Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

In the parking lot of the National Guard armory, a soldier reaches into his glove box and carefully unfolds a letter safeguarded in the confines of his car for five months. Sitting on the edge of his passenger seat, in the late afternoon sun, he begins to read the pages once again. At first, he reads silently as if wanting to keep the special message private. Then, in little more than a whisper, he reads out loud the sentiments of a woman he has never met but whose life he would be responsible for saving. Occasionally, he looks up to explain a bit more about the woman behind the precious missive. While he reads, the front of the envelope can be seen addressed to ‘My Donor.’ One glance at the top of the first page, clearly written in very large print is an emphatic, ‘Thank you.


A member of the Texas Army National Guard, Spc. Akeem Martin, a 23-year-old from Houston, says he is no hero, “I am just doing what is right.” The journey to the right thing started nearly five years ago when he was an 18-year-old freshman at Central Texas College. Martin recalls, “I really didn’t think about it, we were going to lunch one day and they [Be The Match] were having a drive, giving away pizza and I signed up, they took a mouth swab and that was the last time I heard anything.” Shaking his head he continues, “then last year… I got a call from Be The Match saying that I had been matched with a person with leukemia and asking would I like to donate for them.”

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

Member of the Texas Army National Guard, Spc. Akeem Martin.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Suzanne Ringle)

Martin could have said no, but that is not in his character. “Because I signed up for it, just like any other commitment you make, you did the paperwork you said you were gonna do it, so…” Martin leaves the statement hanging as if the conclusion is obvious: you do what you say and say what you do; no more discussion needed. This attitude serves him well in both his military and civilian careers.

Martin has been a firefighter for two years with the South Montgomery County Fire Department. In the Texas Army National Guard, he is a chaplain’s assistant deployed to the southwest border for Joint Task Force Guardian Support with El Paso-based, 3rd Battalion, 133rd Field Artillery Regiment. As the chaplain’s assistant he gets many opportunities to counsel service members and help on an emotional level. “These Guardsmen have lives going on back home, and life happens every day. I am just glad I can help,” Martin says.

The letter

Just before deploying, Martin received the letter. “I keep the letter in my car, it was really touching. I guess I was waiting to meet her,” he says. “I got the letter and then I came on mission a couple of weeks later. I didn’t get a chance to write her back.”

When LaShonda Goines, a cancer nurse from Houston, Texas, wrote that letter four months after being diagnosed with two different forms of cancer, she knew for certain only two things; there was a perfect ten-out-of-ten match, and without a doubt, everything was going to be okay. “I never asked for the odds of survival, I would not accept them anyways. I just knew that God was going to bring me out of this. I knew I was going to beat it,” said Goines.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

Member of the Texas Army National Guard, Spc. Akeem Martin.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Suzanne Ringle)

In her letter to Martin, Goines wrote, “I rejoice in the fact that God did not break the mold after he made me because he knew you were needed to help with repairs to my body. He created you to be a perfect match to repair my malfunctions. In this journey, I have learned to appreciate life, I want to take trips and do things once my body is strong enough. I am a very religious person. Your cells are going to a good and generous person.” After reading the letter once again, Martin points to his heart and with an awkward giggle says, “this letter really hits you in the feels,” while he takes a little extra time refolding the letter. Goines conveys a similar sentiment when she learns Martin has kept the letter all these months. She responds with a voice full of emotion. “That’s got me in tears. Yes, I am surprised. I know my son would be like, ‘I don’t know where that letter is.’ I did not know that letter was that precious to him.”

Goines closed the letter with a hope and a prayer, “I want to meet you one day. Hug you one day, whenever we can, if you like. Be blessed my friend, my life-sharing brother.” Little did she know all that she dreamed would come to fruition, in less than a year.

The good news came over the phone just 30 days after receiving Martin’s stem cells. “I am cancer free. Hearing those words was awesome. I mean I ran through the church. I gave my testimony. It was something, absolutely unbelievable, especially being a cancer nurse. Listening to the other patients in the holding area waiting to be seen, you hear their stories, how some of them had tried transplant and it didn’t work for them and this is maybe their second go around. But for me, this was a one-shot deal and now, I am cancer free,” Goines’ smile can be heard through the phone.

Donor meets recipient

Martin and Goines were invited to meet for the first time in Minnesota at the annual Be The Match council meeting. Their first time meeting each other would be onstage in front of more than two thousand people.

