VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange

The Department of Veterans Affairs will not appeal a January 2019 court ruling that ordered it to provide health care and disability benefits for 90,000 veterans who served on Navy ships during the Vietnam War, likely paving the way for “Blue Water Navy” sailors and Marines to receive Agent Orange-related compensation and VA-paid health care benefits.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 26, 2019, that he will recommend the Justice Department not fight the decision, handing a victory to ill former service members who fought for years to have their diseases recognized as related to exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange.


In 2018, the House unanimously passed a bill, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, to provide benefits to affected service members. But Wilkie objected, saying the science does not prove that they were exposed to Agent Orange. Veterans and their advocates had argued that the ships’ distilling systems used Agent Orange-tainted seawater, exposing sailors on board to concentrated levels of dioxin.

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange

Large stacks of 55-gallon drums filled with Agent Orange.

(US Army photo)

However, the bill failed in the Senate when two Republicans, Sen. Michael Enzi of Wyoming and Mike Lee of Utah, said they wanted to wait for a vote pending the outcome of a current study on Agent Orange exposure.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in January 2019 ruled that a Vietnam veteran, 73-year-old Alfred Procopio, and other Blue Water Navy veterans qualified for benefits currently given to service members stationed on the ground in Vietnam or who served on inland waterways and have diseases associated with Agent Orange.

Procopio, who served on the aircraft carrier Intrepid, suffers from prostate cancer and diabetes, illnesses presumed to be related to exposure to the toxic herbicide.

The VA has contended that any herbicide runoff from the millions of gallons sprayed in Vietnam was diluted by seawater and would not have affected offshore service members. It also objected to the cost of providing benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans for illnesses common to all aging patients, not just those exposed to Agent Orange.

The proposed Blue Water Navy Veterans act had estimated the cost of providing benefits to these veterans at id=”listicle-2632903078″.1 billion over 10 years. VA officials say the amount is roughly .5 billion.

Wilkie told members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee during a hearing on the VA’s fiscal 2019 budget that the department already has started serving 51,000 Blue Water Navy veterans.

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange

Leaking Agent Orange Barrels at Johnston Atoll, 1973.

He cautioned, however, that while he is recommending the Justice Department drop the case, he “didn’t know what other agencies would do.”

Lawmakers praised Wilkie’s announcement, urging him to ensure that the DoJ drops the case. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, said it would “bring fairness” to these veterans.

“I am grateful for you in making these considerations,” Blumenthal said, adding that he’d like to see the VA do more research on toxic exposures on the modern battlefield. “The potential poisons on the battlefield are one of the greatest challenges of our time.”

Committee chairman Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, also promised a hearing later in 2019 on burn pits and other environmental exposures some troops say left them with lifelong illnesses, including cancers — some fatal — and respiratory diseases.

Isakson added, however, that the VA needs to care first for Blue Water Navy veterans. “If it happens, we are going to be in the process of swallowing a big bite and chewing it,” he said.

The diseases considered presumptive to Agent Orange exposure, according to the VA, are AL amyloidosis, chronic B-cell leukemia, chloracne, Type 2 diabetes, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, ischemic heart disease, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, early onset peripheral neuropathy, porphyria, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers and soft tissue sarcomas.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, in a veteran who served 90 days or more in the military is automatically considered service connected, regardless of date of service.

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

Military Life

5 reasons why going underway is the worst

Located in Southern California, Naval Base San Diego is the second largest surface ship base in the United States. Deploying on a ship with a critical mission is supposed to be one of the proudest moment for any sailor. Those aboard get a chance to serve their country by performing the righteous duties for which they’ve trained hard — in theory, anyway.

In reality, being underway means doing a ton of cleaning and other tasks that fall outside of your regular MOS.


It’s not like what you see in those cool television commercials. You won’t be working with sailors in the intel room trying to defeat an enemy force while listening to the soothing tone of Keith David’s voiceover. In fact, it’s almost the complete opposite.

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange

Going on watch

If you’ve ever watched paint dry, then you know exactly how it feels to be on watch — you stare at nothing, waiting for anything to happen. Watch is, by far, is the most critical responsibility on any Naval vessel, but it can also be the most painful. You’re looking out for incoming threats, but the likelihood of that happening is slim.

That is, unless you’re in foreign seas and Somalian pirates are feeling ballsy.

No service

Using these little computers in our pockets, making a call to anyone around the world is as easy as picking up your phone and dialing. However, being underway means you’re not going to have any cell service — much to the devastation of millennials.

The idea of not knowing what everyone’s doing back home or what’s happening in the rest of the world can be a little unsettling. After weeks of limited-to-no connectivity, that moment when you reach port and see service bars on your phone is glorious.

