contest counting the mistakes in a war movie, this is the one you want (if they can still see the movie through tears from laughter).”
The Organization of American States (OAS) has expressed the “greatest concern” about the arrival of nuclear-capable Russian aircraft in Venezuela.
In a statement released on Dec. 12, 2018, the OAS General Secretariat said it “takes note with the greatest concern of the news coming from Venezuela about the possibility that aircraft capable of using nuclear weapons from Russia are in its territory.”
It said the presence of the foreign military mission violates the Venezuelan Constitution “because it has not been authorized by the National Assembly, as required [by the constitution].”
“Therefore, we consider such an act harmful to Venezuelan sovereignty,” added the OAS, which consists of all 35 independent nations of the Americas, including the United States.
Nuclear-Capable Russian Bombers Arrive In Venezuela | NBC News
Russia’s Defense Ministry on Dec. 10, 2018, sent two nuclear-capable strategic bombers to Venezuela, in an unusual display of Russian military force in South America, raising tensions with the United States.
The bombers’ arrival came just days after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro visited Moscow, seeking Kremlin support for his country, whose economy is in shambles and deeply in debt to Russia.
Venezuela has purchased millions of dollars in military equipment from Russia in recent years.
The deployment of the aircraft drew a particularly pointed response from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a posting to Twitter.
“The Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer,” Pompeo wrote.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Dec. 11, 2018, that Pompeo’s comments were “undiplomatic” and “completely inappropriate.”
On Dec. 12, 2018, the White House said it had been assured by the Kremlin that the planes would leave Venezuela on Dec. 14, 2018.
“We have spoken with representatives of Russia and have been informed that their military aircraft, which landed in Venezuela, will be leaving on [Dec. 14, 2018] and going back to Russia,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told Reuters.
Oil-rich Venezuela has been racked by economic and political crises since 2010 under leftist leader Hugo Chavez and has continued into Maduro’s presidency.
Millions have fled the country, driven by violence, hyperinflation, and major shortages of food.
It was Nov. 10, 2010 — the Marine Corps birthday. I was sound asleep and having another nightmare. I’d been having them randomly for years; PTSD does that to a person. Lately, the nightmares seemed real and more consistent.
My husband had recently deployed for his 4th combat deployment. A Platoon Sergeant with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, Mike was in what was considered at the time to be the deadliest place in the world: Sangin, Afghanistan.
I was about to be diagnosed with some serious medical issues. While I waited for test results, I spent my days and nights in those early stages of deployment hiding that from everyone. I was alone with three children under 6-years old, and 50+ wives and mothers and families, all of whom depended on me to be strong and healthy.
Of the 50-something man platoon my husband was with, none but three had ever been in combat aside from him. Not even his lieutenant.
The wives were having issues with the Family Readiness Officer, and so the saltier wives took over helping the less experienced ones. It was very much like the beginning of the Iraq war for us — unreliable contact, unreliable information, unreliable family readiness program, unreliable EVERYTHING.
In short, it was a sh*t show just shy of becoming a sh*t storm.
So, I was having another nightmare. Somewhere in the distance I could hear knocking. A phone ringing. Was someone saying my name?
In my dream, Mike was whispering “Katie, answer the phone. Katie, get the door.” He coughed, his face contorted in pain. “Katie… Katie… Katie…”
I pulled out of a groggy, medication-induced sleep, and picked up my phone.
“Uh huh,” I muttered into the phone.
“Katie!” the frantic screaming felt like a bucket of ice water being thrown over me. “Katie, they’re at the door and I don’t know what to do!”
I jumped out of bed. “Who’s at the door,” I asked the young wife on the phone, my mini-me. At barely 19 years old, Katie Stack was my overly dramatic, neediest Marine’s wife, and she was a GD headache. I loved her, but I really wanted to knife hand her most days.
“The- the men! In blues! A chaplain!” I could tell that Katie was on the verge of outright collapse. Her voice was near hysteria. I could hear her movements; she was practically rushing around in a circle halfway through the house, screaming mostly incoherently, trying not to look at the men standing, knocking on her door.
“Sweetheart,” I said softly, “Is Joanne home?” Joanne was Katie’s little sister, and I knew that Katie was home in Chicago visiting family. I’d had to update the FRO just days prior in case something happened. In case she needed to be notified of…
“She is, but she’s just a kid!”