“I can’t even describe how amazing that moment was, it was so precious,” says Martin. He attempts to describe the event, seemingly at a loss for words, shrugging his shoulders and says, “I was really anxious and super excited. I was just really happy to get to that point. Just seeing her and being able to say that we got to that point because she made it, she was a fighter, it was something really special.”

Goines was anxious to finally meet the young man who saved her life. “The event was awesome. They had us separated through the entire meeting until Saturday night, even when they played the video of both of us. They called me to the stage first, and they would not tell me where he was in the room. And so, to see him walk up to the stage with his mother, he just has this heroic walk. It was awesome. He has a very heroic and humble walk, he never bolstered or anything. He’s an amazing fellow.”

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

Member of the Texas Army National Guard, Spc. Akeem Martin.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Suzanne Ringle)

When asked if they attributed the success of the transplant endeavor to just science or God, they had similar, but not identical, responses. Both have careers in the medical field and strong religious beliefs. Martin holds out his hands out as if making a scale for demonstration, “I have my religious background and I work in the medical field too. I feel like there is science and there is God, and they both work together.”

Goines praises God’s intervention, “God, this was nothing but divine intervention, divine intervention from God. Sitting in the room for 30-days doing my transplant I was crying out to God and this just shows me that God had his ear inclined to my cries.” Continuing she describes how special and lucky she felt, “I felt like I touched the hem of God’s garment and I was made whole again.”

Donor saves life

Few people can say they saved a life, but for Martin, saving lives is a reality, as a fireman and now as a stem cell donor. He says there is a uniquely strong bond between him and Goines, compared to other lives he has saved as a fireman. “I guess because we have such a bond now, when I met her it was like I’d known her my whole life, it was really weird. I met her sons as well and it was like we’ve been brothers forever. It was really something amazing.”

The special bond forged between the two gives each a bigger family. Without hesitation or searching for the words she would say to Martin, Goines exclaimed, “I got a new son out of this process. I want to tell him I love him and he’s an awesome human being and he needs to keep doing what he’s doing because God has bigger and better plans for him.”

The effects of this profound, life-changing match are clear, nearly 800 miles away, across the state of Texas, with one look at Martin’s cubicle inside the armory. The cubicle appears to be much like anyone’s cubicle. There are pictures of his family and another one of his fire truck, along with a cross and some obligatory notices and guidelines. There are two items quite unique and conspicuous amid the varying drab tones of tan, hanging proudly both inside and outside his partitions: two capes, one green the other blue, both emblazoned with the ‘Be The Match’ logo. Martin explains everyone gets the blue cape, but the green one is special for those donor-recipient matches that ended in saving a life.

Martin believes to care for others, you have to take yourself out of the equation. “When it comes down to saving a life, you should not think about yourself, there’s gonna be pain, you know everything good comes with a little pain. That little bit of pain goes a long way because there is someone whose life is really counting on you. Putting in a little work and a little pain will go a long way,” he says.

Goines went from a double cancer diagnosis to being cancer free in seven months because Martin decided to be a difference and saw it through. She says, “Sign up for Be The Match. It doesn’t matter if you are black, white, Hispanic, just sign up.”

Martin says his firsthand experience doesn’t make him a hero, but did make him want to share his story. “It is really important to educate people on the ‘Be the Match’ program or any marrow donor program because it does save lives. It does make a difference,” he says.

Be The Match is a nonprofit international organization that matches stem cell and bone marrow donors with recipients inflicted with certain cancers. The matches are based, partly, on ethnicity, and more often than not the match will come from outside one’s family. To find out more visit bethematch.org.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Reports say President will withdraw all forces from Syria

Reporting from CNN and The Wall Street Journal indicates that President Donald J. Trump has ordered a rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, and U.S. officials are already giving notice to international partners while preparing the logistics of the move.


The reporting came at the same time that the president took to Twitter to say, “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.

Press Secretary Sarah Sanders released a statement:

Five years ago, ISIS was a very powerful and dangerous force in the Middle East, and now the United States has defeated the territorial caliphate. These victories over ISIS in Syria do not signal the end of the Global Coalition or its campaign. We have started returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign. The United States and our allies stand ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests whenever necessary, and we will continue to work together to deny radical Islamist terrorists territory, funding, support, and any means of infiltrating our borders.”