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange

Sleeping quarters

After a long day, it’s finally time to hit the sack — but you don’t get to sleep in a big bed like you did back home. You get to sleep in a rack that looks and feels like a coffin. It may be comfortable for vampires, but for everyone else, it’s anything but that.

Let’s be real, three-man bunks with a minimum of 20 to 30 roommates — does this sound like a good time to you?

Sweepers, sweepers, all hands man your stations

If you’re a sailor, you know how this feels. Once you wake up and get ready for your day, you know what’s about to happen. So, grab a broom and get to cleaning, because there’s always a petty officer around the corner reminding you to do so.

Welcome to hell.

It sounds easy at first, but after a day of working on the ship, the last thing anyone wants to do is pick up another freakin’ broom — trust us.

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gabriela Hurtado)

Leaving your family

This is a topic that all veterans can relate to. Above all else, the reason we continue to fight is to protect the many families of our nation. Leaving them behind is extremely difficult. You have been their sworn protector for as long as you can remember, and now you must leave them to fulfill your obligations to our great country.

Saying goodbye to your loved ones — and not knowing exactly when you will return — is, by far, one of the hardest things about going underway.

Articles

These are the elite soldiers who go in way ahead of everybody else

The Army’s pathfinders are elite airborne infantrymen capable of slipping into enemy territory to prepare drop zones and landing zones, conduct reconnaissance, place navigational aids, provide air traffic control, and recover wounded personnel. Basically, they have more applications than an iPhone, and they can do all it at night, on their own, without reinforcements or resupply while under fire.


VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Sadie Bleistein

The units got their start in World War II after parachute drops into North Africa in 1942 and Sicily in 1943 resulted in troops dispersed across the target areas instead of massed into effective fighting formations. To fix this, the Army borrowed tactics and techniques from British scout companies to create their own pathfinder platoons and companies.

As World War II continued, pathfinders led the way into Normandy on D-Day and southern France in Operation Dragoon as well as aided the aerial resupply of troops pinned down in the Battle of the Bulge. They used signal fires, special radios, and lights to create paths for aircraft to follow, ensuring pilots could navigate to their target.

In the Korean and Vietnam wars, pathfinders continued their missions leading airborne forces but the expansion of helicopter operations gave them another job.

They began moving in ahead of air assaults to plan and prepare landing zones for the helicopters. The Army expanded existing pathfinder units and added new ones. Even the National Guard and Army Reserve got pathfinders in the ’70s and ’80s.

Today, pathfinders are primarily used for recovering wounded and isolated personnel, conducting reconnaissance, and assisting in helicopter assaults. They’re also experts in sling-load operations, the movement of heavy equipment by slinging it under a chopper.

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen

The Army has cut the pathfinders to two companies, one in the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade and one with 82nd’s CAB. These companies rarely fight as a single unit. Instead, commanders kick out small teams of pathfinders to support operations across a large geographical area where they conduct all their missions. These teams of about six men have seen heavy combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

With the shortage of dedicated pathfinder companies, infantry units send soldiers to the Army’s Pathfinder School at Fort Benning, Georgia. These soldiers become experts in linking Army ground and aviation elements, assisting their units when pathfinder companies aren’t available.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A failed North Korean missile crashed in its own city this year

North Korea reportedly launched a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile in April of last year that failed a few seconds into flight and came crashing down on a North Korean city.


The Diplomat’s Ankit Panda and David Schmerler, of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, cited a U.S. government source as saying the missile failed a minute into flight and never went higher than 70 kilometers.

That initial minute of boosted flight propelled the missile 39 kilometers away to Tokchon, a city of about 200,000 people in North Korea’s interior, according to Panda and Schmerler’s investigation.

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange
Tokchon, in North Korea, was hit by a North Korean missile earlier this year during a failed test. (Image via Google Earth)

Satellite imagery scanned by the authors shows damage to industrial or agricultural buildings near a residential area. The Hwasong-12, with unburned liquid fuel, could still cause a massive explosion even without a warhead, though the authors concluded there were most likely few casualties.

The wider threat of failed missile tests

But the fiery crash of a North Korean missile into a populated town demonstrates yet another threat posed by Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

North Korea has twice fired a Hwasong-12 missile over Japan. A similar failure in the launch process could see a large liquid-fueled missile crashing down on a populated Japanese town.

If such an accident were interpreted as a deliberate attack, it could spark a wider conflict.

Also Read: North Korea launches another missile over Japan

Another danger pointed out by The Diplomat comes from North Korea’s newly demonstrated ability to carry out surprise tests.

Using mobile missile launchers, which sometimes even have treads like a tank, North Korea showed in 2017 it could launch from virtually anywhere within its borders.

The unpredictability and mobility of North Korea’s launches mean the US or its allies would have a hard time preempting such a launch or even knowing where to look for one.

