With the upcoming April 12, 2019 start of a new Pentagon policy that will bar most transgender people from entering the military and restrict transgender medical transition for those not grandfathered in, the Navy has released additional guidance noting that sailors will be permitted to “live socially” in their preferred gender while not on duty, even if they must conform to the standards associated with their biological gender while in uniform.
“There is no policy that prohibits the ability of a service member to express themselves off-duty in their preferred gender,” officials said in a recently released Navy administrative message. “Appropriate civilian attire, as outlined in the uniform regulations, will not be determined based on gender.”
The guidance does add that deployed sailors may be restricted in off-duty attire choices “to meet local conditions and host-nation agreements with foreign countries” at the discretion of regional commanders and senior officers.
“All service members are expected to continue to treat each other with dignity and respect,” the message adds. “There is zero tolerance for harassment, hazing or bullying of any service member in any form.”
Officials have insisted that the Pentagon’s new policy — which was spurred by a series of tweets from President Donald Trump in 2017 — does not constitute a ban on transgender individuals in uniform. However, it does restrict those who have not obtained a waiver by April 12, 2019, to serve in their biological gender only, and requires prospective troops with a history of “gender dysphoria” to verify that they have had 36 months of stability in their biological gender and are willing to meet the standards associated with it to enter the military.
The Navy and the Marine Corps, which both released additional guidance ahead of the new policy taking effect, did clarify that currently serving transgender troops who are deployed or otherwise hindered from getting a waiver by the deadline may submit an exception-to-policy request.
“This request must be routed to the commanding officer by the service member no later than 12 April 2019 and must contain a presumptive diagnosis from a provider (e.g., independent duty corpsman or civilian provider),” the Navy message states.
That request must then be forwarded with an endorsement from the service member’s commanding officer and submitted up through the first flag or general officer in the chain of command.
Marines may obtain an extension via a request to the deputy commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, according to a Marine administrative message. The request must include a presumptive diagnosis from a civilian medical provider or independent duty corpsman and include a commanding officer’s endorsement.
(Department of Defense)
The policy set to take effect aligns closely with a February 2018 memo to the president authored by then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis following a policy review of the impact of transgender troops on “readiness and lethality.”
“In my professional judgment, these policies will place the Department of Defense in the strongest position to protect the American people, to fight and win America’s wars, and to ensure the survival and success of our service members around the world,” Mattis wrote.
Many in Congress, however, have been fiercely critical of the new policy, pointing out the honorable service of the estimated 9,000 transgender troops now serving and the relatively low cost to the Defense Department — estimated at under million — of providing them with medical care to date.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
A Chinese government spokesman said on Thursday that the US Army may have “brought the epidemic to Wuhan,” fueling a coronavirus conspiracy theory.
Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called attention to a comment on Wednesday from Robert Redfield, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, acknowledging that some Americans who were said to have died from influenza may have actually died from COVID-19.
“When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected?” Zhao wrote on Twitter. “What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US Army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!”
In a short thread on Twitter — a social media platform that’s inaccessible in China — Zhao demanded to know how many of the millions of infections and thousands of deaths during the latest flu season were actually related to COVID-19.
The US State Department summoned Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai Friday to protest the spokesman’s comments, Reuters reported, and the Pentagon sharply criticized Zhao’s remarks, calling them “false and absurd.”
The coronavirus first appeared in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, and since then, the pandemic has claimed the lives of thousands of people, mostly in China.
As China has faced criticism, Chinese authorities have pushed back, suggesting that the virus may have originated somewhere else. Dr. Zhong Nanshan, a leading Chinese epidemiologist, said in late February that “though the COVID-19 was first discovered in China, it does not mean that it originated from China.”
The Trump administration has laid the blame firmly at China’s feet. “Unfortunately, rather than using best practices, this outbreak in Wuhan was covered up,” the White House national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, told reporters on Wednesday.
“It probably cost the world community two months to respond,” he added.
Geng Shuang, another Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said O’Brien’s “immoral and irresponsible” comments denigrated China’s efforts to fight the virus. He added that the US should focus on “international cooperation instead of trying to shift the blame.”
