Whether it’s dinner from your neighborhood carry out or going to lunch with friends, eating out is a part of everyone’s life. Having diabetes can make this tough, but with planning and thoughtful choices, you can enjoy a variety of healthy foods away from home. Use these tips to enjoy eating out while still sticking to your routine of eating healthy for diabetes.
While restaurants are in the business of selling food, and not necessarily helping you stick to your diet, many offer healthy food choices and alternatives. You can plan what you want to order ahead of time by looking at menus online. It’s also easier to make healthy food choices if you’re not starving, so before a party or dinner, enjoy a diabetic-friendly snack. If you are going to a friend’s house, ask if you can bring food to share. That way you’ll know there are healthy options to eat.
Know the amount of carbs you should have in each meal.
If you have diabetes, it’s important to know the number of carbohydrates you should have in each meal. Carbs can raise blood sugar levels more than other nutrients, so it’s best to monitor them. Try limiting cheese, bacon bits, croutons, and other add-ons that can increase a meal’s calories, fat, and carbohydrates.
Mind your portions
Many restaurants pack their plates with portions that are often twice the recommended serving size. You can avoid the temptation to overeat by:
Choosing a half-size or lunch portion.
Sharing meals with a dining partner.
Requesting a take-home container to put half your food in before you start to eat your meal.
Making a meal out of a salad or soup and an appetizer.
Fresh fruit and vegetables promote healthy eating habits.
When at parties, choose the smallest plate available or a napkin to keep from overeating. A good rule of thumb is to fill half of your plate with vegetables or salad. Then split the other half of your plate between protein and non-starchy carbohydrates. If you have a sweet tooth, fruit is a good choice for dessert. Since you likely don’t have a measuring cup or food scale handy, you can estimate serving sizes based on your hands:
2 to 3 ounces is about the size of your palm
½ cup is about the size of your cupped hand
1 cup is about the size of your full fist
As you decide what foods to add to your meal, consider how they are prepared. Rather than ordering something breaded or fried, ask that your food be:
Don’t settle for the side dish that comes with your meal. Instead of fries, choose a side salad with fat-free or low-fat salad dressing, or extra vegetables. You can also control how much fat you eat by requesting butter, sour cream, gravy and sauces on the side. If you choose a sandwich, swap house dressings or creamy sauces for ketchup, mustard, horseradish or fresh tomato slices. Drinking sugar-sweetened soft drinks is an easy way to rack up calories, so instead opt for water or unsweetened ice tea. If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to one serving and choose options with fewer calories and carbs, such as:
Mixed drinks made with sugar-free mixers, such as diet soda, diet tonic, club soda or seltzer
Add it to your food journal
Keeping a food journal is a great way to stay aware of what you eat each day. Diabetic veterans can track both their meals and vitals with My HealtheVet’s Track Health feature. Before your meal, take and enter your blood sugar level. Once you are done eating, record the foods you chose. This will help you – and your doctor – understand your eating habits and create a diabetes meal plan that meets your lifestyle and health needs.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Tai Chi and yoga are parts of VA’s Whole Health approach to wellness.
Mental health is still a taboo subject among veterans and service members — but it doesn’t have to be, says U.S. Marine Corps veteran Bob Moran.
Moran, who went through his own journey of mental health recovery at VA New Jersey Health Care System, is sharing his experience in hopes of inspiring others to seek help.
“I think mental health is something that a lot of veterans downplay the importance of,” he says.
According to Moran, veterans often cover up mental health issues or claim they can cope with anything. “In my experience, that’s not the case.”
Moran graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1983 and served for five years. In 2015, a friend recommended that he talk to a therapist. Moran became a VA outpatient with a diagnosis of low-level depression.
“If it worked for Bob, it might work for me.”
That was only the beginning of his mental health journey. In June 2018, Moran called the National Veterans Crisis Line. “I went to the emergency room at East Orange,” he recalls.
Moran was admitted to the VA New Jersey inpatient mental health unit and then spent time in the facility’s residential treatment program. While there, he was introduced to the VA Whole Health curriculum, which turns traditional medical care on its head by focusing on the patient and what matters to them most rather than on a particular disease. It was a pleasant surprise.
“I took part in yoga and tai chi and also the Whole Health six-week introductory course,” Moran says. “It was very much an eastern sort of holistic way of looking at my life and myself as a person.” The new approach helped Moran become better grounded and gave him tools to use when feeling anxious or depressed.
Veterans can use such tools to actively work through symptoms or issues before they become a crisis, says Dr. Heather Shangold, local recovery coordinator at VA New Jersey. “You can’t pick and choose your emotions. They are all useful and important, even the ones that are uncomfortable. They give us signs to help us stay healthy. Don’t ignore them, embrace them, and if it’s too hard on your own, get help.”
Dr. Heather Shangold.
Unfortunately, says Shangold, the stigma associated with mental health conditions sometimes stops people from seeking treatment — which is not the case with physical illness. “In all my years of working in a hospital, I have never seen anyone reject cancer treatment because of stigma or embarrassment.”
Moran has a suggestion for veterans who are unsure whether to seek mental health treatment or think they have nothing to talk about with a counselor: talk about things you think you don’t have a problem with and have under control. “It sounds counterintuitive, but [veterans should] just talk about it and practice telling a story because it’ll help them to understand their service better and how important it is to them.”