Articles

300 Marines heading back to Helmand

The US Marine Corps has returned to Helmand, the restive province in southern Afghanistan where it fought years of bloody battles with the Taliban, to help train Afghan forces struggling to contain the insurgency.


Many of the 300 Marines coming to Helmand as part of the NATO-led Resolute Support training mission are veterans of previous tours in the province, where almost 1,000 coalition troops, mostly US and British, were killed fighting the Taliban.

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dustin D. March)

When they left in 2014, handing over the sprawling desert base they knew as Camp Leatherneck to the Afghan army, the Marines never expected to return. The fact that they are back underlines the problems Afghan forces have faced since being left to fight alone.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch this crazy video of a Navy F-18 intercepting a UFO

On Dec. 16, the NYT published an interesting story about a U.S. Department of Defense program that investigated reports of UFOs (unidentified flying objects). Along with interviews with program participants and records they obtained investigating the mysterious Pentagon program, The New York Times has released a video that shows a close encounter between an F/A-18F Super Hornet out of USS Nimitz and one of these UFOs back in 2004.


Take a look and tell me if you have an idea what that object might be.

Back in 2007, a user (cometa2) of the popular Above Top Secret (ATS) forum posted an alleged official CVW-11 Event Summary of a close encounter occurred on Nov. 14, 2004. Back then, when the encounter had not been confirmed yet, many users questioned the authenticity of both the event log and the footage allegedly filmed during the UFO intercept. More than 10 years later, with an officially released video of the encounter, it’s worth having a look at that unverified event log again: although we can’t say for sure whether it is genuine or not, it is at least “realistic” and provides some interesting details and narrative consistent with the real carrier ops. Moreover, the summary says that the callsign of the aircraft involved in the encounter is Fast Eagle: this callsign is used by the VFA-41 Black Aces – incidentally the very same squadron of David Fravor, formed Co of VFA-41, the pilot who recalled the encounter to NYT.

Also Read: This is what happened when a P-51 Mustang chased a UFO over Kentucky in 1948

Anyway, here’s an excerpt:

FAST EAGLES 110/100 UPON TAKE OFF WERE VECTORED BY PRINCETON AND BANGER (1410L) TO INTERCEPT UNID CONTACT AT 160@40NM (N3050.8 W11746.9) (NIMITZ N3129.3 W11752.8). PRINCETON INFORMED FAST EAGLES THAT THE CONTACT WAS MOVING AT 100 KTS @ 25KFT ASL.

FAST EAGLES (110/100) COULD NOT FIND UNID AIRBORNE CONTACT AT LOCATION GIVEN BY PRINCETON. WHILE SEARCHING FOR UNID AIR CONTACT, FAST EAGLES SPOTTED LARGE UNID OBJECT IN WATER AT 1430L. PILOTS SAW STEAM/ SMOKE/CHURNING AROUND OBJECT. PILOT DESCRIBES OBJECT INITIALLY AS RESEMBLING A DOWNED AIRLINER, ALSO STATED THAT IT WAS MUCH LARGER THAN A SUBMARINE.

WHILE DESCENDING FROM 24K FT TO GAIN A BETTER VIEW OF THE UNID CONTACT IN THE WATER, FAST EAGLE 110 SIGHTED AN AIRBORNE CONTACT WHICH APPEARED TO BE CAPSULE SHAPED (WINGLESS, MOBILE, WHITE, OBLONG PILL SHAPED, 25-30 FEET IN LENGTH, NO VISIBLE MARKINGS AND NO GLASS) 5NM WEST FROM POSITION OF UNID OBJECT IN WATER.

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange
Footage of military pilots intercepting what appears to be a UFO (Image Department of Defense)

CAPSULE (ALT 4K FT AT COURSE 300) PASSED UNDER FAST EAGLE 110 (ALT 16KFT). FAST EAGLE 110 BEGAN TURN TO ACQUIRE CAPSULE. WHILE 110 WAS DESCENDING AND TURNING, CAPSULE BEGAN CLIMBING AND TURNED INSIDE OF FAST EAGLE’S TURN RADIUS. PILOT ESTIMATED THAT CAPSULE ACHIEVED 600-700 KTS. FAST EAGLE 110 COULD NOT KEEP UP WITH THE RATE OF TURN AND THE GAIN OF ALTITUDE BY THE CAPSULE. 110 LOST VISUAL ID OF CAPSULE IN HAZE.

LAST VISUAL CONTACT HAD CAPSULE AT 14KFT HEADING DUE EAST.

NEITHER FAST EAGLES 110 OR 100 COULD ACHIEVE RADAR LOCK OR ANY OTHER MEANS OF POSITIVE ID. FAST EAGLE 100 WAS FLYING HIGH COVER AND SAW THE ENGAGEMENT BY FAST EAGLE 110. FAST EAGLE 100 CONFIRMS 110 VISUAL ID; 100 LOST CONTACT IN HAZE AS WELL.