Police in Massachusetts are investigating the latest case of vandalism to an Iwo Jima memorial.
Officials say the memorial in Fall River was doused with the contents of a fire extinguisher last weekend.
Commandant Bruce Aldrich of the city’s Marine Corps League tells the Herald News that surveillance video captured a man and woman vandalizing the statue at about 4 a.m. Oct. 14. The fire extinguisher was left behind and is being processed for fingerprints.
The Fall River memorial. Wikimedia Commons photo by user Kenneth C. Zirkel.
City Veteran’s Agent Raymond Hague is concerned the statue’s protective coating was damaged.
The memorial is a one-third scale replica of the Iwo Jima memorial in Washington depicting Marines raising the US flag on Mount Suribachi, a moment captured in a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph.
The Fall River memorial, dedicated in 2005, has frequently been targeted by vandals.
When retired U.S. Marine Willis “Bill” Hansen was shipped off to the Vietnam War, he took his sea-bag and a library book…which traveled with him for 52 years.
Hansen joined the Marine Corps in 1964 as an unassigned infantryman and was later attached to a battalion in Okinawa, Japan. Although Hansen deployed to Vietnam as a machine gunner, he was provided the opportunity to work in recon through the length of the war.
He held on to the book The Kimono Mind by Bernard Rudofsky, during his entire 13-month deployment in Vietnam and never got around to returning it to the base library.
In an interview, he states, “When I first got to the island, I wanted to learn a little bit about the culture and where I was staying. So I checked out a book from the library that I figured would give me a little insight into the culture. I intended to return the book, but it slipped my mind.”
Going full circle, Hansen’s son, Lt. Col. Richard Hansen, who used to dress up in his father’s recon uniforms as a child, is now the commander of the same unit in Okinawa that Hansen served under in the Vietnam War.
The coincidence of it all renders a fateful moment. Hansen finally got the chance to return the book when he was invited to the 3rd Reconnaissance Marine Corps birthday ball in Okinawa. He was welcomed by the current staff of the library and relinquished his possession of his literary companion to their shelves (fee-free), where it will stay, until someone else checks it out and flips through its pages, oblivious to its journey through time.
A Russian-born American has been captured in Syria by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. These anti-ISIS fighters have captured thousands of defeated Islamic State militants in the country since the fall of its de facto capital of Raqqa in 2017. To them, this is just one more ISIS prisoner.
They have returned the captured American to U.S. troops in the country and now he will stand trial in the United States.
This is not the first instance of Americans who left to join the terrorist state being captured and repatriated to the United States. Two American women and four children have also been captured and returned to the U.S. since the American intervention in the fight against the Islamic State began.
Thousands of ISIS-affiliated persons have been captured in the former “caliphate.”
The SDF in Syria is a force of American-trained and supported fighters, primarily of Kurdish origin. They have captured thousands of ISIS fighters since the fall of the Islamic State’s “caliphate” and returned many to their countries of origin to face punishment. Most of those returnees come from Europe, who struggles with repatriating the fighters and even with prosecuting them. While the United States stands ready to prosecute the fighter, European countries differ on how to handle returnees.
When the U.S. first started planning for the return of captured fighters, the Trump Administration originally planned to incarcerate them at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Instead, Trump is sending returning ISIS-affiliated repatriates to the civilian court system. In June 2019, American-born wives and children of ISIS fighters were captured by the SDF and returned to the U.S.
The status of ISIS-born children is an emerging controversy.
Those affiliated with the Islamic State but aren’t accepted by their former country of citizenship are more likely to be held in vastly overcrowded prison camps in Syria or held in government jails. European countries are refusing the fighters because their justice systems would require gathering sufficient evidence of wartime crimes (being a member of ISIS isn’t enough to secure a conviction), and if tried, there’s a chance the ISIS fighters could walk free. The United States isn’t facing a huge influx of returning fighters but has a different standard of proof.
