Returning vets don't flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions - We Are The Mighty
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Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

Whisper is a mobile app which allows its users to post anonymous messages (called “Whispers”) out into the ether and receive replies from other users who might be interested in what they have to say. The messages are text superimposed over a (presumably) related photo to illustrate the point.


A recent update allowed Whispers to be categorized into a few firm subcategories: Confessions, LGBTQ, NSFW, QA, Faith and Military. Military members and those with an interest in the military can “anonymously” (quotes included because the app still tracks users with their phone’s GPS) post their thoughts, feelings, and interactions with military members. Some of the confessions can be funny, but others give insight into real struggles veterans face when they feel alone and have no one to turn to and the struggles their families face trying to help their loved ones reintegrate after war.

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

 

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

 

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

 

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

 

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

 

 

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

 

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

 

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

 

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

 

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

 

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

 

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

 

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

 

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

 

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

How a sailor remembered 250 prisoners of war through song

Douglas Hegdahl walked freely around the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” prison camp, one of many American prisoners of war held there in 1967. He was sweeping the courtyards during the prison guards’ afternoon “siesta.” The American sailor that fell into their laps was known to the guards as “The Incredibly Stupid One.” They believed he could neither read nor write and could barely even see. But the “stupid” Seaman Apprentice Hegdahl was slowly collecting intelligence, gathering prisoner data, and even sabotaging the enemy.

He even knew the prison’s location inside Hanoi.


Hegdahl was a South Dakota native who was blown off the deck of the USS Canberra as the ship’s five-inch guns fired on nearby targets of opportunity. Once overboard, he floated in the South China Sea for 12 hours before being picked up by fishermen, who turned him over to the North Vietnamese.

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

Hegdahl’s enlistment photo and a photo of the sailor in captivity.

Certain he could be tortured for information, the Communists tried to get Hegdahl to write anti-American and anti-war propaganda. They showed him similar documents that other captives – higher ranking captives – wrote for the North Vietnam. Hegdahl thought about it for a moment, then agreed. The Communists were amazed. No other captured American did this voluntarily. They went off to get ink and paper.

The young sailor was thinking quickly. He figured the officers who wrote the propaganda material were probably coerced into doing it. He decided the best thing he could do was play dumb. He was very, very successful. The North Vietnamese thought Doug Hegdahl was a developmentally challenged “poor peasant” and set out to teach him to read and write. After failing at that, they decided to write a confession for him to sign, which he did:

“Seaman Apprentice Douglas Brent Hegdahl III United States Navy Reserve, Commanding Officer, USS Canberra.”

The sailor was first put into a cell with Air Force officer Joe Crecca, who taught Hegdahl 256 names of other POWs and then taught him how to memorize the information to the tune of “Old McDonald.” After that, Hegdahl was imprisoned with Dick Stratton, who was the ranking officer for a time.

Because they thought Hegdahl so developmentally challenged, the Hỏa Lò Prison guards essentially gave him free reign to do a lot of the cleaning and sweeping around the prison yard. He was even allowed to go and clean up around the front gates of the prison itself. That’s how he was able to later tell U.S. intelligence where the prison could be found within the North Vietnamese capital.

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

Hegdahl on sweeping duty at “The Plantation,” Hanoi.

But the sailor didn’t stop there. As the sailor swept the prison grounds, when the single guard assigned to him took his afternoon siesta, Hegdahl would add a little bit of dirt to the gas tank of the nearest truck. Over the course of his captivity, he managed to disable five NVA prison trucks this way.

Eventually, it came time for the NVA to offer early releases to some of the prisoners of the Hanoi Hilton. Even though there was a strict order among the POWs to not accept any early releases, Hegdahl was ordered to accept an early release — the only Hoa Lo prisoner ever ordered to do so — by his senior officer, Lt. Cmndr. Dick Stratton. He was not only the most junior prisoner in the camp, he also had all the information the U.S. government needed to expedite the release of the POWs — all of them. He didn’t want to, but someone needed to tell the U.S. about the torture they were receiving there.

When he was released, not only did Hegdahl recite the names of the 256 men who were shot down or captured in North Vietnam, he could say their dog’s name, kids’ names, and/or social security numbers. These were the means by which other POWs verified the information given. He picked up all of this information through tap code, deaf spelling code, and secret notes.

Released in 1969, Hegdahl was able to accuse the North Vietnamese of torture and murder of prisoners of war at the Paris Peace Talks in 1970. Flown there by H. Ross Perot, he accused the North Vietnam delegation of murdering Dick Stratton, assuring Lt. Cmndr. Stratton would have to be repatriated alive at the war’s end.

But the prisoners back in Hanoi didn’t have to wait long for treatment to change. Once Hegdahl described the treatment of POWs in public and to the media, the ones he left behind saw their treatment improve, receiving better rations and less brutality in their daily life.

In his memoirs, Stratton wrote of Hegdahl:

“The Incredibly Stupid One,” my personal hero, is the archetype of the innovative, resourceful and courageous American Sailor.
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Prince Harry deploys with Team Rubicon UK

Team Rubicon launched what they call “Operation Nirman,” in mid-March 2016. The mission is to rebuild a school and restore services in areas of Central Nepal damaged by last year’s devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Team Rubicon members from the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Germany deployed to assist with Nirman. They will also receive help from the Prince of Wales.