U.S. troops have been in Syria for years, mostly operating next to rebel forces and Kurdish units working to tear apart ISIS’s claimed caliphate and then kill what fighters they could find. At the same time, U.S-backed fighters still frequently clashed with pro-government forces.

To a certain degree, this had created a proxy conflict as the U.S. backed rebel units and the conflict and Russia and Iran backed government forces. All sides could agree that ISIS had to be destroyed, but the U.S. had a very different idea from Iran and Russia of what the post-ISIS region should look like.

At one point in February, 2018, Russian mercenaries working for a Kremlin-linked businessman even directly attacked a base filled with U.S. special operators despite repeated warnings that they would be attacked. An estimated 100 mercenaries were killed and hundreds more wounded. No U.S. casualties were reported.

Under President Barack Obama, there were indicators that the U.S. would help shape the peace, ensuring that Iran didn’t gain a strong foothold in the country and potentially limiting Russia’s control after the war. Syria is very important to Russia as it has historically provided one of the only politically secure allies that Russia has had in the region.

Russia’s largest air base and naval base in the Middle East were in Syria even before the conflict in that country broke out, and Russia sent additional forces there as it attempted to keep Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power despite accusations of human rights abuses and clear evidence that the regime used chemical weapons against its own people.

Some entities are reporting that gunfire has erupted at pro-regime checkpoints and bases in Syria as news of the U.S. withdrawal makes its way to those troops, indicating that Syrian troops and allies are celebrating the news.

The U.S. withdrawal will allow Iran, Russia, and Turkey to more heavily influence the peace process, possibly to the detriment of Kurdish forces who had hoped to secure a permanent country in lands they helped protect and liberate from ISIS-control. Kurdish forces have a long history of allying with the U.S., taking part in operations in Iraq and Syria that were closely coordinated with U.S. leaders.

The withdrawal announcement seems to have come as a surprise, even to senior leaders in the U.S. and partnered nations. Senator Lindsey Graham pushed back, saying that ISIS is not defeated and that a withdrawal would be a “huge, Obama-like mistake.”

CNN’s Manu Raju, a senior congressional correspondent, has been making the rounds at the Capitol while tweeting quotes from different leaders. Marco Rubio gave sentiments similar to Graham’s, reportedly calling the decision a great disservice to the country, making the U.S. a less reliable partner.

Articles

This Russian video shows takedown of ISIS bigwig and some cool gear

A video of the Dec. 3 raid released on YouTube by the Russian Republic of Dagestan shows some highlights of the mission that resulted in the death of the commander of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s Russian affiliate.


But of you look carefully, there’s also some seldom seen gear being used by the Russian shock troops.

The two-minute video released on YouTube showed personnel from a paramilitary arm of the Federal Security Bureau — one of the successor agencies to the Soviet KGB — during the operation that killed Rustan Aselderov.

Aselderov had been responsible for a number of attacks, including two in two days in Volgograd that left 34 people dead. According to a report by Russia Today, no Russian forces were killed or wounded in the operation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5enps1XDXc

The video also featured some interesting Russian gear.

FSB personnel used a late-model BTR (either a BTR-80A, BTR-82 or BTR-90) with a 30mm autocannon, the 2A42, that is also used on the BMP-2 and BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles. According to GlobalSecurity.org, late-model BTRs can carry an infantry section of seven or eight soldiers, and are also equipped with a 7.62 mm machine gun mounted coaxially to their main gun.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

Past versions of the BTR had only been equipped with the KPV, a 14.5mm machine gun that was also used on the BRDM scout vehicle and on the ZPU series of anti-aircraft guns.

Most notable, though, was a miniature robot used to provide some suppressive fire (shown at around the 1:37 mark of the video) using what appears to be a general-purpose machine gun. The most common type of this weapon in Russian service is the PKM, which fires the 7.62x54mm Russian round also used in the Mosin-Nagant rifles and the SVD sniper rifle.

According to the website world.guns.ru, the PKM also can fire up to 650 rounds per minute. A burst of at least three seconds is shown being fired into the building occupied by Aselderov.

The robot also featured a pair of apparent RPG-22 rocket launchers, which are similar to the M72 Light Anti-tank Weapons in service with the United States and many of its allies.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

According the United States Army’s OPFOR World Equipment Guide, the RPG-22 has a range of over 250 yards and can penetrate almost 400 millimeters of armor.