In the meantime, much effort is expended by all armed forces in the region in returning families of Islamic State fighters to their countries of origin, many coming from nearby Iraq or far-flung places as far as China and Uzbekistan. As the SDF finishes eliminating pockets of ISIS resistance, they are sure to find more and more survivors to send home, wherever home once was.
Two strangers who answered an ad now have the world rooting for fate to be real.
At first glance, the photo session looked like two people celebrating an engagement. The viewer’s heart swells as the couple interacts lovingly. He gently kisses her forehead, she closes her eyes to breathe in the moment as he embraces her. They share a gentle kiss as she straddles him, and he lifts her on his back as they both smile with contentment. And all the hopeless romantics collectively say awe.
But this couple isn’t engaged. In fact, they were perfect strangers who’d just met that day.
When 23-year-old Heather John, a master’s degree student, and 28-year-old Baxter Jackson, a sailor, answered a photographer’s Facebook marketplace ad to do a Virginia Beach ‘stranger session’, they had no idea how big this would become. Within 24 hours of being posted the photos went viral and have since been shared over 51,000 times. At this point everyone is pining to know all the juicy details of this relationship, friendship and happenstance meeting. We don’t know what to call it, but we just want it to be magical and mushy because we could all use some ‘feel good’ right now.
Initially they were both a little nervous about doing something so intimate with a stranger. All they knew of each other was that they (including the photographer) had all tested negative for COVID-19 prior to this session.
“When I agreed to it, I thought, ‘Oh my goodness what have I done?’ I almost convinced myself that I wasn’t going,” John said.
But her mom and sister wouldn’t let her back out. In fact, they said they would take her themselves if they had to.
Jackson admits he was on Facebook looking for a TV when the ad popped up.
“I didn’t know what a stranger session was. But my friends explained it, so I thought it sounded cool and fun. Why not?” he said.
At first sight both agree that they were instantly attracted to each other, but John says, “It was really awkward at first.” So, she pulled her speaker from her purse and played the newest music by Lil Baby. Jackson adds, “it was a wrap after that.”
They joked, danced, sang to the music and had so much fun that they stopped listening to the photographer and let the session flow.
When asked what was going through his mind, Jackson says, “I couldn’t think. I don’t know what she put in her hair that day, but she smelled so good!”
They may have started the session as strangers, but they ended it as new friends. John was afraid of a wolf spider that she’d seen in her purse, so Jackson politely picked her up and carried her off the field.
The buzz of their meeting – and undeniable chemistry – spread across the nation, with the story being featured on CBS This Morning, and WTKR News 3. Now everyone wants to know what’s next for them.
“We’re like best friends, and we’ve only known each other a little over a week,” John said.
“We’re not trying to let outside forces pressure us into anything. I want to pursue this naturally. I have kinks to work out,” Jackson shared.
While he has been legally separated from his wife since January of this year, travel restrictions due to COVID-19 have kept him from being able to finalize his divorce. But he says they have a good relationship and, “she is a fantastic person.” According to Jackson, they have very open communication and she knew about the photo shoot beforehand.
John and Jackson aren’t trying to pursue anything but a platonic relationship right now. After their session he says he felt he left with a really good friend.
But the chemistry they displayed is impossible to fake so maybe it’s written in the stars for these two. We are all anxious to see where this goes and how their friendship blossoms.
“Hexter,” as they refer to themselves, have decided to vlog about their friendship journey. Subscribe to their story and updates on YouTube.
For over a year, the U.S. military has been looking at options for replacing the decades-old Beretta M9 handgun. As with most DoD programs, the so-called “Modular Handgun System” program is a sprawling, multi-million dollar plan to find a new pistol that takes advantage of innovations in the current firearms market and delivers a sidearm that works well for a variety of missions and troops.
Listen to the WATM podcast to hear the author and our veteran hosts discuss what the XM17 modular handgun program means to the military:
The M9 is a solid performer and is still popular among many in the U.S. military. But over the last 20 years, handgun technology — especially the use of polymers in handgun construction — has advanced well beyond the all-metal, one-size-fits-all frame of the flagship Beretta sidearm.