“Sweetheart, put your sister on the phone and go answer the door, you have to.” I waited for Katie’s little sister’s voice to greet me.
“Hello?” came the tiny, terrified, barely-a-teen, voice. In the background I could hear a sob, a wailing. Men talking gently.
“Joanne, honey. Where’s your mom?” Katie and Joanne’s mom, a school administrator, would’ve already left for work, I assumed.
“She’s at work. Miss Foley, there’s men at the door named CACO and they’re saying scary stuff about James…”
“I need you to go hand the phone to the men at the door, go upstairs and get your phone, and call your mother right now.”
“What’s going on Miss Foley?”
“Hon, I need you to do this right now and then you have to come back down stairs and sit with Katie until your mother gets there. Tell your mom it’s an emergency, and that CACO are at the door. Run now.”
The next voice I heard was deep and somber.
“Mrs. Foley, are you near Chicago that you could get here within the next few hours? Mrs. Stack is going to need you.”
“I’m in California. I’ll take the next plane, but her mother is en route now. Do you guys stay with the widow? She has stress related seizures, she can’t be left alone like this. There’s a baby in the house…”
My mind was running a mile a minute-
Get to Chicago, get childcare for my three kids, reschedule my upcoming doctors appointments, shoot an email to Mike- God is Mike okay? No time for that. Someone will come to my door if he isn’t.
I hung up and went to my kitchen, rushing around, pushing dishes into the sink, starting a pot of coffee, pulling my V-neck tee all the way on as I’d run out of my room with just one arm in the sleeve. Suddenly, I stopped moving.
“Katie, something’s happened to James! I can feel it. Something terrible, I just know it.”
The conversation from just the day before replayed in my mind as if the two of us were standing in front of me in my kitchen.
“Katie!” I’d angrily snapped at her. “God! James is fine. You’re fine. Everyone is FINE! Sh*t! Calm down.”
The scene played over and over until I leaned against my wall and slowly slid to the cold kitchen tile.
She’d called me multiple times a day, every day, from the moment our husbands had left. She’d wailed and cried and complained. She’d tried to send a Red Cross message when he was in pre-deployment training because she’d gotten a headache one night.
I’d finally lost my freaking mind and hollered at her.
“James is fine.”
The words repeated over and over.
“Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.”
Over and over.
“James is fine.”
Every time the words played again, I could feel my heart tighten. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. My chest hurt. I couldn’t feel my arm. My vision was going out.
“Mama?” a tiny voice called out from the top of the steps.
I crawled across my kitchen floor and peered around the bottom of the steps.
“Yeah?” I smiled up at my son at the top of the stairs, his pudgy little fingers gripping the baby gate.
“Lub you. I go back to bed now,” the 3-year-old ginger smiled at me from the top of the steps before skittering back to his bed.
I laid down on the tile right there between my kitchen and dining room and just sobbed.
“Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.”
James Bray Stack was killed in action by a sniper on Nov. 10, 2010, in Sangin, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
“James is fine.”
He left behind a wife and baby daughter, Mikayla.
“Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.”
He competed in the Junior Olympics in 2008, taking the Gold.
“James is fine.”
His daughter was 1 year and 7-days-old, and it was one year and four days after my father died.
“Everyone is FINE…”
Everyone is not fine.
I have, since that morning in 2010, been both wracked with guilt and rattled to my core. I’d never experienced combat deaths from the wife side of the field. When Marines died, it was Marines I knew. I didn’t know their wives. I knew them because I’d served with them. I’d ridden to boot camp with them or worked with them in an S3 shop somewhere or left Camp LeJeune on a bus with them at some point.
When Marines I knew died, I simply felt bad for their wives. But then again… I didn’t yell at them.
“Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.”
Years later, Katie would tell me what she remembered from that day. “It was November,” she’d tell me. “The Marine Corps birthday. James would’ve liked that.”
That’s all, really. She doesn’t particularly remember me yelling at her the day before. She doesn’t really remember most of it.
We are closer friends than most of either of our friends. She calls me out of the blue sometimes, and I text her every few random months to check in. But she isn’t far from my mind, ever. I stalk her on Facebook to make sure she’s okay, and she stalks me on Facebook to make sure I’m still married.
I haven’t seen her in five years. Sometimes I hear my words “Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.” in my mind and I feel like I’m being crushed. I might never stop feeling guilty about that.