The Russian personnel carrying out the mission were carrying Kalashnikov-style assault rifles. While the AK-74 is the standard-issue assault rifle of the Russian military, there are variants chambered for other rounds, like the AK-101 (chambered for the 5.56mm NATO round) and the AK-103 (chambered for the 7.62x39mm round used in the AK-47).

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

The FSB personnel wore fatigues with a MultiCam-esque camouflage pattern, which according to Camopedia.org, has been in use since 2008.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force just grounded its entire B-1 Bomber fleet

US Air Force Global Strike Command, which oversees the entire Air Force bomber fleet, ordered a safety stand down for its B-1B Lancer bombers on June 7, 2018, following an emergency landing by a Lancer in Texas in May 2018.

“During the safety investigation process following an emergency landing of a B-1B in Midland, Texas, an issue with ejection seat components was discovered that necessitated the stand-down,” the command said in a release. “As issues are resolved aircraft will return to flight.”


A B-1B bomber from Dyess Air Force Base in Texas made an emergency landing at Midland International Airport in western Texas on May 1, 2018, after an in-flight emergency. Emergency responders made it to the runway before the plane landed, and none of the four crew members onboard were injured.

It was not clear what caused the emergency, though fire crews that responded used foam on the plane.

Photos that emerged of the bomber involved showed that at least one of its four cockpit escape hatches had been blown, but the ejection seat did not deploy.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation
Aircrew members from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota conduct post-flight checks at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Aug.u00a06, 2016.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. JT May III)

The B-1’s four-man crew includes a pilot, copilot, and two weapons officers seated behind them. All four sit in ejection seats and each seat has an escape hatch above it, according to Air Force Times. Pulling the ejection handle starts an automatic sequence in which the hatch blows off and a STAPAC rocket motor launches the seats from the aircraft. The entire process takes only seconds.

It was not clear at the time of the incident whether the blown hatch or hatches had been recovered or whether the ejection seats had failed to deploy.

A Safety Investigation Board, a panel made up of experts who investigate incidents and recommend responses, is looking into the incident at Midland, the Global Strike Command release said.

The Global Strike Command stand-down order comes about a month after the Air Force ordered a day-long, fleet-wide stand-down while it conducted a safety review following a series of deadly accidents. At the time, the Air Force said it was seeing fewer accidents but that 18 pilots and crew members had been killed since October 1, 2018.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

These vets share the challenges they faced transitioning back to civilian life

WATM hosted groups of veterans to answer several questions about their time in the military. The vets kept it real when responding to topics ranging from relationships to recruiters.


Editor’s note: If you have ideas for questions that you’d like to see a group of veterans answer, please leave a comment below.

 

Music courtesy of Jingle Punks:

All Ears – Auracle

Anyone Else-JP – The Beards

MIGHTY TRENDING

Did Russia just bomb US allies in Syria again?

Russia has dismissed allegations that its military struck U.S.-backed forces in war-torn Syria, injuring several allied fighters.


Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said on September 17 that Russian strikes only hit targets in areas under the control of the extremist group Islamic State (IS).

Konashenkov that the Russian military informed the United States well in advance of its operational plans.

“To avoid unnecessary escalation, the commanders of Russian forces in Syria used an existing communications channel to inform our American partners in good time about the borders of our military operation in Deir al-Zor,” he said.

The comments come after the U.S.-led coalition battling IS militants in Syria said the Russian military on September 16 struck forces of a U.S.-backed Kurdish-Arab militia in Syria.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation
U.S. Marines with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit fire their M777 Howitzer during a fire mission in northern Syria as part of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, Mar. 24, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Zachery C. Laning)

“Russian munitions impacted a location known to the Russians to contain Syrian Democratic Forces and coalition advisors,” a statement said. “Several SDF fighters were wounded and received medical care as a result of the strike.”

It added that coalition advisers who were present “were not wounded as a result of the Russian strike.”

Earlier, the SDF accused Russian jets of bombing its forces in Deir al-Zor Province, injuring six of its fighters in the last major IS stronghold in Syria.

The United States and Russia back separate military offensives in the Syrian war, both of which are advancing against IS forces in the east of the country near Iraq.

Russia and Iran back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s six-year-old war, while the United States and Turkey support various rebel groups opposed to the Damascus government.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation
An instructor with the Syrian Democratic Forces observes a Syrian Arab trainee clear his rifle during small arms training in Northern Syria, July 31, 2017. Syrian Arabs who comprise the Syrian Arab Coalition, a component of the SDF, are fighting to expel ISIS and regain control of their homes. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mitchell Ryan)

IS fighters, who captured large swathes of Syrian territory in 2014, are opposed by all sides and are being driven from most of their strongholds by the separate government and rebel campaigns.