Moran says that telling his own story has helped him. He hopes other veterans will be encouraged to embark on their own paths to wellness. “They might think that ‘if it worked for Bob, it might work for me.'”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Earlier this week, the United States was reminded that veterans of World War II and the Korean War are passing away at a remarkable rate when Frank Levingston died at 110 years old. He was the oldest living WWII veteran but the median age of this era of vets is 90, and 430 of them die each day. The National WWII Museum estimated that there are only roughly 690,000 left of the 16 million who served.
It can’t be easy to be the last of a dying generation, but someone has to be. World War II and Korea veterans have a little bit of time left, but not much. The last surviving World War I veteran died in 2011. Here’s a look at who the last surviving veterans were for each American war and when they were laid to rest.
Lemuel Cook, Revolutionary War
Cook was born in 1759, the only one on this list to be born a British subject. He was from Connecticut and enlisted in the 2nd Continental Light Dragoons at age 16, seeing action at the Battle of Brandywine and Siege of Yorktown. He was also present at General Cornwallis’ surrender during the Virginia Campaign. After being discharged in 1784, Cook would watch the beginning and end of the Civil War as a civilian. He died in 1866.
Hiram Cronk, War of 1812
The last surviving veteran of “Mr. Madison’s War,” Cronk was born in 1800 in Upstate New York. He and other New York Volunteers fought in the defense of Sackett’s Harbor, west of Watertown, which held a major shipyard during the War of 1812. He lived to be 105 years old, drawing a monthly pension of $97 from New York and the Federal government for his service ($1,443 in today’s dollars).
Owen Thomas Edgar, Mexican-American War
The Philadelphia native was a U.S. Navy sailor on the frigates Potomac,Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and Experience. Born in 1831, he lived to be 98 years old, dying in 1929. After three years of service, he was only promoted once during his enlistment.
Albert Henry Woolson, Civil War – Union Army
Woolson was born in Antwerp, New York in 1850. His father was wounded in the Union Army at the Battle of Shiloh. Woolson himself was enlisted as a drummer in the 1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery Regiment. His unit never saw action and Woolson spent the rest of his life as Vice Commander in Chief of the political action group, Grand Army of the Republic, fighting for the rights and views of Civil War veterans. He died in Duluth, Minnesota in 1956.
The last combat veteran of the Union Army was James Hard of the 37th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He fought at the battles of First Bull Run, Antietam, and Chancellorsville, and met Abraham Lincoln at a White House reception.
Pleasant Crump, Civil War – Confederate Army
Born in Alabama in 1847, Crump and a buddy enlisted as privates in the 10th Alabama Infantry Regiment in November 1864. He fought at the Battle of Hatcher’s Run and the siege of Petersburg before watching General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House. After the surrender, Crump walked home to Alabama. He died in 1951 at age 104, the last confirmed survivor of the Confederate Army.
Frederick Fraske, Indian Wars
Fraske was an immigrant from the Kingdom of Prussia, now part of Germany. He came to the U.S. in 1877 with his family, settling in Chicago. At 21, he enlisted in the Army and was sent to the 17th Infantry in Wyoming. Although he spent his career preparing Fort D.A. Russell for an attack from the native tribes, the attack never came and he spent his three years of enlisted service and went home to Chicago. He died at age 101 in 1973.
John Daw was born Hasteen-tsoh in 1870. He would grow up to become an enlisted U.S. Army tracker, looking for Apaches in New Mexico until 1894. He would return to the Navajo Nation in Arizona after leaving the service, dying in 1965 as the last surviving Navajo Tracker.
Jones Morgan, Spanish-American War
Morgan was a Buffalo Soldier who lived to be 113 years old. He enlisted in 1896 in the 9th Cavalry Regiment. He later maintained the horses of the Rough Riders and served as a camp cook on the war’s Cuban front. Despite the controversy surrounding his claim (his enlistment papers burned in a fire in 1912), no one doubted Morgan, but he wasn’t given recognition until 1992, the year before he died.
Nathan Cook, Boxer Rebellion Philippine-American War
Cook is probably the saltiest American sailor who ever lived. Enlisting in 1901 (age 15) after quitting his job at a Kansas City meat packing plant, he served in the Philippines, during the uprising after the Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish-American War ceded the Philippines to the U.S. Cook also saw action during the Boxer Rebellion in China and the fighting along the U.S.-Mexico border precipitated by Pancho Villa. He was promoted to warrant officer after 12 years of service. He continued to serve during World War I, commanding a sub chaser and sinking two U-boats. He was the XO of a transport ship during World War II and retired in 1942, after some 40 years of service. He died in 1992 at age 104.
Frank Buckles, World War I
Yes, all the doughboys are gone now. The last was Frank Buckles of West Virginia who died in 2011. he enlisted in the Army at age 16 in 1917 to be and ambulance driver. he was turned down by the Marines because he was too small and by the Navy because he had flat feet. After the Armistice in 1918, he escorted German POWs back to Germany. He was discharged in 1919. He would work in shipping as a civilian and was captured by the Japanese in the Philippines in 1942 and spent the rest of the war in civilian prison camps.
Buckles spent his last days appealing to the American public to create a World War I memorial in Washington, DC. Buckles died at age 110, but his dream did not. The National World War I Memorial is set to be built where Pershing Park is today.
In America, you can do a lot of things at a firing range — for the right price. Shoot a sten gun, a .50-cal, or an AK-47 — you can even drive a Sherman tank over a car. This is America and if there’s anything Americans seem to hate, its limits on firearms. But while America is not alone in their undying love for battlefield firearms there are some limits to what you can do without breaking the law.
That sh*t goes out the window in Cambodia, though. You know Cambodia, right?