Prince Harry is in the country on an official tour to see the many initiatives supporting the people of Nepal in the wake of the earthquake’s widespread destruction. After his official tour ends, the prince, himself an Afghan War veteran, will remain in Nepal with Team Rubicon on their relief efforts.

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions
Harry visits 4-year-old Biplov Puri in the Kanti Childrens Hospital in Nepal. (Kensington Palace photo)

The 31-year-old royal is known for his dedication to veterans from all countries and  his support for tackling the challenges they face. He runs  the Endeavor Fund with his brother, Prince William and his wife, Princess Catherine. Endeavor Fund is a UK-based nonprofit to help service members overcome these challenges while “keeping Armed Forces issues in the public consciousness.”

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions
Prince Harry on patrol through the deserted town of Garmisir close to FOB Delhi, Helmand, Afghanistan in 2008.

Prince Harry will be embedded with a group of Team Rubicon volunteers in a remote village to help with the reconstruction of the new school. The team will trek into the mountains of Central Nepal with all the necessary equipment to assist the local community in repairing and rebuilding their school.

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions
Harry while visiting Leorani, a village in Central Nepal, as he made his way through the mountains to rendezvous with Team Rubicon UK. (Kensington Palace photo)

Since the earthquake struck, students have been taking their classes in makeshift classrooms made of poles, tarps, and tin sheets. These temporary facilities will provide little defense against the difficult weather conditions in the rainy season to come.

“The people I have met and the beauty of this country make it very hard to leave,” Prince Harry said. “The team I’m joining will be working with the community to rebuild a school damaged in the earthquake. I’m so grateful to have this opportunity to do my small bit to help.”

Team Rubicon UK was formed in response to the Nepal earthquake. General Sir Nick Parker, former Commander in Chief of the UK Land Forces and now Chairman of Team Rubicon UK, called for veterans in the United Kingdom to volunteer their time and skills in the immediate aftermath. A team quickly joined their Team Rubicon USA counterparts to provide medical aid, search and rescue support, and translation assistance in several remote regions of Nepal.

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions
Former British Army gunner Christopher Lyon cleans up a local playground in Shermathang, Sinduhupalchok. (Team Rubicon photo)

By the end of the 2015, Team Rubicon UK responded to calls for help after floods in Cumbria and Yorkshire, as well as undertaking rebuilding projects in Nepal and the Philippines.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This documentary showcases vets treating PTSD with psychedelics

There’s no perfect treatment for the psychological ailments that veterans face when returning from combat. What works for one veteran may not work for another — in some cases, it may even make things worse. Unfortunately, the burden of finding the best method of treatment (which usually involves endless hours of trial and error) is almost always placed squarely on the shoulders of those preoccupied with coping with post-traumatic stress.

For some folks, taking prescription medication helps — and that’s great. For others, those same medications may cause more harm than good. The veterans for which standard treatments don’t work often feel as if they’re being tossed into a box and told to just keep taking pills until the problem is better. We can all agree that there has got to be a better solution, but it’s not an easy ask — there’s no magic wand to wave to make the bad life experiences just go away.

So, to take some steps in the positive direction, some veterans are venturing into the taboo. From Shock to Awe, a new documentary that comes out November 12, follows two veterans as they embark on a journey into psychedelic medicines to try and finally find peace and balance.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about the DoD transgender ban

The latest ban on transgender service members is legally in effect after two years of tweets, lawsuits, and political wrangling in Washington. It took four court battles to keep those who fail to meet military standards for their birth sex from serving in the U.S. military. Like it or not, this is the policy handed down from the Commander-In-Chief and implemented by the Department of Defense.


According to the DoD, its new policy is less of a “ban” and more of a specific directive on how to handle those with gender dysphoria. Thomas Crosson, the Deputy Director of Defense Public Affairs Operations says anti-discriminatory policies are still in effect.

“The policy specifically prohibits discrimination based on gender identity,” Crosson said in a video press release. “This policy focuses on the medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria and aspects of this condition that may limit the servicemember’s ability to deploy.”

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

The President first announced the policy via Twitter in 2017. It was to take effect in January 2018.

Crosson went on to add that the Pentagon welcomes anyone who can meet the military’s standards, but what he meant was the standards of their gender at birth. Some current servicemembers will be exempt from the new policy, including those who joined the military in their preferred gender or received a gender dysphoria diagnosis before the new policy takes effect.

Current servicemembers who identify as transgender with no diagnosis or history of gender dysphoria will see no change in their service, so long as they serve in their biological gender. Those who did receive a diagnosis or have a known history were once able to serve in their preferred gender once completing their physical transition, but must now serve in their birth gender. Except for those exempt persons, if the member cannot serve in that capacity, they may be forced to separate.

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

In January 2019, the Supreme Court allowed enforcement of the policy while lawsuits were still pending.

Incoming transgender troops or those interested in applying will experience the biggest changes in policy. Those coming in with no diagnosis or history of gender dysphoria can still join but must meet the qualifications and expectations of their gender assigned at birth. Those incoming troops who do have a diagnosis or history can still serve, but must show 36 months of stability and serve in their biological gender.

New applicants who have already physically transitioned to their preferred gender are disqualified from serving in the United States military.

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

The transgender ban went into full effect in April 2019.

The Defense Department believes anyone who can meet the military standards of their gender without special accommodations should be able to serve and that this statement includes transgender Americans. According to the DoD, gender dysphoria is a serious medical condition, and those who underwent cross-gender reassignment surgery and cross-gender hormone therapy may not be able to meet the military standards associated with their gender. This fact, the Pentagon says, could adversely affect unit readiness and combat effectiveness.