“Is there such a thing as survivor’s guilt when the other person survived as well?” I asked my therapist one day.
“Yes. All that is required for survivor’s guilt is that you be dealing with some level of PTSD, and that the thing that happened did not happen directly to you. Stack’s death happened to his wife, not to you.”
“How effed up does that make me?” I asked her, laughing a bit at myself because it’s frowned on to laugh at other people.
“It makes you normal.”
“Other spouses feel like this?”
All these years, all this time, I thought I was alone in that. I thought I was some weird Marine/Marine wife hybrid that had gotten caught in the middle and was just short circuiting or something. But no. It’s normal.
We feel survivor’s guilt, too.
I wish I’d known that six years ago. I wish I’d known that it was normal, that there were other people who felt like I did. I could’ve been of far more use to other spouses, Gold Star and the others.
But most of all, I wish I’d known it was normal because maybe I could’ve helped Katie more.
Some interesting implications are on the line with the success of new military robots. The U.S. Army has been experimenting with robots in hopes of creating a more competent unmanned instrument for battle. The robots took on a variety of complex tasks, each associated with a real-world battlefield application—like sorting through minefields and clearing anti-tank trenches. Not only were the robots successful, but they actually began to complete the tasks faster with each successive attempt. The exercises took place at Yakima Air Base (WA).
Some military robots have mundane uses like these LS3 “robot mules” designed to carry heavy gear and cargo.
The Yakima Air Base exercises were spearheaded by Lt. Col. Jonathan Fursman and Capt. Nichole Rotte of the 23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion. The team was tasked with creating complicated breach obstacles (within the context of “a realistic and plausible scenario”) for the robots to overcome.
According to Defense News, these breaches included: anti-tank trenches, minefields, and razor wire. The robots also had to breach all of the obstacles while under fire while paving the way for a counterattack into enemy lines.
The exercise was also monitored by a quadcopter, deployed under the watch of the Alabama National Guard, to monitor the use of any chemical, nuclear, or biological agents used. Another separate unit, using an unmanned Polaris MRZR vehicle, shrouded the breach with a smokescreen that clouded the field and heavily impaired (human) vision.
A “battlefield extraction assist” bot prototype designed to transport wounded soldiers.
At the very start of the breach, the U.S. Army robots used two NGCVs to lay down clear lines of suppression fire at the “enemy.” In a bizarre backward glimpse into the future of warfare, a humvee controlling yet another humvee—was equipped with a 7.62mm gun. This robot-meta suppression fire humvee (I’m sure the Army will come up with another alphabet soup acronym for these in the coming years) was accompanied by an M113 armored personnel carrier (actually controlled by a human).
While the “enemy” was hunkered down by suppression fire, two ABVs (assault breacher vehicles) took on the actual obstacles laid out by Fursman and Rotte. These ABVs were controlled by the Marines Corps (as it is quickly becoming apparent that manned robots should be clarified).
The initial ABV led the way and cleared a safe path through the minefield—leaving stakes in the ground to highlight a path of safety through the exercise for the other ABV.
Could we see robot infantry within the decade?
The second ABV used a blade to fill a tank trench and, once filled, led a clean path for allied forces to form an assault on the “enemy.”
According to Defense News, via Rotte, the initial breach exercise took “two and a half hours,” but the subsequent attempt took only two hours. The second, faster, attempt matches the same time frame it would take human soldiers to complete the same task. This leads us to the important question: are we on the brink of seeing robotic warfare replace boots on the ground?
The answer lies only in how quickly these machines can begin to operate efficiently and be productive on a mass scale. There were some hangups in the exercise, such as latency issues (lag, as gamers would call it), camera feed problems, and other hiccups. Reports indicate that none of these posed too much of an issue.
The unmanned machines were easy to control. Finding human soldiers to operate the machines isn’t necessarily a problem, as the machines in this exercise were all operated with a standard Xbox One controller—seeing as most members of the armed forces have trained themselves with the intricacies of an Xbox controller in their spare time.
So as unmanned operations become simultaneously more efficient logistically, and more simple practically—the idea of taking boots off the ground in place of robots isn’t a matter of if but a matter of when. If these exercises are any indication of the nearing of that all-important when—then we are well on our way to seeing a new era of battle in which casualties will be measured in gears and bolts.