Bring your own GoPro.
Cambodia has had gun control laws in place since the 1990s, but unlike countries where guns are tightly regulated, tightly controlled, and tightly monitored, Cambodia hasn’t had the will or political impetus to enforce many of the laws. Citizens once carried an array of assault weapons and explosives.
Cambodia’s civil war killed some 1.7 million people and displaced millions of others from the cities to the countryside. So it’s unsurprising that so many Cambodians are unwilling to part with their lethal protection. Even less surprising is that some Cambodians would choose to turn the large caches of antiquated firearms into a booming tourist attraction.
In recent years, many locals have turned in their weapons, but many others did not. It is still quite easy to get your hands on some of this hardcore hardware. As a tourist, though, you don’t need to acquire your own heat. Just like in America, one can be found for you — for the right price.
At the Cambodia Fire Range Phnom Penh, you can combine tour packages that will take you to Cambodia’s unique historic temples, like Angkor Wat, with massive firepower. They’ll transport you there for free, fill you up with all the free beer you can handle, and then take you back to the range so you can let loose with an RPG aimed at a makeshift grass hut loaded with fuel barrels.
If jungle temples and shoulder-fired rockets aren’t your jam, maybe you’ll be more apt to take in the beautiful, pristine beaches at Sihanoukville with a boat ride to some of Cambodia’s most remote, small islands. Then, once back at the range, you might prefer tossing hand grenades — or launching them with an M70.
Ten thousand times more potent than morphine, the drug carfentanil poses a risk to both civilians and warfighters.
The powerful opioid, with lethal amounts smaller than a poppy seed, was developed as a tranquilizer for use on large animals and is now part of the illicit drug trade. Easily obtained, concern about weaponization has led researcher Michael Feasel, Ph.D., of the Army’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, with support from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Chemical and Biological Technologies Department, to determine how to treat exposure to the drug.
There is significant interest in opioids and their impact on the population, from the public health crisis of heroin and fentanyl abuse, to events like the Dubrovka Theater siege. According to an article published by researchers at the United Kingdom’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, carfentanil and remifentanil were the main components used by the Russian government to subdue the terrorists.
Carfentanil activates the body’s opioid receptors, depressing the respiratory drive and other central nervous system functions. The anti-overdose drug naloxone (an opioid antagonist) can reverse the effects of the narcotic. However, carfentanil is so potent that larger doses of naloxone may be required to counter its effects. Currently, little research on the effective dosage is available.
“Higher potency versions of naloxone are available, however the Food and Drug Administration has not seen a need to get them approved for human use, until now. These ultra-potent opioid exposures are not only a chemical defense issue, but they are also a public health issue,” Feasel stated.
Feasel is working to understand the effects carfentanil at the cellular and systemic levels. His work will help determine the dosage of naloxone needed to resuscitate casualties of carfentanil exposure. In collaboration with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the ECBC scientist set out to identify metabolites in carfentanil using hepatocytes, or human liver cells. Feasel identified twelve metabolites in a 2-D, in vitro platform, which showed slower clearance. This advancement provides insight into the duration of carfentanil’s effects on the human body.
The follow-on study uses 3-D spheroids which mimic human liver activity and provide more complex results.
“By using a 3-D subculture we are enabling the access to realistic data,” observed Feasel. With conclusions on the research forthcoming, he is continuing to address the issues of chemical and biological defense and public health to develop methodology which can be applied to relevant compounds.
In fact, his research is so pivotal that Chemical Engineering News, a publication from the American Chemical Society, recently named Feasel as one of the “Talented 12.” Each year, this distinction is given to 12 path-paving researchers and entrepreneurs identified to revolutionize industry and solve global problems.
Feasel’s groundbreaking research not only aids the Department of Defense in protecting the nation and our warfighters from emerging chemical weapons, but has broader applicability to the White House initiative for the war on opioids. By finding the proper dosage to treat exposure, strides in research will reduce the impact if a weaponized version is used on the battlefield or in terrorist attacks.
With less than 100 days until the 2020 election, Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) has a core mission of serving America’s post 9/11 veterans. It is with this in mind that they launched The Vote Hub.
“We are absolutely bi-partisan, 100 percent. We got the idea for The Vote Hub from anecdotal things we were hearing from the community… The process is just so confusing,” Hannah Sinoway, Executive Vice President of Organization, Strategy and Engagement for IAVA explained. She shared experiences of moving and hitting roadblocks on even being able to register to vote as a veteran spouse herself. More challenges exist this year with COVID-19.
“This effort was really with one goal: to provide simple and easy access for veterans and civilians alike to be able to register to vote and/or to find polling information,” Sinoway said. “So, we built the tool on our website, which is completely free… we don’t even take anyone’s information.”
She explained that the new IAVA tool is for the people and not for any other reason. “We are excited to have people exercise their right to vote, use their voice and be heard,” Sinoway said.
Voting for military members and their families has long been a struggle, with certain studies finding that as much as 67 percent of their absentee votes haven’t been counted. One study in 2009 called it an obstacle course. “When we look at veterans, they fought for the rest of us along the way for pretty much all of our freedoms. To be able to have this tool available to them and their community, we felt was really important,” Sinoway said.
IAVA is a 501c3 nonprofit organization established in 2004. Founded by Army Iraq War Veteran Paul Rieckhoff, it was created to make a space for resources and community for the veterans of the post-9/11 era. They are headquartered in New York City and have a policy office in Washington, D.C., as well. They’ve grown and evolved to continue supporting veterans and ensuring they are honored.