But, like with most DoD policies, standards, and military regulations, “waivers can be made for individuals on a case-by-case basis.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA employees volunteer to answer nation’s call

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 1,000 Veterans Health Administration staff have volunteered for more than 3,700 deployments to support Veterans and civilians in the most hard-hit areas of the country.

Volunteers deploy through VA’s Disaster Emergency Personnel System (DEMPS), VA’s main program for deploying clinical and non-clinical staff to an emergency or disaster elsewhere in the country. The all-volunteer assignments vary in skillsets, geographic locations and length of time for the support.

Many volunteers deploy multiple times

Sophia Didley, a nurse manager at the Perry Point VA Medical Center in Maryland, has deployed three times through DEMPS.

Didley, a 24-year Air Force Veteran, went to Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria. More recently, she deployed to assist with the COVID-19 response at the Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home, a state Veterans home. She also deployed to the Waters Edge Healthcare Rehabilitation Center, a private rehabilitation facility, both in New Jersey.

Didley describes the DEMPS experience as similar to the military in the sense that you are volunteering at any given moment to go anywhere in the world, or in the case of DEMPS, the country.

These VA employees put aside their fears, leave their homes and families, and volunteer where they are needed most – to support their colleagues while caring for Veterans sick with COVID-19.

No truer definition of paying back Veterans for their service

“Most of the time your family is proud of you and fearful at the same time,” Didley said. “My friends were my cheerleaders. I was proud to be helping with this pandemic.”

To date, VA personnel have deployed to more than 49 states and territories to support VA medical centers with surges of COVID-19 cases and to provide support to state and community nursing homes.

VA staff are currently deployed to facilities and Federal Emergency Management Agency regional response coordination centers across Arkansas, California, Delaware, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Ruth Ortiz, a respiratory therapist at the Gainesville VA Medical Center in Florida, has also been on three DEMPS deployments – all three in this year alone. At the beginning of the year she went to Puerto Rico for earthquake relief. Later in the year she traveled to New Orleans and then San Antonio for COVID-19 relief.

“You’re not really sure what you’re walking into when you get there,” Ortiz said. “Once you are presented to the department where you’re going to work, you’re given your assignment and you’re oriented and basically you hit the ground running. For New Orleans and San Antonio, I was working in their COVID ICU. So that was a very new and challenging experience for me.

“The DEMPS program is a very rewarding program. It is going to take you out of your comfort zone. It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s going to be a very rewarding challenge. You’re going to use your skills and your knowledge in any type of critical care setting you might come into. It is just an amazing experience to be a part of.”

VA’s Fourth Mission – assisting the nation

Since its inception in 1997, the DEMPS program continues a long history of service and support. It has grown in scope and complexity. DEMPS volunteers deployed to New Orleans in response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. They also deployed to Puerto Rico in response to Hurricane Sandy in 2012. For a period of four months in 2017, DEMPS deployed more than 1,200 staff in response to hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

The state and community support is provided as part of VA’s Fourth Mission to assist the nation in times of emergencies and disasters. During the pandemic, VA has supported states with direct patient clinical care, testing, education and training. We have provided more than 908,000 pieces of personal protective equipment, including gowns, gloves, masks, face shields and other resources. As part of Fourth Mission humanitarian support, VA has also admitted 376 non-Veteran citizens for COVID-19 care at VA medical centers.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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‘Ensign Dilbert’ taught pilots to not accidentally kill their friends

Your grandparents and great grandparents fighting in World War II were hit with just as much safety rules as troops are today, it’s just those rules rarely make it to the history books.


But they weren’t always given their safety rules in boring briefings. When the 1940s War Department and Department of the Navy really wanted to drive safety rules home, they made snazzy safety videos and posters.

The Navy used “Ensign Dilbert,” a soup-sandwich who always breaks safety rules, to highlight the grisly results of incompetency in aviation.

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions
Shocker: This guy is the idiot. (Photo: YouTube/Nuclear Vault)

And Dilbert does some truly stupid stuff. He mishandles his weapons, tows aerial targets into ground crews, and even accidentally kills a civilian his first flight of the day. And the Navy isn’t afraid to show the (PG-13) bodies of his victims.

Check out the Dilbert video on aerial gunnery, Don’t Kill Your Friends, below:

MIGHTY HISTORY

When the French Army rebelled against its president

The 1950s and 60s were a more fraught time in French history than most Americans realize. It was a time where senior generals deployed their forces against French territory and threatened Paris and the sitting president twice in just three years.

The first coup came in 1958, following years of unrest. The French Fourth Republic, the government formed in 1946, a couple of years after the liberation of France from Nazi control, was never steady. Among other problems, an unpopular and bloody war in Algeria, then a French colony, was a millstone around the nation’s neck.


Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

Members of the French Army operate in Algeria.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Richard M. Hunt via State Archives of North Carolina)

In May, 1958, the government attempted to open negotiations with their major opponent in French Algeria, the Algerian National Liberation Front. If the war was unpopular, capitulating was worse. Rioters in French Algeria occupied an important government building.

The situation continued to degrade until May 24, when the troops got involved.