Both the Army and Air Force are running the search for an M9 replacement, dubbed the XM17, and have called for a do-all pistol that will fit in the hands of a wide range of troops, be more accurate and reliable than the Beretta and, most importantly, be configurable for different missions.
An ambitious goal to be sure, and some high-ranking officials in the Pentagon have argued it’s one that’ll wind up being too expensive and take too long to field, with the Army estimating it’ll take $17 million and 2 years to test the final version of the XM17.
“We’re not exactly redesigning how to go to the moon. This is a pistol,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said in March. “You give me $17 million on a credit card, and I’ll call Cabela’s tonight, and I’ll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine with a pistol for $17 million. And I’ll get a discount on a bulk buy.”
Despite Milley’s frustration, the program is set for a so-called “downselect” next month to three competitor designs to move into field testing. The safe money is that the Army will settle on options from Sig Sauer, Glock and a team composed of General Dynamics and Smith Wesson.
So what do each of these companies bring to the table for a modular handgun?
By far the most popular handgun among law enforcement, military special operations and a huge swath of civilian shooters, the Glock series of polymer-framed pistols has been considered the gold standard of modern handguns since its introduction in the 1980s.
In fact, the Glock 19 is the standard-issue handgun for Army special operations troops, Air Force special operations Airmen and has recently been chosen to replace Naval Special Warfare Sig Sauer P226 pistols. Sources say the company submitted versions of its G17 (a 5-inch barreled, 9mm handgun) and the G22 (a 4.5-inch barreled, .40 caliber handgun) to the MHS program.
A Special Forces soldier fires a Glock 19 pistol at a range during joint training with Hungarian special operations forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tyler Placie)
While Glock doesn’t have a so-called “modular” gun, the pistol uses so few parts that swapping a barrel or switching the backstrap of the grip for smaller-handed shooters takes no time. Glock offers several handguns that look and operate the same as the G17 and G22 — namely the G19, G43 and G21 — that are more compact or are optimized for different shooting situations.
Long a close second to the Glock family of polymer pistols, Smith Wesson’s MP series of handguns have made serious inroads in the law enforcement and civilian markets.
Check out the utility belt of a local cop or stroll down the shooting bays of your local range, and you’re bound to see a bunch of MP 9s in holsters or on the bench. Similar to the Glock, the MP pistol is simple to operate, has few parts and fits a wide range of shooters with replaceable backstraps on its grip.
Smith Wesson MP 9. (Photo from Smith Wesson)
And, like Glock, Smith Wesson doesn’t have a truly modular handgun system. But the company makes a longer barrel MP in a variety of calibers and the wildly popular MP Shield for concealed carry. All are based on the same design as the MP 9 and have the same ergonomics — so troops shifting from the 5-inch MP 5-inch CORE on one mission to the MP Shield on another won’t have to deal with a learning curve.
Sig Sauer has been most widely known for its double action handguns (ones that have hammers instead of strikers), and the P226 is perhaps the most famous gun the company makes since it’s been the go-to pistol for Naval Special Warfare’s sailors for years.
That changed this year when the SEAL community let slip that it would be replacing its inventory of P226s with Glock 19s — in line with other special operations units in the U.S. military. In 2014, Sig announced its newest handgun, dubbed the “P320,” which uses a similar polymer frame and striker fire system as the Glock and MP.
But what makes the P320 unique among its closest competitors is that it is truly modular. Buy a stock P320 and a shooter can purchase new frames and barrels in different sizes and calibers; you can literally change the P320 from a 4.7-inch combat handgun into a 3.6-inch subcompact concealed carry gun in about a minute with a new frame, slide and barrel.
Photo from Sig Sauer
You can even switch out a 9mm to a .40 with ease. The only common part of the Sig P320 is the “fire control group” which includes the trigger and internal safety module.
The problem is the Army (and other services) don’t have a great track record of making solid decisions on new weapons that take advantage of modern technology.