Membership to IAVA is completely free to veterans. Their website states, “Members all paid their dues while serving our country. Our members are true heroes.” Their 2018 impact report indicates that they are currently connecting, empowering and uniting over 400,000 veterans and allies nationwide.
Sinoway herself is the longest tenured employee with IAVA and has been working for the company for almost seven years. “It’s honestly been the privilege of a lifetime,” she shared. She continued, “The social justice aspect of our work, I kind of have that in my blood. There are groups of people who don’t have a voice or a strong enough voice and we are that strength to bring them beside us — not to fight for them but fight with them. I think that’s been the best part for me.”
IAVA plans to continue the fight to ensure justice for America’s post 9/11 veterans as well as support all veterans with resources and initiatives. To learn more about IAVA and The Vote Hub click here.
The Army has been tossing around the idea of adding another uniform to their wardrobe for a while now. During last year’s Army-Navy game, Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey wore an updated version of the classic, WWII-era “Pinks and Greens,” which had many people predicting the iconic uniform would be making a comeback. Well, now it’s official.
The Army announced the upcoming addition of new Army Greens on November 11th and with it comes a whole slew of information that soldiers need to know.
Say what you will about the garrison cap, but it does bring back a bit of style back to the uniform.
First and foremost, they’re not called “Pinks and Greens” like the old WWII-era uniforms. These are called, simply, “Army Greens.” It seems like someone finally got around to realizing that the beige-colored shirt and pants aren’t actually pink.
While the Dress Blues will still act as a soldier’s dress uniform and the OCPs will still be used in the field or deployment, the Greens will be worn during duty hours while the soldier is stationed in garrison stateside or outside the continental US, like in Germany or South Korea.
Get ready for uniform inspections on a near daily basis everyone…
The biggest concern that a lot of soldiers have about the new uniform change is the price — which is entirely understandable. The Army has said that the change in uniform is “cost-neutral” and won’t be coming out of tax payers’ pockets.
That being said, enlisted soldiers will need to buy them using their annual clothing allowance. Sgt. Maj. of the Army Dailey told the Army Times in September that they are doing everything in their power to keep the costs low. Even still, it’s going to cost a bit for the average Joe.
Since it’s a duty uniform, the average soldier will need at least three sets to make it through the week before doing laundry. It will also require that soldiers spend more time preparing their uniforms for the next day, setting their ribbon racks right, shining their shoes, and keeping everything ironed. This could also off-set “hip pocket training” from being more sporadic as leaders would be less willing to mess up perfectly good uniforms.
Take that as you will.
I speak for all Army veterans when I say “F*ck yes!” to that jacket.
Costs and effort aside, there are a lot of positives coming with this change.
First off, the slight variations in the uniform seem poised to revive a strong sense of pride in the Army. It hasn’t been officially mentioned yet, but it seems as though airborne and Rangers will still wear their berets instead of the garrison cap. Units authorized to wear jump boots will wear those in lieu of the brown leather oxfords. The Greens also allow for more choices for female soldiers, as they can choose between pants or a skirt and pumps or flats.
Also, the new Greens will supposedly feature an “Ike-style” bomber jacket that goes over the Greens — and that’s badass.
New soldiers will receive Greens in basic training by summer 2020 and it’ll be entirely mandatory, service-wide, by 2028.
As with most uniform changes, it’ll probably look better on the soldiers that take the initiative and start buying them as soon as they hit the PX in summer 2020.
With a sprinkle of holy water and a protester condemning the late Mikhail Kalashnikov as a “manufacturer of death,” Russian authorities have unveiled a monument to the designer of the widely used AK-47 assault rifle.
Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky and the head of state-run military-industrial conglomerate Rostec were on hand for the dedication of the monument to Kalashnikov on the Garden Ring road in central Moscow on September 19.
The statue — not far from monuments to renowned poets Vladimir Mayakovsky and Aleksandr Pushkin — was unveiled by Kalashnikov’s daughter, Yelena Kalashnikova.
Minutes before the ceremony began, a man unfurled a sign saying, “the manufacturer of weapons is a manufacturer of death.” He was quickly detained by police and taken away from the site.
The weapon Kalashnikov invented is the most widely used assault rifle in the world and has been fired in nearly every conflict around the globe for the last 50 years.
There are estimated to be as many as 200 million Kalashnikov rifles around the world.
“Mikhail Kalashnikov is an embodiment of the best features of a Russian person — extraordinary natural giftedness, simplicity, honesty, organizational talent,” Medinsky said, adding that “the Kalashnikov assault rifle is truly…a cultural brand of Russia.”
The head of Russia’s Udmurtia region, Aleksandr Brechalov, spoke at the ceremony, praising Kalashnikov for his contribution to “Russia’s glory and defense.”
Kalashnikov lived and worked for many years in the capital of Udmurtia, Izhevsk, where Kalashnikov assault rifles are still made.
A Russian Orthodox priest then prayed for Kalashnikov and sprinkled the monument with water sanctified by the church.
But Kalashnikov — who was born into a peasant family during the civil war that followed the Bolshevik Revolution and died in 2013 at the age of 94 — voiced mixed feelings about his achievements and his legacy late in life.
Several months before his death, he wrote a letter to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in which he said: “The pain in my soul is unbearable.
“I keep asking myself the same unsolvable question: If my assault rifle took people’s lives that means that I…am responsible for people’s deaths.”
Medinsky presented plans to Putin for the Kalashnikov statue in September 2016 during a tour of the Kalashnikov Group’s headquarters in Izhevsk.