Military members in French Algeria launched Operation Resurrection, invading Corsica with little bloodshed. Gen. Jacques Massu, one of the senior military officials in French Algeria and the coup forces, agreed with others that the paratroopers could take Villacoublay Airfield, just a few miles from Paris.

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

Gen. Charles de Gaulle and his men were greeted by huge crowds when Paris was liberated, and he enjoyed enduring popularity for years.

(U.S. Office of War Information photo by Jack Downey)

The French Fourth Republic, facing mounting unrest at home and the growing possibility of an invasion by its own forces, collapsed. Gen. Charles de Gaulle, who had avoided politics since 1946 but retained massive support of the protesters and France at large, took power. A new constitution was approved in September and the Fifth French Republic was born.

For the French people, this was a potential return to stability and sensible government. For forces in French Algeria, this was seen as the chance to focus on the business of fighting rebels.

But the French people outside of Algeria were still not fully behind the war — and it only got worse over the following years.

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

Workers set up communications for the Ministry of Armament and General Liaisons, a part of the resistance during the Algerian War that survived the end of the war and became part of the permanent government there.

By 1960, de Gaulle was working to negotiate peace with the rebels and the morale of troops stationed there plummeted. Mid-career and senior officers began refusing orders as some troops tried to avoid dying in the final days of a lost war while others attempted to achieve some victories that would strengthen the French position and prevent a second Vietnam.

It was against this backdrop that the retired and popular French Gen. Maurice Challe met with senior officers and proposed a second coup, this one against de Gaulle. He was joined in the inner circle by generals Edmond Jouhaud, Andre Zeller, and Raoul Salan, but the group enjoyed the support of other senior officers.

In the final hours of April 21, 1961, French paratroopers took over important buildings and infrastructure in French Algeria, especially the capital, Algiers. Challe took to the radio the next morning to call on all other troops in French Algeria to cease supporting Paris and follow him instead. It had been less than three years since some of those same troops had supported the coup that brought de Gaulle to power.

Challe threatened Paris itself in his radio address, saying he, “reserved the right of extending the action to metropolitan France to reestablish a constitutional and republican order.”

De Gaulle gave his own public address, while wearing his old uniform, where he called on the people of French Algeria and France as a whole to resist the attack on the Fifth Republic.

France, for the most part, followed de Gaulle. Workers staged a symbolic, hour-long strike to show that they could shutdown industry if the coup continued. Citizens rallied and prepared to occupy the airfields around Paris with cars and bodies to prevent any planes from French Algeria landing.

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

The six-foot, five-inch Charles de Gaulle was popular at home and imposing everywhere he went, but he faced numerous attempts to force him and his government from power by vocal and well-organized opposition, including some generals in French Algeria.

(John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library)

In French Algeria, the sentiment was more closely split, but too few soldiers supported the coup and too many supported the government for it to succeed.

Many pilots and crews flew their planes out of the country and sabotaged their own aircraft to prevent further use. Soldiers refused to leave their barracks or organized their own ruling committees if they thought their officers were loyal to the coup.

Oddly, despite de Gaulle calling for resisting “by all means” and ordering loyal troops to fire on rebel troops, there were no known cases of troops loyal to France attacking or inflicting casualties on rebelling troops. Rebel troops are thought to have killed less than five people, a tragic loss of life, yes, but much less than would be expected in a rebellion with organized battalions on each side.

By April 25, it was clear that the coup attempt had failed and many of its leaders fled, including three of the four leading generals. Challe was left alone in barracks with the commander of the paratrooper regiment that had supported him, Helie de Saint Marc. Challe told Saint Marc, “you are young, Saint Marc. We are going to pay a heavy price. I will certainly be shot. Let me surrender alone.”

Saint Marc remained in the barracks and the men were arrested the following morning. Challe was later sentenced to 15 years in prison. He served a little over five before receiving a pardon from de Gaulle. Saint Marc was sentenced to 10 but also received a pardon.

The Fifth Republic, despite its rocky start, endures today. Algeria achieved independence in 1962, ending France’s colonial empire.

MIGHTY HISTORY

David Lloyd George: the Welshman who won World War I

In November 1918, David Lloyd George’s name was on everyone’s lips. He was the wartime prime minister who led the nation to eventual victory after four long years of bitter and bloody conflict. Yet despite this fact, a century later, as the war’s end is being commemorated worldwide, it would appear that there is very little recognition of the man. Compared to how Winston Churchill is praised the world over for his role in World War II, Lloyd George has a much lower profile.


A proud Welshman, Lloyd George originally made his name as a politician for his anti-war stance as an arch opponent of the Boer War. But by late 1914 he was acting as a human dynamo in transforming Britain and its empire into a modern state of industrialised warfare. He ensured that the war was financed and avoided economic ruin in his role as chancellor of the exchequer. Then, as minister of munitions, he helped supply the guns, tanks, aircraft and ammunition that kept Britain in the war. His introduction of the naval convoy system in April 1917 — which enabled ships to travel across the Atlantic protected by naval escort — helped win the war at sea and avoid a nation starving.

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

David Lloyd George.

The Welsh wizard

As prime minister after 1916, his fire and zeal were central to leading a coalition government that not only held the nation together but, in the process, modernized the core executive in Britain, and brought in a system of Whitehall government that is still used today.