For several years in the early 2000s, the Army spent a lot of time and money looking into a replacement for the M4 carbine — a rifle that derives from a pre-Vietnam design. Despite test reports that showed other options performed better than the M4, the Army decided it wasn’t enough of an improvement over the existing rifle, and the service shelved the program.
Likewise, the Mk-16 and Mk-17 SOCOM Combat Assault Rifle — or SCAR — program was originally billed as a modular rifle program, one that would eventually see a combat rifle capable of switching from, say, a short-barreled entry gun into a longer-barreled one for more distant engagements. That program was also shelved, with special ops forces mostly using the .308 caliber Mk-17 on some missions as a battle rifle.
It’s still unclear whether the XM17 program will suffer a similar fate. But it’s there’s no argument that the Beretta M9 is facing an age problem and is increasingly causing armorers headaches.
So whether it’s a Glock 19 from Cabela’s or a futuristic, modular pistol, U.S. troops should see some kind of new handgun in their armory within a few years.
US intelligence suspects that a mysterious and deadly explosion in early August 2019 was caused by Russia’s efforts to recover its new nuclear-powered cruise missile after another unsuccessful test, CNBC reports, adding another twist in the saga of what exactly happened at the Nyonoksa weapons testing range.
An explosion that killed at least five people and triggered a radiation spike in nearby towns on Aug. 8, 2019, has been linked to Russia’s development of the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, a new doomsday weapon that NATO calls the SSC-X-9 Skyfall. While the prevailing theory was that the blast was caused by a failed test, US intelligence has a slightly different explanation.
“This was not a new launch of the weapon, instead it was a recovery mission to salvage a lost missile from a previous test,” a source with direct knowledge of the latest intel reports told CNBC. Russia was reportedly salvaging the weapon from the ocean floor at the time of the incident.
“There was an explosion on one of the vessels involved in the recovery and that caused a reaction in the missile’s nuclear core, which led to the radiation leak,” said another source. This is not the first time Russia has had to go fishing for its nuclear-powered cruise missile, but this appears to be the first time a recovery effort has exploded.
A still image said to show Russia’s Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile.
(YouTube/Russian Defence Ministry)
Using nuclear reactors to fuel missiles or airplanes has proven to be a “hazardous” technology that’s probably unnecessary, a leading defense expert told Insider.
Russia has not been particularly forthcoming with the details, sparking concerns of a cover-up.
The death toll has risen from two to five and could potentially be higher. Russia has flip-flopped on acknowledging radiation leaks. Local authorities ordered an evacuation but then mysteriously cancelled it. Nuclear monitoring stations nearby unexpectedly went offline due to technical problems. And the system that triggered the explosion has been described as everything but the nuclear-powered cruise missile Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted would be unstoppable last year.
“This is work in the military field, work on promising weapons systems,” Putin said recently, adding that “when it comes to activities of a military nature, there are certain restrictions on access to information.”
Russian data on the brief radiation spike in Severodvinsk, which state authorities finally decided to release, indicated that a nuclear reactor was involved, experts said. Russia, which has a history of covering up nuclear disasters, has yet to acknowledge that this was a nuclear accident despite mounting evidence to the contrary.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A former member of SEAL Team 6 and founder of Frogman Charities is headed to Mount Everest to try and become the first Navy SEAL to summit the world’s highest peak.
Don Mann is an accomplished athlete and climber with the goal of standing on top of the tallest summit on each continent. He’s starting with a climb up Everest, and at the same time he hopes to draw attention to the challenges that the military community faces every day.
“The challenge seems almost insurmountable with the conditioning required, the funding required, and the non-stop worries of altitude mountain sickness, avalanches, crevices, hypothermia, frostbite, etc.,” Mann said in a press release. “But the prize, to have an opportunity to stand on top of the world while raising awareness for the needs of our military personnel and their families, is beyond description.”
Mann has proved that he has the athletic chops for such a climb. Besides being selected as a member of SEAL Team 6, he was once rated as the 38th best triathlete in the world and has been climbing mountains for years.
During his attempt, Frogman Charities, a nonprofit organization that hosts virtual run and walk events to raise money for Navy SEAL charities, will be updating their Facebook page and website every day with stories from veterans and with organizations that support veterans and service members.