The project was backed by the Russian Military-Historical Society — which is chaired by Medinsky — and by Rostec, whose CEO is Putin ally Sergei Chemezov. Rostec is the majority owner of Kalashnikov.
The monument was unveiled on a state-mandated professional holiday honoring Russian arms makers going back to tsarist times.
Kremlin critics say that Putin, who has involved Russia in wars in Syria and Ukraine and touts Soviet and imperial-era battlefield achievements to promote patriotism, focuses on military affairs to draw attention away from domestic troubles.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has announced a temporary cease-fire with the Taliban for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that caps off the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, though it was not immediately clear whether the militants had agreed.
The truce will last from June 12 until around June 20, 2018, Ghani said in a video message on June 7, 2018, as deadly militant attacks across Afghanistan showed no sign of easing during Ramadan.
Ghani said that Afghanistan’s security forces will “stop offensives” against Afghan Taliban militants but will continue to target the extremist group Islamic State (IS), Al-Qaeda, and “other international terrorist groups” and their affiliates.
The cease-fire is “an opportunity for Taliban to introspect that their violent campaign is not wining [sic] them hearts and minds but further alienating the Afghan people from their cause,” the president wrote on Twitter.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed declined to comment to RFE/RL on the matter.
Senior security officials said the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, a militant group affiliated to the Taliban, was also included in the unilateral cease-fire.
The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan said that foreign forces will also honor the cease-fire.
“We will adhere to the wishes of Afghanistan for the country to enjoy a peaceful end to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, and support the search for an end to the conflict,” General John Nicholson said in a statement.
Ghani’s announcement comes days after the country’s top religious body issued a religious order, or fatwa, declaring suicide attacks forbidden, or “haram,” under the principles of Islam.
Meeting in Kabul on June 4, 2018, the Afghan Ulema Council also appealed on both Afghan government forces and the Taliban and other militants to agree on a cease-fire, and called for peace negotiations between the sides.
A suicide bombing outside the gathering, attended by around 2,000 Muslim clerics, scholars, and figures of authority in religion and law from across Afghanistan, killed at least seven people, including several clerics.
A local affiliate of IS claimed responsibility.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan welcomed Ghani’s announcement, saying on Twitter that “there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.”
In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on the Taliban to join the cease-fire, saying that the militant group “will not win on the battlefield.”
“The only way for them to achieve a solution is to sit down at the negotiating table,” he told reporters.
The U.S. State Department said that “the Afghan government’s offer of a temporary cease-fire underscores its commitment to peace as both a national and religious responsibility.”
It said it will allow the Afghan people to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday without fear of violence.
However, a former Afghan army general, Atiqullah Amarkhel, expressed concerns that the cease-fire would give the Taliban a chance to regroup.
“From a military prospect, it is not a good move,” he told Reuters.
The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.
The Taliban has stepped up its attacks against Afghan security forces as well as government officials across the country since the announcement of its spring offensive in April 2018.
In February 2018, Ghani offered to allow the Taliban to establish itself as a political party and said he would work to remove sanctions on the militant group, among other incentives, if it joined the government in peace negotiations.
In return, the militants would have to recognize the Kabul government and respect the rule of law.
Whether she’d posted a personal-best time or suffered a collision on the track, Emily Sweeney would flash her trademark smile to fans, media, or anyone who watched her compete. Even when sliding during frigid winter storms in challenging conditions, the New York National Guard Soldier kept smiling.
But for six months during the winter and spring of 2014, that bright-eyed grin couldn’t hide bitter disappointment.
A charismatic Olympic hopeful, Sweeney had entered the 2013 World Cup season as a favorite to make the 2014 Winter Games. When Sweeney lost the final spot on the 2014 U.S. Luge Team, missing the Olympics for the second time, she shut herself off from the sport to which she had dedicated most of her life.
“It’s something that I’ve wanted for so long and it’s something that’s very tangible for me,” said Sweeney, who in December, finally qualified to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
For Sweeney, the road to PyeongChang could be described as anything but easy.
Tough matchup hits close to home
Photos and murals of past Olympians adorn the walls of the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center. Medals of previous Olympic greats in bobsled, figure skating, and luge sit encased in the facility’s trophy room.
Some former Olympic competitors still work at the facility, including former silver medalist Gordy Sheer, Team USA’s director of marketing and sponsorship. Sweeney, like other Olympic hopefuls, spent much of her youth here.
As a seven year old, Emily idolized her older sister, Megan, who competed in the luge program at the junior levels. She later joined the USA Luge program herself, after participating in a “slider search” in Rhode Island at age 10. Her sister remained a hero to her.
“I wouldn’t be here or be the person I am today without her,” Emily said. “I was really pushed by Megan from early on because I saw the potential of what I could be through her and that was really inspiring to me.”
After she turned 16, Sweeney showcased tremendous speed on luge tracks across the globe. And she demonstrated enormous potential in the sport in her first year competing.
During the 2009 World Cup season, Sweeney began competing at a higher level. She built her luge resume by nabbing Norton Junior World Champion honors and earning bronze medals at the Junior World Cup in Winterberg, Germany and a gold medal at Park City, Utah.
And during the 2009 season, Emily began to beat her older sister and some of her national team peers during practice runs and some competitions. During one World Cup competition in Park City, Utah, she called her parents with concerns about competing with her sister and hero.
“She was very upset,” said Sweeney’s mother, Sue. “She was worried that she was going to beat Megan in the race and it would be the end of Megan’s (Olympic bid).”