Known as the “Welsh wizard“, because of this ability to keep the country unified, Lloyd George’s magic touch became apparent almost on a daily basis. He managed to balance domestic problems and the war with an almost unparalleled political mastery. Against a backdrop of developing civil war in Ireland and industrial and labour disputes on the home front, Lloyd George kept Britain fighting long enough for the arrival of the Americans, who were key to victory on the Western Front. While other nations faltered or buckled — including Austria — Hungary and the Ottoman Empire on the opposing side — he kept Britain and its empire steadfast and in the game.

The key to Lloyd George’s success was that he could be so adjustable and accommodating in what he set out to achieve. He sought to put the best people in charge, whether they be military or civilian, such as the secretary to the war cabinet Maurice Hankey, avoiding static hierarchies and burdensome bureaucracy, such as in his redevelopment and expansion of Britain’s armaments industry. This was something which contrasted him sharply with the military generals running the German War machine, where Erich Ludendorff and Paul von Hindenberg avoided wider engagement as both sought to dominate the war effort.

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

David Lloyd George with Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, Georges Clemenceau, and Woodrow Wilson at the WWI Paris peace conference.

By the 1918 election, Lloyd George very much felt that it was even more important for the post-war nation to come together under him as prime minister in one united coalition. He also passionately supported a customs-free Europe and wanted Britain to play a central role in shaping Europe’s future, ensuring peace and prosperity. This he did — alongside US president Woodrow Wilson, Italian prime minister Vittorio Emanuele Orlando and French prime minister Georges Clemenceau — with the Treaty of Versailles the following year. It was at this peace summit that Lloyd George created a realistic rather than punitive peace with Germany — which was desired by France — or the distancing of themselves from an active role in Europe like the USA.

Not all of his ventures were so successful, however. Some of his work on new territories (protectorates) — Palestine and Iraq, for example — only worked to store up future problems. The same was true of his attempts to solve the Irish question, which were often done in a brutal and controversial fashion and have led to a century of conflict and division. It has also recently been uncovered that he met with Hitler in 1936 before going on to call him the “greatest living German“.

But whether you love him or loathe him, Lloyd George’s key role in fighting — and winning — World War I cannot easily be underestimated.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

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Police say this WWII veteran saved kids by fighting off a knife-wielding attacker

Morton, Illinois Police say Dustin Brown rushed into the Morton Public Library last week brandishing two hunting knives, each at least five inches long. He allegedly announced he was there “to kill some people” and focused his ire on sixteen home school students in a chess club.


Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions
Pictured: Dustin Brown’s mug shot

He allegedly approached the children, but standing in his way was 75-year-old James Vernon, a World War II-era Army veteran who was trained but never served in combat. Noticing Brown would back away when he moved closer, Vernon positioned himself between the alleged attacker and the door, and told the kids to get out of the library.

“I gave them the cue to get the heck out of there, and, boy, they did that! Quick, like rabbits,” he told the Pekin Times, the local newspaper.

Once the room was clear, Vernon said “there was no more talking.” Reports say Brown slashed at Vernon from his right, but Vernon says he knew he was right-handed by small cuts on his left arm and blocked the slash.

“I should have hit his wrist. That’s how you’re trained, but it’s been half a century,” he said. Vernon says, despite “bleeding pretty good,” he overcame Brown, throwing him on a table, pinning his left hand under his body, and hitting Brown’s collarbone until he dropped the knife.

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions
hero [heer-oh]: noun, 1. a person of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.A library employee finally came to help and keep the assailant pinned until the authorities arrived. Vernon suffered wounds to two arteries and a tendon on his left hand from the attack.

“I failed my mission to kill everyone,” Brown reportedly told police.

Brown was facing prosecution on charges of child pornography. Now he’s looking at attempted murder.

NOW: This indestructible Medal of Honor recipient jumped on two grenades and lived

OR: Watch an elderly Vietnam Vet fight off a woman trying to take his wallet

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This nuclear explosion was nearly 3 times the size anyone predicted

In the early 1950s, the U.S. and Russia got into a race to develop the first aircraft-deliverable nuclear bomb. But the Americans accidentally created a much more powerful bomb than they anticipated.


What they thought would be a 5-megaton explosion generated a 14.8-megaton blast.

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions
The Castle Bravo test created a huge explosion. GIF: YouTube/rammy9

The Castle Bravo test at the Bikini Atoll in 1954 was the first dry hydrogen explosion that the U.S. attempted and it used lithium deuteride as the fusion fuel. But lithium deuteride is much stronger than the scientists thought.

So the Americans set up the islands and the safe zones for an explosion of 5-6 megatons. The immediate area was evacuated, they checked the wind speeds to limit the spread of contamination, and they positioned all of their facilities in safe areas.

But the 14.8-megaton explosion in Castle Bravo rendered many of these preparations moot. The small strip of land that the device was tested on was wiped out and became a crater 6,510 feet wide and 250 feet deep.

All the soil that had been an atoll flew into the atmosphere along with disintegrated coral reef. These later fell as a powdery ash on unsuspecting Japanese fishers and Pacific Islanders.

One of the Japanese fishermen soon died of acute radiation poisoning while the rest of the victims affected suffered dramatically increased rates of cancer and other diseases.

Despite the costs, the Castle Bravo test did lengthen America’s lead of the nuclear arms race, but it didn’t keep the top spot for nuclear explosions.

The largest ever nuclear explosion was Russia’s Tsar Bomba, a 50-megaton device that was tested in 1961.