After the Everest climb, Mann wants to climb the rest of the continent’s highest peaks and to bring other veterans with him on the climbs. As with his Everest attempt, he hopes to raise public awareness of veterans’ causes.
The team that Mann will be climbing with aims to summit between May 13 and 25 but the buildup to the final summit attempt starts in early April. The climbers will trek to base camp from Apr. 3 to Apr. 12 and then begin the process of acclimating and climbing.
Mann’s climb is being financially supported through business sponsorships and a GoFundMe page.
Everybody knows that the GI Bill is for college, but did you know you can use it for things other than a typical brick-and-mortar institution of higher learning? Here are four VA-approved ways you can use that benefit to better fit your goals in life.
*Note: While Veterans Affairs has confirmed that each of the schools listed here are approved institutions for using the GI Bill, you should always consult with your VA representative before making decisions regarding benefits.
1. Be the best bartender you can be!
While the GI Bill itself does not actually cover bartending school, try to find an accredited school with degree programs in culinary arts. If you can manage that, your course load will most likely include classes that involve various aspects of drinkology, an academic counselor at Culinary Institute of America told WATM.
The institute- which is best known as the CIA- is a VA-approved school.
2. Make Mary Jane your money making biotch
With the rise in the legalization of cannabis — both for medicinal and recreational purposes — across the country, professionals within the cannabis industry are going to be in high demand.
There are three different areas within the weed world to look at: chemists, horticulturist and dispensary managers.
Chemists and dispensary managers can be made through any traditional college route, but to be a cannabis grower, you can attend an horticulture school that offers degrees or certificates in horticulture.
3. Show everyone that you have the perfect face for radio
The Academy of Radio and Television Broadcasting offers an intensive course of study in radio and television broadcasting. Students at the Academy learn everything a normal college student learns in a four-year broadcasting degree- but in a much shorter time and without the requirement to invest in typical “core” classes.Core classes in math and science don’t typically translate into radio and television broadcasting, so the concept behind the school is to focus solely on broadcasting.
This cuts the typical four year program down to a mere seven months.
Tuition for the entire program is roughly $15,000.
4. Dive for buried treasure.
Well, be a commercial diver, anyway. The Divers Institute of Technology actually prefers veterans, and it is (and always has been) owned and operated by veterans.
The Divers Institute’s website claims, “you’ll get lots of hands-on, in-the-water training during your seven month program. We’ll teach you surface and underwater welding, cutting, and burning. You’ll learn diving physics and medicine, safety, rigging, salvage, hazmat, inland and offshore diving and more.”
Israel has revealed new details of how its spy agency smuggled out nuclear documents from Iran in early 2018, although the material does not appear to provide evidence that Iran failed to fulfill its commitments under the 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers.
The information reported by The New York Times and The Washington Post on July 15, 2018, shed more light on the Mossad operation in January 2018 but offered few other details beyond what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed in April 2018 when he announced the results of the raid.
Netanyahu claimed Israeli intelligence seized 55,000 pages of documents and 183 CDs on Iran’s disputed nuclear program dating back to 2003. Iran maintains the entire collection is fraudulent.
President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
After his announcement in late April 2018, the Israeli leader gave U.S. President Donald Trump a briefing at the White House and argued it was another reason Trump should abandon the 2015 nuclear deal.
In May 2018, Trump withdrew from the deal.
Tehran has always claimed its nuclear program was only for peaceful purposes.
The New York Times reported on July 15, 2018, that Mossad agents had six hours and 29 minutes to break into a nuclear facility in the Iranian capital, Tehran, before the guards arrived in the morning.
In that time, they infiltrated the facility, disabled alarms, and unlocked safes to extract the secret documents before leaving undetected.
Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common among soldiers returning from war and cannot always be treated with medication or talk therapy, causing some organizations to turn to service dogs to provide support and emotional relief.
Jordan Covin, founder of The Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans, has a husband and brother that served in the U.S. Army. Neither one of her family members suffers from service-related illnesses, but she says that her proximity to them gives her a unique sense of empathy, which she uses to help others.