Washington and Moscow have largely stayed out of each other’s way in their fight against IS in Syria, with the Euphrates River frequently serving as a dividing line.

The commander of the U.S.-led coalition, Lieutenant General Paul Funk, said in the September 16 statement that coalition officials “are available and the de-conflictation line with Russia is open 24 hours a day.”

“We put our full efforts into preventing unnecessary escalation among forces that share ISIS as our common enemy,” Funk said, using an alternate acronym for the extremist group.

The statement added, “Coalition forces and partners always retain the right of self-defense.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marine Corps faces tough fight to protect desert tortoise

Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow is an installation focused on refurbishing gear, not training troops for war. Nonetheless, it’s now the site of a pitched and bloody ongoing battle between species, officials say.

The environmental division at the California base is bringing the Marine Corps brand of ingenuity to bear in its fight to protect the desert tortoise, a federally listed endangered species native to the Mojave Desert, from the raven, a natural predator protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

While ravens historically haven’t found much appeal in the region, that changed with the construction of Interstates 15 and 40, which were both built around the 1950s and intersect in Barstow.


“Here in the Mojave Desert, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service noticed that as the desert tortoises were declining — less and less juvenile tortoises were being observed during surveys — there is a direct correlation to an increase in raven population,” Cody Leslie, the logistics base’s natural resource specialist, said in a released statement. “When I say ‘direct correlation,’ I mean that, as the tortoises are decreasing in population, the ravens have increased by as much as 1,500 percent. That’s a huge increase.”

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

The desert tortoise, which is listed as vulnerable, can live to be 100. When it was added to the federal register of endangered species in 1990, there were an estimated 100,000 tortoises. But, according to a study published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, an assessment of populations at six recovery units in 2014 estimated a population of under 86,000.

It’s been years since Leslie has encountered a juvenile or hatchling tortoise, according to a base news release.

While ravens are known to go after juvenile tortoises, whose shells stay soft for up to the first decade of the animal’s life, conservationists were troubled to discover that the birds will even attack adult reptiles, flipping them and pecking at vulnerable shell access points. A recent experiment by the Superior-Cronese Critical Habitat Unit using dummy tortoises found 43 percent of the dummies were attacked by ravens, according to the release.

“It’s pretty gruesome,” Leslie said in a statement.

Since officials can’t kill the protected ravens, they’ve had to get creative. And like the larger Marine Corps, they’ve found drones to be a force multiplier. The Barstow environmental division has undertaken an effort it calls “Egg Oiling,” according to the release. They send drones out to coat eggs found in raven nests with a silica-based oil, which essentially smothers the young inside the shell, keeping out oxygen needed for development.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

Hatching baby desert tortoise.

(Photo by K. Kristina Drake)

“The ravens continue to sit on the eggs for the entire breeding season and do not continue to rebreed,” the release states.

In addition to the drone-aided egg oiling, conservationists are asking base employees and other residents to make sure their trash is disposed of in closed containers and that no food, including pet food, is left accessible to the birds.

Leslie also asked locals to report raven nests and bird activity to the Environmental Division and not to leave any water sources out in the open.

The desert tortoise, which also faces non-raven threats such as viral herpes and Upper Respiratory Tract Disease, has long presented a training challenge for Marines, who also occupy tortoise territory at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms in the Mojave. Marine officials have relocated gear and altered training plans in order to avoid disturbing the creatures.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marine Corps could soon have its first female infantry officer

It took a while, but the United States Marine Corps could have its first female infantry platoon commander soon. The milestone will be possible if a lieutenant currently taking part in the Infantry Officer Course graduates on Monday.


According to a report by the Washington Post, the candidate just finished a three-week combat exercise, the last of the graded exercises in the grueling course. Prior to this female candidate, at least 30 others have entered, but failed to graduate for one reason or another.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation
Pfc. Christina Fuentes Montenegro is one of the first women to graduate infantry training with Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Paul S. Mancuso/Released)

After graduation, she will command an infantry platoon, usually with three squads of Marines. The integration of women into ground combat roles with the Marine Corps drew controversy due to actions by then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus who was an outspoken proponent of the change. Mabus criticized a Marine Corps study showing that all-male units out-performed gender-integrated units in nearly 70 percent of the tasks.