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This 89-year-old World War II vet is riding cross-country on a Harley in remembrance of fallen GIs

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions


While many a fraction of E. Bruce Heilman’s age would be looking to pump the breaks, this 89-year-old USMC vet is still going full throttle — literally. In fact, while you’re reading this, there’s a good chance he is rolling along an open highway riding his Ultra Classic Electra Glide Patriot Edition Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Heilman was born and raised on a farm in Smithfield, Kentucky. At age 17, he left high school for boot camp in 1944, there he became the highest scorer on the Rifle Range in his platoon and one of the top three out of 600.

“I was the youngest and the smallest,” he said once in an interview. “But I had the best eye.”

His skills landed him in the Radio Gunnery School in Memphis’s  Naval Air Training Center while many members of his platoon were fighting in the Battle of Iwo Jima. Shortly thereafter, he would arrive at the shores of Okinawa. His bio on the website Spirit of ’45 describes that day:

He had his steak and egg breakfast, went down the rope ladder into a landing boat, and landed on the beach with all of the anticipation of a first time green Marine anxious to get into battle, but uncertain as to the outcome.

He would come out alive.

He managed to walk away from that brutal battle responsible for 82,000 casualties of all kinds. His unit also evaded a planned invasion of Japan (the war ended), and Heilman even survived an airplane accident over Iwo Jima while transporting intelligence personnel months after the war.

The WWII veteran went on to become an esteemed leader in education – he has served as president of several American colleges and universities and is now Chancellor of the University of Richmond. In 2008, he published the book: An Interruption that Lasted a Lifetime: My First Eighty Years.

While he has been awarded many medals that are indeed a testament to his own courage (Asiatic Pacific Medal with Battle Star, Combat Action Ribbon, Presidential Unit Citation, Good Conduct Medal, WWII Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal, Japanese Occupation Medal, Badge of Honor of the Republic), he has gone great lengths, literally, in his own unique way, to commemorate the courage of those who did not make it back. In a distinctive humility not uncommon among the dwindling population of the ‘Greatest Generation’ Heilman said: “We all expected to die there. Some gave all, they are the heroes.”

Now he rides to honor those heroes. In 2015, he logged over 6,000 miles riding his Harley across the United States to salute those brave souls he fought beside in Okinawa.

On April 30th, Dr. Heilman began another self-funded cross-country trip.  This time, his mission is to raise public awareness about the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He is riding in honor of the 2,000 who died that day, and will travel through several states that had namesakes in the Harbor that were hit by bombs and torpedoes and lost crew members during the attack.

While he travels far and wide, it is clear what his heart truly holds close: his fallen brothers in arms. At the writing of this article, he has traveled through Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. He will wrap up his tour on Memorial Day in Washington, DC.

He has been self-funding this tour. To help him defray costs, you can donate to Spirit of ’45 – indicate “Heilman’s Harley Ride” in the designation box.

You can catch Heilman and his Harley at the following places between now and Memorial Day:

May 8 – San Pedro, CA (USS Iowa)

May 9 – Silicon Valley, CA

May 10 – Santa Clara, CA

May 11 – Oakland, CA (USS Potomac)

May 12 – Sacramento, CA (Floor of the California assembly)

May 13 – Elko, NV

May 14 – Salt Lake City, UT

May 15 – Rawlins, WY

May 16 – North Platte, NE

May 17 – Omaha, NE

May 18 – Des Moines, IA

May 19 – Rest day

May 20 –  Des Moines, IA (Meeting with Governor Terry Branstad)

May 21 – Indianapolis, IN (American Legion National Headquarters)

May 22 – Cincinnati, OH

May 23 – Charleston, WV (Meeting with Woody Wilson)

May 25 – Richmond, VA (Virginia Veteran’s Memorial)

May 27 – Fairfax, VA (American Legion Gold Star Families BBQ)

May 28 – Washington, DC (Rolling Thunder)

May 29 – Washington, DC (Rolling Thunder)

May 30 – Washington, DC (Spirit of ’45 Memorial Day of Service and Parade)

(For more details on exact locations and photos from prior stops, visit Spirit of 45.)

MIGHTY SPORTS

How soldiers push their limits to stay fit

Some soldiers physically push themselves, compete against who they were yesterday, and train above and beyond meeting the minimum requirements of an Army physical fitness test. As motivation to be physically active can vary, some Maryland Army National Guard soldiers conduct their regular exercise routines in innovative ways.

Soldiers like Capt. Meghan Landymore, an ultra-marathoner and member of the All Guard Marathon Team; Sgt. Donita Adams, a basketball coach and All-Army Women’s Basketball team member; and Capt. Ben Smith, an avid obstacle course racer and American Ninja Warrior participant, are passionately competing in high levels of sports and maintaining their personal fitness.

Soldiers are required to maintain a certain standard of physical fitness. The annual Army Physical Fitness Test requirement for soldiers gives commanders an indication of the overall fitness of the soldier. The Army is now transitioning to the Army Combat Fitness Test, a six-event, age and gender neutral test, designed to assess a soldier’s physical fitness and readiness for physically demanding combat situations. Staying active can help prepare individuals to maintain a level of fitness for the physical demands of military service.


Runner for life

Capt. Meghan Landymore, a Joint Force Headquarters Medical Detachment physician assistant, is an accomplished ultra-marathon runner and member of the All Guard Marathon team. Each year, Army and Air guardsmen compete for a position on the All Guard Marathon Team during the National Guard Marathon Trials. The trials take place during the Lincoln Marathon, a traditional 26.2 mile marathon race, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Landymore placed third in her age group, sixth overall, and qualified for the national team with a time of 3:23:09.