“We are a coalition of nonprofits that only work with military veterans and focus on meeting their specific needs with service dogs,” Covin said Thursday on Capitol Hill. “But it’s not only about the dog. The dog is just a tool. What we actually provide is a place where veterans can gather to share their feelings of isolation and alienation. We help create a sense of community and purpose, by bringing the right people together.”
Covin said that groups within her organization have become a network — sharing information and resources instead of competing against one another. She hopes to continue expanding the association, adding more groups who share her vision and goal.
In fact, the idea of using a service dog for psychiatric or emotional reasons is relatively new. Service dogs were originally tasked to perform physical functions for those were incapacitated, such as a seeing eye dog. Covin said that’s all changing now, thanks to a demand for more alternative treatments to address PTSD.
“We all know about dogs for blindness and injuries, but using dogs as a psychiatric tool is very new. It’s an alternative treatment program and that presents challenges. But the niche group that looks only at this and is specializing in this, we can push this into mainstream. It’s not alternative anymore. That is how we want to be seen,” she said.
Eighty-two percent of voters from military households where at least one member is active support the use of marijuana to treat PTSD, according to a 2016 Quinnipiac University poll. These numbers show that once-taboo treatment methods are beginning to find their way into the mainstream. Covin hopes this will continue happening with service dogs.
“We hope to bring in some grant money for research — bring together a group of experts, and help refine a programmatic model for these veterans that serves their needs best, and maximizes the efficiency of their service dog,” she said.
The Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans held a press conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday with several lawmakers that supported passing the PAWS (Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members) Act. The bill has bipartisan support and, if passed, would allocate grant money to eligible organizations that pair service dogs with soldiers suffering from PTSD.
“Veterans have given enough and need to be treated with dignity, respect and honor — that’s what our association ensures,” Covin said.
On September 20, 1958, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. arrived at the Blumstein’s department store in Harlem, New York for a book signing. His new book “Stride Toward Freedom” chronicled the Montgomery bus boycott that began when Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat on a public bus to a white passenger. The boycott had come to a close in December of 1956, when the Supreme Court ruled that the segregation of public buses was indeed unconstitutional. It was a watershed moment for both the Civil Rights movement and for America itself.
As a crowd formed in the shoe section of Blumstein’s, King took his seat behind a roped-off section of the store. Soon, eager readers were lining up to catch a moment of the influential figure’s time and his signature for their book. He exchanged brief pleasantries with each person as they approached the table, and as a 42-year-old woman in a stylish outfit and sequined cat’s eye-glasses took her turn, King’s demeanor was no different.
“Are you Martin Luther King?” The woman reportedly asked through a notable southern accent.
“Yes,” King replied, but before he could go on any further, the seemingly ordinary woman threw herself at the table and the man behind it, plunging a seven-inch pen knife into King’s chest.
Bystanders responded by pulling the woman away from King and pinning her on the floor as she shouted, “I’ve been after him for six years. I’m glad I done it!”
King, a man who was no stranger to threats, seemed somehow stoically calm, despite the serious bleeding from his chest. As his fans and supporters surrounded him, ushering him toward medical help, he was heard counseling them, soothing their collective anxieties as though he knew everything was going to be okay.
“That’s all right. Everything is going to be all right,” King was heard saying.
Of course, King couldn’t know it would be all right. Maybe it was just in his nature to ease the burden on others. With the knife still in his chest, King was lifted in his chair and carried out to an ambulance that would rush him to Harlem Hospital. Shortly thereafter, the police would march the same dangerous woman back into King’s company. This time there were no books to sign. The police wanted him to confirm that the women they had in custody was indeed his attacker. When they’d placed her under arrest, they also recovered a loaded .25 caliber pistol from her bra.
Despite the terrible attack, King was lucky. The seven-inch knife had punctured his chest just a fraction of an inch away from his aorta, or the main artery that carried blood from his heart to the rest of his body. King, who remained conscious and soothing throughout the ordeal, had only narrowly escaped death, but the risk hadn’t passed. He was rushed into surgery, where he had two ribs removed from his side to allow the knife to be pulled out without causing further damage.