Dreams of the Olympics, of course, had always been on her sister’s mind, and her own as well.
“I’ve always wanted that moment of walking in on opening ceremonies,” said Sweeney. “That is the epitome of what I want … to walk in with my whole team and have ‘USA’ on our backs.”
Later that year, during the final World Cup competition in Lillehammer, the final two spots for the 2010 Olympic team came down to two competitors. Both wore the name “Sweeney” on their uniforms.
Jarred by the prospect of beating her idol, the sisters made a pact to leave everything on the floor on their next competition.
Emily went on to lose to her sister in a race off at the Olympiacenter in Norway, falling by two tenths of a second. Due to a medical waiver, another team member took the final spot for the 2010 Vancouver team, while Emily remained on stand-by as an Olympic alternate. Emily still traveled to British Columbia to cheer on her sister from the stands.
“Going to the Olympics and watching her was difficult,” Emily said. “I’m glad I went, I’m glad I supported her. I wouldn’t have changed that for the world. But it was tough standing on the other side of the track watching my dream happen.”
After she missed a shot at Vancouver, Emily would make a life decision that would set the foundation for life after luge.
An athlete and a soldier
Jack Sweeney, Emily’s grandfather, had long been an inspiration in Emily’s life. While she would prepare meals for him, he’d relay stories to her about his days in the Navy. Emily said her grandfather instilled in her a sense of pride for her country and also inspired her to join the Army National Guard.
Joining the military sparked a change in Emily. She often took a leadership role during basic combat trainng at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. She did the same during her advanced individual training there, where she learned to be a military policeman. She even graduated with honors from the Army’s military police school.
Once in the Army, Emily also opted to join the World Class Athlete Program.
“I thought it was a great avenue of opportunity,” Emily said of her decision to join the Army. “I knew I wanted to continue being an athlete, but I didn’t want to only be an athlete. I wanted something else to pursue beyond my athletic career.”
After joining the Guard, Emily became more of a leader for USA Luge as well, not only competing for the program, but also helping the program identify and recruit talented youth to the sport during talent searches.
Sochi slips away
Around Thanksgiving 2013, Sweeney knew it. Her parents, as they checked at the World Cup standings online also knew: Emily would not be competing at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.
A season that began with promise, instead led to complications with her sled, dealing with minor injuries and slower finish times on the World Cup circuit.
After her final races had finished for 2013, Sweeney sat in her hotel room. Her boyfriend, Italian luge team member Dominik Fischnaller, brought her a cup of her favorite ice cream.
And then for six months, Sweeney walked away from the sport to which she had dedicated a great chunk of her childhood. Instead of weight training and spending hours on the track, Sweeney removed herself from any luge or exercise activities. Instead, she retreated to her home in Lake Placid and contemplated her future in the sport.
“I went from being an Olympic hopeful, training at 100 percent,” Emily said, “to just stopping everything.
“I was really at a point where I said, ‘What’s the point?’ What’s the point of doing this if I’m not getting the results I’m wanting?’ It took a while, I closed myself off.”
She began working as a waitress and hostess at local restaurants. And while she’d visit her ailing grandfather in neighboring Saranac Lake, she mostly cut herself off from family and dealt with struggles the best way she knew: internally.
“We lost her for a while,” Sue said. “It was tough. She didn’t even watch the (2014 Winter) Games.”
“Emily had to refine her sliding and her motivation,” Megan said. “It took her a long time. But I think that’s normal when you have a dream and become so disappointed … It was very, very tough because she knows she’s good.”
The Army gets her rolling
In May 2014, Emily remained withdrawn from the luge community. It would be just the wakeup call she needed to get back on track with her sport.
She received orders to attend Warrior Leader Course (now the Basic Leader Course) that spring at Fort Dix, New Jersey. During the month-long course, she took tests on her leadership skills, land navigation and various drills to prepare to become a noncommissioned officer .
After giving up her strict luge-related training routine and regular exercising, Emily had lost muscle mass. She’d dropped 20 pounds from her 5-foot-5-inch frame. As a result, for the first time since enlisting in the Guard, she failed to score a 300 on her Army Physical Fitness Test.
“(WLC) kind of pulled me out,” said Sweeney. “It gave me a schedule that I had to adhere to again. I kind of got back into the military mode and then after that I got back into my training.”
Shortly after graduating WLC, Sweeney resumed luge-related activities. She began lifting weights again, and changed her routine, and began working out at JEKL gym in Plainville, Connecticut. There Sweeney took part in grueling gymnastics-based training to strengthen her core muscles using various gymnastics apparatus pieces including rings, the high bar and parallel bars.
“It definitely put me in my place pretty quickly,” Sweeney said.
The old Emily had returned, away from the luge track too. She began reconnecting with friends. She spoke with family members more often.
And that familiar smile came back.
“Everybody always kids her about her smile — she always has a big smile on her face,” said her mother, Sue. “But it’s true — it’s part of who she is. Once you start to see her smile coming back, you know she’s starting to feel much more like herself.”
In December 2015, during World Cup competition on their home track in Lake Placid, Sweeney and teammates Erin Hamlin and Summer Britcher swept the field. It marked the first time the U.S. women knocked out the dominant German team.
“We’re more of a force to be reckoned with now,” Sweeney said.
During a fall, Sweeney suffered injury to her wrist that required surgery in 2016, proving to be a minor setback. But she bounced back to stellar marks in 2017.