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

Army Capt. Meghan Landymore, a Joint Force Headquarters Medical Detachment physician assistant, poses for a photo July 9, 2019, at the Fifth Regiment Armory, Baltimore. Landymore is an accomplished ultra-marathon runner and member of the All Guard Marathon Team.

(Photo by Senior Airman Sarah McClanahan)

Landymore first moved off the starting block as a competitive runner in high school, where she was required to participate in a sport. As a kid who grew up performing gymnastics, running wasn’t her initial choice. However, after some encouragement from her father, she found her path – cross country.

On her first day of practice where every single person raised their hand in response to the question “who trained over the summer?” Every person except for her. The feeling of being behind the curve wasn’t something she was comfortable with. But, after working hard with her new coach, Landymore quickly became one of the top athletes on the team after just a couple short months.

Once she started, no one could stop her stride. Landymore ran all throughout her years in college and ran her first marathon, the 2010 New York City Marathon, while in graduate school. In 2012, she placed ninth overall for her first ultra-marathon, the Golden Gate Trail Run Winter 50K, with a time of 5:02:34. Ultra-marathons are anything over the traditional 26.2 mile marathon and sometimes through challenging trails that require hiking or climbing. With more than 30 ultra-marathons under her belt, this July she competed in the 106-mile North Dakota Maah Daah Hey Trail Run with the All Guard Marathon Team.

For ultra-marathon athletes like Landymore, training for a race becomes more than just a form of physical fitness, it becomes a lifestyle.

“It affects everything,” said Landymore. “It becomes your personality and becomes what you talk about, and who you hang out with.”

Training includes a combination of all types of running, from lengthy distances, overnight trail runs, tempo runs on a track, to hitting a strength training session in the weight room. However, training extends beyond the track or gym, needing to balance nutrition and family life can be a challenging task.

“It takes a lot to try and eat enough calories that are not junk calories,” says Landymore. “Other than nutrition, you’re fatigued. Just getting through daily life is actually really hard as an ultra-runner. I think we overlook it because it’s just what we do. It’s exhausting, I have two young kids. It affects my husband. Though they are supportive and understanding as much as they can be.”

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

Capt. Ben Smith, 32nd Civil Support Team survey team leader, poses in for a photo in front of a sign for the American Ninja Warrior 2019 television show. Smith is an avid obstacle course runner and was a participant in the 2019 Baltimore Maryland City Qualifiers for this year’s ANW.

(Photo by Senior Airman Sarah McClanahan)

On race day, her family often plays an impactful role of supporting her through the experience. Her husband will sometimes pace her for portions of her runs or act as a support crew providing various supplies like dry shoes or socks at each stop throughout the race. Her 4-year old son even ran with her through the finish line during the 2017 Patapsco Valley 50K.

Landymore explains that the supportive community of ultra-marathoning is what the experience is all about. Ultra-marathon racing is more than simply running, it gives other invaluable attributes.

“I think a big part of people [competing in any sport] is being able to be in pain and to handle it for any given time whether that’s a few seconds or few minutes,” says Landymore. “You have to know how to be uncomfortable. I think that’s necessary for most of life.

Nothing but net

Sgt. Donita Adams, a MDNG chaplain’s assistant and All-Army Women’s Basketball team member, connects her faith and the love she has for the game of basketball. She is the only National Guard member selected for an all-star team to compete at the 2016 Conseil-International-Du-Sport-Militaire World Military Women’s Basketball Championship.

“Basketball is a way that I can cope with a lot of things,” says Adams. “If I’m stressed out, I know I can go play basketball and clear my mind from anything. It’s my peace. God has given me a way to escape and go into an element where him and I can connect. Basketball is almost like that connection that I have with God. It ties us together because it’s something that I’m passionate about.”

Both basketball and her faith have been pivotal elements in Adams’ life. At 5-years old she picked up a basketball for the first time and by 8-years old started playing on a team. It wasn’t until high school that Adams found her love for coaching.

At 16, Adams landed her first coaching gig at a summer camp. Unbeknownst to her, one of the girls she would coach that summer was the daughter of an inspiring teacher Adams had in the sixth grade. This teacher saw the potential in Adams and made a point to push her to succeed. It was at this camp that her passion for mentorship and coaching ignited.

“My Amateur Athletic Union coach was a big influence in my life, a father that I didn’t have,” said Adams. “I knew that I wanted to give back to my community and this [coaching] was my way to give back.”

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

Army Capt. Meghan Landymore, a Joint Force Headquarters Medical Detachment physician assistant, poses for a photo July 9, 2019, at the Fifth Regiment Armory, Baltimore. Landymore is an accomplished ultra-marathon runner and member of the All Guard Marathon Team.

(Photo by Senior Airman Sarah McClanahan)

Prior to enlisting in the Army, Adams took on a head coaching job at Watkins Mill High School, the school she attended prior to transferring to Damascus High School. For four years, she taught and developed nearly 100 female student athletes on and off the basketball court. She taught the importance of mentorship and being a role model as an athlete.

“Sometimes you don’t sign up for this stuff,” said Adams. “But when you put on that jersey, or when you sign up for a sport, it comes along with it.”