Mabus’s comments drew fire from Marine Sgt. Maj. Justin Lehew, a Navy Cross recipient from Operation Iraqi Freedom. Lehew’s Navy Cross citation noted that he led the team that rescued survivors of the 507th Maintenance Company, the unit in which Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch served with at the time, and also ran back and forth to retrieve Marine casualties from a destroyed amphibious assault vehicle.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation
Sgt. Major Justin LeHew aboard a P781- RAM/RS Amphibious Assault Vehicle at Camp Shoup, Kuwait on March 17, 2003.

The Infantry Officer Course is seen as one of the toughest schools in the U.S. military, and roughly one out of four officers who enter the course do not compete it. Earlier this year, three female enlisted Marines were assigned to an infantry battalion. At least 10 women have graduated from the Army’s Infantry Officer Course.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Listen to the cockpit audio of the Navy’s infamous ‘sky penis’ flight

After the laughter died down, many of us wondered what the hell the pilots who drew the Navy’s penis in the sky – now known everywhere as the “sky penis” – were thinking. We may never know exactly what was going through their minds, but now at least we know what they were saying when they drew the now-famous celestial phallus.

“You should totally try to draw a penis.”


It was a clear day over Washington state in 2017, when suddenly the skies were marred by what appeared to be a huge dong in the wild blue yonder. Thousands of feet above the earth, U.S. Navy pilots behind the sticks of an EA-18G Growler were giggling up a storm after noticing their contrails looked particularly white against the vivid blue backdrop of the sky.

They didn’t notice the contrails weren’t dissipating quite as fast as they hoped they would. At least, that’s what the official cockpit audio recording says.

“My initial reaction was no, bad,” the pilot wrote in a statement. “But for some reason still unknown to me, I eventually decided to do it.”

While the above recording isn’t the official audio – the Navy didn’t release the audio, just the transcripts – it’s a pretty good replica done by the guys from the Aviation Lo Down podcast. It includes such gems as:

  • “You should totally try to draw a penis.”
  • “Which way is the shaft going?”
  • “It’s gonna be a wide shaft.”
  • “I don’t wanna make it just like 3 balls.”

While everyone involved seemed pleased with their great work, including the commander of the training mission in another Growler, they soon realized the contrails were still there, their magnum opus firmly painted on the sky for all the world to see – and see they did. Residents of Okanogan soon called into their local news station to complain about the large drawing in the sky.

The Navy has not released the identities of those involved in creating the most memorable public achievement made by the Navy since Top Gun, it has only ever mentioned the two junior-ranking pilots were highly skilled and good leaders who one might think would know better.

More importantly, no one knows what became of them. Here’s to hoping they got tickets to the Army-Navy Game.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Partially paralyzed sailor finds release in adaptive sports

Navy Veteran Gabriel George came to the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic in 2018 filled with energy and excitement. Returning for his second time to the clinic, George says his first time at the clinic was life-changing.

He joined the Navy in July 2004 where he served as a corpsman and deployed twice.

A few weeks after arriving home from his second deployment, he was involved in a devastating motorcycle accident. While heading home from bible study, a car pulled out in front of him. He awoke three weeks later in a hospital to find he had broken his C2 and C5 vertebrae, six ribs, his collar bone and scapula; he had collapsed both his lungs; suffered a traumatic brain injury; and permanently paralyzed his right arm.


After the injury, George says he spent a lot of time living on the couch and watching tv.

But then he was introduced to the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic by Katie Blunk, his recreation therapist at North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System, and says his life changed forever.

initially, he had low expectations at the clinic, and thought his paralyzed arm would prevent him from doing many activities.

“No way. I can’t do that,” he said, when he learned archery would be one of the sports he’d be introduced to.

But instructors showed him how to draw the bow by biting down on a mouth tab, and with that first pull and release of the arrow something woke within him.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

Navy Veteran Gabriel George returned for his second time to participate in the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic. George says the clinic got him moving and off the couch after suffering injuries from a motorcycle accident.

After archery, he went to sailing. As a Navy Veteran, George had lived aboard ship, but he’d never sailed a small vessel. He found the experience exhilarating, and says he felt connected with the water, pulling lines and working the sail.

“(It’s) at the top of the list of healing. Being able to find something you can do, moving just one body part, the rest of the body wants to follow and move too,” George said.