“The (wrist) injury really didn’t worry me,” USA Luge coach Bill Tavares said. “For her it was all mental. When I knew that she was mentally strong coming into this year then there was no worry on my part.”
Hitting her stride
The 4,242-foot luge course in Winterberg, Germany presents a daunting challenge to competitive lugers. Those who accept its challenge must enter the course’s labyrinth in near-perfect form. In November, Sweeney and her USA teammates traveled to Winterberg to face the mighty German team that built an Olympic juggernaut on this course.
At the track’s midpoint, a turn drops competitors into the labyrinth where sled speeds multiply.
After placing second earlier in the World Cup competition at on this track, mishaps on one of her runs sent Sweeney tumbling out of contention and she thought she missed her chance to clinch an Olympic berth.
But then she bounced back later that day to take her first World Cup gold in the sprint race, upsetting 2014 Olympic champion, Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger, on her home course. Instead, her shot at an Olympic berth would have to wait.
When dealing with the difficult highs and lows of competing against the best in the world, she turned to Grandpa Sweeney. Emily said her grandfather helped keep her grounded and objective while remaining committed to her family and country.
“He’s probably a big part of her personality,” Sue said. “He’s always been one of her best friends. And she’s looked to him for advice.”
As Sweeney begins final preparations for the Winter Games, she will do so with a heavy heart. Jack Sweeney passed away at age 88 on Jan. 3. Emily said her grandfather helped keep her grounded and objective while remaining committed to her family and country.
Olympian at last
Sweeney learned that she had reached the pinnacle of her career unceremoniously — not by an announcement on the track, or from posting a career-best time — but in a text.
Dec. 14, after having dinner with her parents and returning to the Lake Placid training facility, Sweeney received a message from her mother, Sue.
“See you in PyeongChang,” the text read.
Sweeney’s mother had been tracking the Nation’s Cup live stream on her phone. The Nation’s Cup was a pre-qualifying event for the World Cup later that week. Had Raychel Germaine qualified for the World Cup, she could have potentially knocked Emily out of Olympic competition. But she didn’t, and the final Olympic women’s luge slot went to Emily.
“It was just a peaceful moment,” Sweeney said, “I was stunned.”
She received congratulations from Fischnaller, her boyfriend of eight years. Then came a flood of 30 messages and well wishes from family, friends and teammates.
“I’m really happy for her,” teammate Summer Britcher said. “I know how hard she works. I’m very happy that she’s met this goal and I’m really excited to compete alongside her in (32) days.”
Sweeney will join 2014 Bronze medalist Hamlin and Britcher on the USA roster in PyeongChang in February. The impact of reaching her dream did not hit her until after finishing World Cup competition in the women’s sprint race Dec. 16, Sue Sweeney said.
A heavy snow blanketed Lake Placid’s Mount Van Hoevenberg Dec. 16, and athletes faced a wind chill so bitter that exposed fingers and toes could feel like frozen blocks of ice. During the women’s sprint race, Sweeney posted an efficient run in these slick conditions, but a mishap at turn seven hurt her final time, eventually knocking her out of sprint qualification. Unfazed, she posted a better time in her second run.
The weight of realizing her Olympic dream began to creep in. Still clad in her helmet and orange and blue leotard, Sweeney waved to her 80 supporters, family and friends. And once more she flashed her wide grin.
“Emily’s missed two Olympic teams very narrowly,” Sheer said. “In 2014 … that was a real tough one for her. It takes a certain type of person to be able to bounce back from something like that and to be able to keep fighting and I give her all the credit in the world.”
Then after 15 minutes of speaking with local and national media members, Sweeney locked arms with her older sister, rosy-cheeked from the stinging wind chill. Standing amid swirling snowflakes, Megan whispered into her younger sister’s ear:
“I’m so proud of you,” Megan said.
Next stop: South Korea
When Emily dons the USA colors at PyeongChang next month, she knows he will be representing more than herself. She will also represent WCAP, the National Guard and the U.S. Army. Sweeney, who currently ranks eighth in the International Luge Federation women’s singles, will join fellow WCAP athletes Matt Mortensen in men’s doubles and singles competitor Taylor Morris.
At 24, the Olympics will wrap Sweeney’s fourteenth year in the sport and she plans to bring home a medal for her team.
“Going to the Olympics isn’t enough for me,” Sweeney said “I want to go to the Olympics and do something. So it’s not over — the work isn’t over.”
Although the nation remained devastated over the winter storm which severely impacted Texas in particular, it wasn’t just Americans in harms way. It was catastrophic for animals on land in the water, too.
The Washington Post caught up with Will Bellamy, a veteran of the Army and Marine Corps who is a resident of the Corpus Christi area in Texas. In his interview, he reported how he and his son saw some sea turtles in distress after rescuing a few injured birds. Bellamy immediately reached out to Captain Christopher Jason who is in command of Naval Air Station Corpus Christi.
Jason used his own paddleboard to rescue a few of the cold-shocked sea turtles, only able to fit three in his lap. Sadly, they weren’t the only ones. The next day, it was apparent to both Jason and Bellamy the situation was far more urgent than they originally thought. During his phone interview, Bellamy told the Washington Post, “It was like an apocalypse of turtles littered on the beach.”
When the water temperature goes below 50 degrees fahrenheit, green sea turtles become lethargic. This causes them to stop moving and float to the surface, leaving them vulnerable to being hit by boats or even washing ashore, like they did in Texas.