Adams recently resigned from her head coaching position to give herself the opportunity to impact young athletes beyond the walls of Watkins Mill High School. Now she coaches the young men and women of Truth Basketball, a personal venture dedicated to teaching, coaching, and mentoring young athletes. Truth Basketball holds fundraisers to cover much of the fees associated with playing basketball. Adams hopes to turn the venture into a non-profit in the future to continue making basketball accessible and providing more resources to young men and women.

In addition to coaching, Adams is in her third year of playing for the All-Army Women’s Basketball team. October 2019, she’s headed to Wuhan, China to play with Team USA in the Military World Cup Games. For the second time, Adams will have the opportunity to play with Team USA representing the Maryland Army National Guard on an international stage. However, this will be the first time she will play in an Olympic-level event.

Leaping over obstacles

Capt. Ben Smith, 32nd Civil Support Team survey team leader, an avid obstacle course runner and a participant in the 2019 Baltimore Maryland City Qualifiers for American Ninja Warrior, a show where contestants demonstrate their agility and strength through challenging obstacle courses.

Through his training for the Toughest Mudder races, an overnight, eight-hour version of the Tough Mudder races, Smith realized while he was adequately conditioned to run the course, his technique work in tackling obstacles needed to be strengthened. This is where Smith was introduced to the world of American Ninja Warrior.

“I began Ninja Warrior training to increase obstacle course proficiency,” said Smith. “From there, I fell in love with the sport.”

Each year, ANW hosts city qualifying and final competitions in different cities throughout the nation including Baltimore. Each qualifier race consists of six obstacles testing competitors’ ninja skills including grip strength, lateral transversing, static or dynamic balance, and explosive movement. Competitors will need to efficiently and cohesively use all of these skills to complete an ANW course.

“The principles are the same as the preparation for any school, task, or mission,” explains Smith. “I worked through minor obstacles and adjusted my plan for major ones. The first key was to assess the skills I would need to develop. This is a challenge as no two ninja courses are the same. I set out a plan to identify weaknesses and train them in lieu of improving only my strengths.”

To be selected, Smith competed for one of around 600 slots against about 60,000 applicants. The selection decision rested entirely on his submission video. Once he was selected, his ANW training began.

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

Capt. Ben Smith, 32nd Civil Support Team survey team leader, poses in for a photo in front of a sign for the American Ninja Warrior 2019 television show. Smith is an avid obstacle course runner and was a participant in the 2019 Baltimore Maryland City Qualifiers for this year’s ANW.

(Photo by Senior Airman Sarah McClanahan)

Smith explains simply being physically fit will not carry an athlete far in ANW and a more well-rounded approach to training is required. To prepare for his competition, Smith’s physical training and conditioning focused on improving endurance, speed work, functional strength, balance, and active recovery. This often resulted in late nights at his obstacle course gym multiple times a week. Smith would also incorporate ninja training into his regular physical training for the Army by including exercises focused on grip strength, balance, or running on curbsides for portions of his regular runs.

However, the biggest obstacle for Smith’s training was the unknown. The day prior to the competition he was able to see the course but wasn’t able to touch any of the obstacles prior to competing.

Though challenging, tackling the ANW course helped Smith identify areas he could improve upon including his speed and fluidity between the different obstacles. His training leading up to the race focused on individual skills. In practice, it was a struggle to apply them cohesively on the course.

Unfortunately, Smith did not successfully complete his run of the Baltimore Maryland City Qualifiers and was stopped short at the second obstacle of the race, the double twister. This obstacle involves two free-spinning pendulums where competitors must leap from a springboard to the first pendulum and use their momentum to move from each pendulum and finally to the landing platform. An unexpected stopper restricting the movement of the second pendulum caused Smith to ultimately plummet into the water.

While his run was not aired on this episode of ANW, a short clip of his entrance was aired of Smith ripping off of a modified level A vapor protection suit. Vapor protection suits are crucial for protection against dangerous chemicals encountered in Smith’s job with the 32nd Civil Support Team.

Despite recently sustaining a broken ankle, he is determined to work through his injury and get back to training and sharpening his ninja skills for the next round of applications.

The MDNG athlete

For every Maryland National Guard soldier, “game day” may not come in the form of an ultra-marathon, basketball game, or obstacle course race. Instead, the training, conditioning, and physical readiness of each and every soldier is tested by the APFT or fast-approaching ACFT.

Returning vets don’t flinch in these 16 very real Whisper confessions

U.S. Army Sgt. Donita Adams, assigned to the Md. Army National Guard attempts to score during a basketball game. The 2017 Armed Forces Basketball Championship is held at Joint Base San Antonio, Lackland Air Force Base.The best two teams during the double round robin will face each other for the 2017 Armed Forces crown.

(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Emiline Senn)

It’s important to note that the ACFT will not be an easy test and must be approached with a well-rounded training program personalized for each individual soldier to build them up from where they are starting to where they need to be, explained Landymore.

Competing at a higher level of sports is not the only option for soldiers preparing for the ACFT. A voluntary program called “Fit to Serve” is available to soldiers for coaching in fitness and offers technology to track physical activity and sleeping habits. The program also provides physical therapy resources which focus on overall health wellness and resiliency.

“The best advice I can give is to use the resources around you,” says Adams. “There are people in your circle or even in your unit who are experts, like trainers or athletes, so use those resources. They are very knowledgeable. Take time during your drill weekend to do the exercises and workouts because it’s going to help you. Because as soon as it’s implemented we are expected to perform.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.