“The X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery,” Dr. King later said in his famed ‘I’ve been to the mountaintop’ speech.
“And once that’s punctured, you’re drowned in your own blood — that’s the end of you.”
He would leave the hospital days later with a new scar in the shape of a cross over his heart. Despite the brutal attack, he was resolute when questioned by the press: He bore no ill will toward the woman who had stabbed him and reaffirmed his position that non-violence is the only way to manifest the type of positive change he sought for his country.
The attacker, whose name was Izola Curry, didn’t look like the sort of person most would expect to attack Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Curry was a fashionable middle-aged Black woman, but beneath her polished exterior laid a turbulent and troubled mind. Curry was a paranoid schizophrenic who had struggled with her mental health for years. In her confused state, she’d grown convinced that King and the NAACP were conspiring with communists against her. To King, however, the attack was a symptom of a greater illness than even Curry’s schizophrenia.
“A climate of hatred and bitterness so permeates areas of our nation that inevitably deeds of extreme violence must erupt,” he said at the time.
“The experience of these last few days has deepened my faith in the relevance of the spirit of nonviolence, if necessary social change is peacefully to take place.”
King would continue to change the world for another decade, before yet another act of violence would rob him of the remainder of his life. It could be argued that, as of that fateful day in 1958, he was acutely aware of the risk his efforts posed to his safety. If he did feel fear somewhere beneath the obvious empathy he felt for the woman who attacked him, however, it never showed. King did not shy away from his work, nor his beliefs, no matter the risk.
Now, as we prepare to honor the memory and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. some 63-years after his death, the story of the near fatal attack offers some uncomfortable parallels with today’s America. As rhetoric about race, mental illness, and the danger of radicalized beliefs permeate our national discourse today just as it did in 1958, we could all learn something from King’s ability to find a catalyst for positive change in even the darkest of places.
In King’s final public speech, he recalled the 1958 attack and how close he came to death… but even amid telling the story, King’s focus was not on his own mortality, but rather on the goodness he found in others as a result of the experience, and the progress he envisioned for America to come.
He told the story of a 9-year-old white girl who wrote to him to say that she’d read that if he had sneezed while the blade was in his chest, he almost certainly would have died.
“And I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze,” King recounted.
King went on to echo the young girl’s sentiment, using it to remind the audience about the important steps the Civil Rights movement had made in the years that followed. King didn’t recount these events like he was listing his own victories, but there was an air of pride about his statements. King, like so many great Americans before him, saw each victory and failure as another part of the struggle that has defined America since its very inception. America, he knew, has always been defined by the aspiration for a better tomorrow, the drive to become a more perfect union.
“If I had sneezed — If I had sneezed I wouldn’t have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill.
If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had.
If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been down in Selma, Alabama, to see the great Movement there.
If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been in Memphis to see a community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering.
I’m so happy that I didn’t sneeze.”
For all of his philosophical wisdom, King was, at his heart, a pragmatic man. He saw the complexity, the hate, the love, the anger, and the joy all woven into the fabric of his nation. He knew his goals were grander than one man, no matter his eloquence and empathy. He knew that the progress he helped usher in was delicate, and that the fight for our nation’s soul was far from over. King knew America would never be perfect… but importantly, he knew that it was in the effort, in the aspiration, that America’s true greatness had always, and will always, lie.
In a way, it’s deeply tragic that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was able to look out over the crowd of supporters that had gathered on that April day in 1968 and know that he wouldn’t be there to see America embrace the equality he longed for… but King was a great American. Like our Founding Fathers, King knew that a society grows great when men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. Progress, like a tree, needs time to take root.
Today, our nation continues to struggle with some of the same issues it faced during King’s days of fighting for equality, as well as daunting new ones that stretch beyond the horizon. America has always been imperfect, but our greatness doesn’t lie in what we are. The real America has always been found in what we, its people, strive to become.
“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”