The green sea turtle is Texas’ most common sea turtle. The area along the gulf’s coast is where around 87% of them lay their nests during mating season each year. Sea Turtle Inc, based out of South Padre Island, has been working around the clock to save the cold-shocked green sea turtles washing up on the shores of Texas. In a statement the organization wrote, “Cold-stun events happen when the water gets too cold for sea turtles to maintain their body temperature.”
In an interview with Military Times, Jason said although he was aware of cold-stunning among sea turtles, this was unlike anything he’d ever seen since taking command in 2019. It truly was a military team effort. The Navy base community was also joined by Coast Guardsmen and soldiers. Flight students, military spouses, family members and veterans all dove in to support rescue efforts.
Between all of them, they’ve rescued around 1,100 sea turtles and the numbers continue to grow. Only 20 have perished.
According to National Geographic, nearly 5,000 green sea turtles have been rescued throughout the coast of Texas since the unprecedented winter storm hit. Texans and members of the military community have been bringing them in by the carload, banding together to save the threatened species. In a Facebook post, Sea Turtle Inc. wrote “This is the biggest sea turtle cold-stunned event in south Texas.”
Despite handling challenging times of their own with loss of power and water, these military members and their supporters went all in to save the turtles. Without their dedicated efforts, it’s apparent the Texas green sea turtle population would have been decimated. It’s a powerful reminder of how working together even during the hardest of times can truly make all the difference in the world.
Costumes, candy, Halloween parties, and trick or treating are common ways to celebrate All Hallows Eve. Another way some choose to take part in is by going to a “haunted house.”
For some, haunted houses are all too real.
Many Team Shaw members have heard rumors of some buildings on base that are supposedly haunted, but few have actually had experiences with the paranormal. The following stories have been told by Shaw housing residents who claim to have had encounters.
“The old base housing was very haunted so I’d say yes it’s possible the new ones are too,” said a Team Shaw spouse. “We had so many creepy experiences in the old housing. My oldest would scream bloody murder and just point at something in his room and refuse to go in there. At night, we’d lay in bed and could hear something downstairs slamming cabinets closed.”
Others said they have seen floating orbs of light on camera, had home devices turn on by themselves and heard doors open and close or bangs in their home.
Another member said she is “creeped out” but has come to terms with the entity in her home. Whenever she decides to turn in for the night, she now says, “Alright haunts. I’m going to bed. It’s time for you to go on home.”
In August of 2015, Heather Ingle, Team Shaw spouse, moved to Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, with her active duty husband and two young daughters.
“When we came here, (the girls) were refusing to sleep in their room,” Ingle said of her new home. “(My youngest daughter) was still pretty young, and she wouldn’t even go in there,”
“They just would not go in the room,” said Ingle. “(My eldest daughter) kept saying, ‘There is a scary lady in there.’ I told her, ‘There is nobody in this house. There’s nobody in here.’ We would just battle night after night after night that they wanted to sleep in bed with me, both of them.”
During this time in her life, Ingle was working in Columbia, South Carolina, and would get home late, while her daughters would stay at a friend’s home until she was able to pick them up and take them home.
Ingle stated one night she and her daughters got home around midnight after a long day of work. Her children were exhausted, but still argued to sleep with her in her bedroom.
She, then, went into their bedroom, closed the door, and screamed at whatever entity was there to go away, saying it wasn’t welcome here. Then, Ingle shouted out a blessing she was told to use by a friend.
According to Ingle, ever since that night, there have been no experiences. The girls do not see the ‘scary lady’ anymore.
So, if Team Shaw members hear someone shout “Boo!” while enjoying a “haunted house” this Halloween, look around. There may not be anyone there.
This article originally appeared on DVIDS. Follow @DVIDSHub on Twitter.
U.S. Central Command is launching an investigation to see whether its troops violated the rules of engagement after video footage of what appeared to be a service member firing into a civilian truck surfaced online.
The video, first reported by Politico, contains a compilation of wartime clips it says were captured in Afghanistan. The clips are synced to rapper Kendrick Lamar’s song, “Humble.” An anonymous user reportedly uploaded the video, titled “Happy Few Ordnance Symphony,” and was said to have quickly removed it from YouTube.
The scene in question begins with the service member riding in an armored vehicle that passes a truck. The service member, who already had a shotgun-type weapon trained at the driver’s side of the truck, fires a round through the driver’s window.
Based on the footage, it was not clear whether the driver was hit, or if the rounds were non-lethal, special operations veterans who examined the footage said in the report. Various rounds, such as a bean-bag type round, are in circulation in the military to pacify crowds or breach doors and windows.
The context of the clip, which lasts only about one second during the 3:09-minute montage, was not clear, given the absence of related footage before and after the shooting.
“The amateur video posted on a public website gives us serious concern,” U.S. Central Command commander Gen. Joseph Votel said in a statement to Politico. “The video in question is not official, not authorized, and does not represent the professionalism of the service members of U.S. Central Command.”
Votel added that CENTCOM “will take appropriate actions as a result of this investigation.”
Scenes from the montage also reveal that the service members may have been special operations forces or embedded with Afghan commandos, based on unit patches, relaxed uniform standards, and the wide range of weapons they had at their disposal — including Javelin anti-tank missile launchers and rotary machine guns.
Another clip from Happy Few Ordnance Symphony (Image via GIPHY)
Similar montages of wartime scenes have come under scrutiny. In the past, both private military companies and U.S. troops have been criticized for firing their weapons indiscriminately in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I can assure you that this video does not represent the professionalism or humanity of the men and women of U.S. Central Command,” Votel continued. “We reject the unprofessional and callous message this video conveys.”