By the end of his first clinic, he was looking for a way to extend the experience. With Blunk’s help, George signed up for a sailing clinic near his home in Florida before the week in San Diego was finished.

“The very next morning I went out and found an archery shop and bought a bow,” he said about the moments after he arrived home.

Blunk says George’s experience is similar to many of the Veterans she’s seen benefit from adaptive sports therapy.

“Often I hear so many people saying I can’t do that. And then once they do try, it’s healing,” she said. “Once a Veteran sees they can do one sport they are inspired to keep trying other sports.”

George continues to participate in sports programs whenever and wherever he can.

“I was doing nothing before the (National Veterans) Summer Sports Clinic,” he said. “I bought a house and I don’t know why, because now, I’m never home.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

US suggests NATO should train Iraqi army

Washington wants NATO to assume responsibility for Iraqi troops once the Islamic State forces are defeated, a top military commander said on Wednesday.


A top US military commander has floated the idea of the Washington-led NATO military coalition to assume some responsibility for training troops in Iraq after Islamic State group militants are defeated there.

The 28-member Atlantic alliance “might be uniquely posturing to provide a training mission for an enduring period of time” in Iraq, General Joe Dunford told reporters during his flight back to the US from Brussels, where he attended a planning meeting ahead of next week’s NATO summit.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation
Iraqi soldiers train to fight ISIS in April 2010. (Photo: US Army Sgt. Deja Borden)

“You might see NATO making a contribution to logistics, acquisitions, institutional capacity building, leadership schools, academies – those kind of things,” Dunford, who is Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.

The issue is at the top of the agenda for next week’s summit, with US President Donald Trump pushing the allies to take on a greater role in combatting terrorism.

After months of brutal, street-by-street combat, IS has lost control of most of its stronghold of Mosul in Iraq, while the jihadi force is now largely isolated in Raqqa, over the border in Syria.

A change in who leads the training mission would likely also mean revamping the nature of the effort, Dunford said.

“We are not talking about NATO doing what we are doing now for combat advising in places like Mosul or Raqqa,” the general said.

“I don’t think we are at the point now where we can envision or discuss NATO taking over” all missions of the anti- IS coalition in Iraq, he added.

NATO’s top brass said on Wednesday they believed the alliance should consider joining the anti- Islamic State group coalition put together by Washington to fight IS in Syria and Iraq.

General Petr Pavel, head of NATO’s military committee, told reporters after chiefs of defense staff met in Brussels that it was time to look at this option.

“NATO members are all in the anti- IS coalition. The discussion now is – is NATO to become a member of that coalition,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Even more Russian ships are relying on tugs for breakdowns

In 2000, an explosion in the Russian submarine Kursk sent the vessel to the ocean floor, killing all 118 of its crew.

In the decade that followed, at least four fires broke out at Russian shipyards.

In 2009, Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov — which has been labeled one of the worst aircraft carriers in the world — lost a sailor when a fire broke out due to a short circuit.


And in 2016, the Kuznetsov cruised through the English channel belching black smoke on its way to the Mediterranean.

This series of accidents and problems leads to one inevitable conclusion: The Russian Navy has a maintenance problem.

Bryan Clark, senior fellow for the Center of Strategic and Budgetary Studies, said that when it comes to maintenance, “You can’t live on older ships. After 20 to 25 years, all you have is what’s left on the shelf.”

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The Admiral Kuznetsov.

Though many of the incidents plagued their submarine force, even more telling than its history of catastrophes is the routine reliance on oceangoing tugs, which accompany its surface vessels on every deployment.

On Oct. 22, 2018, two Russian corvettes, a tanker, and a tug set sail for the North Atlantic.

Experts say Russia’s dependence on tugs is an indication of an aging, insufficient surface fleet.

While Russia can boast impressive littoral capabilities, for blue-water operations it leans heavily on its Cold War-era platforms, an influential naval expert said.

This is problematic for several reasons, according to Clark. Maintenance becomes more difficult as ships age, and as decades pass their parts become harder, if not impossible, to obtain. It is impossible, then, to manage the eventual breakdown of equipment, which results in a loss of redundancy for crucial systems.

This redundancy — secondary, tertiary and even quaternary systems — is what keeps ships afloat and ready to fight.

For the Russian Navy, the idea of tug as escort has become standard. For the rest of the world, Clark thinks there is a lesson to be learned.

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