CPA OF ACFT 110 FROM CONTACT 4000-5000 FT.

So, what’s your opinion on the video (BTW here you can find an interesting description of the ATFLIR symbology)? What’s that “capsule shaped (wingless, mobile, white, oblong pill-shaped)” object?

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this ‘Silent Farmer’ earned the Medal of Honor in WWII

Garlin Conner charged alone into the cold abyss, toward the massive silhouettes of German tanks in the distance.

Clutching a telephone, radio and wire, the first lieutenant carried himself through the frigid January air, toward 600 encroaching Germans and the enemy rounds he knew were coming.

Conner could not turn back if he wanted to.

His company needed a guide to cut into the surging German infantry or risk getting overrun. The Kentucky marksman always fought in front of his men, and his fellow soldiers trusted him to lead. Conner often fired at the opposition standing while others ducked for cover.


Conner could see the enemy before they spotted him, fellow soldiers wrote.

The thunder of the German rifles didn’t rattle him. His father had raised him to be fearless while hunting wild game in the woods of southern Kentucky. A bullet wound in his left hip could not keep him from returning to the front lines, nor could orders to remain at a military field hospital. On a frigid winter morning in 1945, Conner would once more put himself between his fellow soldiers and the onslaught of enemy fire.

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange
First Lt. Garlin Murl Conner

This time, in a snow-covered forest, 5-foot-6-inch Conner faced the full brunt of German forces. On Jan. 24, the Nazi-led German army mounted a desperate surge to split American units near the French-German border.

Conner headed toward the flurry of bullets until he ducked into a shallow, snowy ditch.

Here in the frozen French countryside, amid rampant automatic fire, Conner would make what could be his final stand, guiding American artillery toward the German infantry. Here, Conner would remain until American forces stopped the Germans, or until a bullet stopped him.

Quiet Farmer

When locals in the rural farming town of Albany, Kentucky, would ask Garlin “Murl” Conner about his time in World War II, he’d hush them quickly.

“I’d done what I had to do,” Conner said in soldier accounts, “and that’s all there is to it.”

After returning to Clinton County following the war and starting a tobacco farm, the decorated Army veteran decided he had seen enough of the world and the horrors of armed combat. Conner had found peace plowing fields in the shadows of the Appalachians.

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange
1st Lt. Garlin Murl Conner


Conner never boasted about his acts of bravery.

For more than 53 years until his death in 1998, he rarely spoke about the war again — not to his wife, Pauline, or even to a fellow soldier.

During the two decades since Conner died of complications related to heart and kidney failure, others took up the cause the farmer so adamantly declined. Former Army Green Beret Richard Chilton, with the support of seven retired generals, presented Conner’s bid for the Medal of Honor to the Army’s personnel records office.

The curious case of Conner, who held a war record so compelling that it rivals the accolades of the more famous veteran Audie Murphy, baffled those who knew him. In all, Conner spent more than 800 days on the front lines in World War II. He suffered seven combat wounds while earning four Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, the French military decoration Croix de Guerre, and the Distinguished Service Cross.

And yet, in an effort to get Conner recognized with a Medal of Honor, Chilton and his team endured a difficult quest that spanned decades. A federal district court rejected Conner’s initial bid for the award. In the 2014 ruling, a federal judge in Kentucky told a heartbroken Pauline that she had not filed her husband’s paperwork in time.

Conner had for decades shied away from talk of the award, much like he avoided any conversation of his four years in the Army. Still, his family continued to cling to hope that one day Conner would earn the U.S. military’s highest distinction.

Old Kentucky home

A curving paved road leads to Murl and Pauline Conner’s red brick farmhouse wedged near the foothills of the Appalachians in southern Kentucky, two miles north of the Tennessee state line.

Blue skies hang over Albany’s green rolling landscape, as plowed fields seem to shine under the midday sun. Cardinals outside the one-story house chirp as a light wind sweeps by. This farm, cradled in the hilly terrain of Clinton County, hid the story of a man whose steely courage withstood the gravest circumstances.

Just footsteps down the road from the farm, Murl’s son Paul, and his wife Kathy, live in a modular home that was built to replace their home that had been destroyed by a tornado. Paul took over the farm after his father suffered a heart attack on a spring day in 1979.

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange
Fellow soldiers trusted Garlin Conner to lead them through difficult circumstances on the battlefield. Maj. Gen. Lloyd Ramsey, whose career extended over three wars, called Conner the greatest combat soldier he had ever seen.

He spent long hours planting tobacco plants before the farm transitioned into raising cattle as its primary product.

Born nine years after Conner returned from the war, Paul contrasts his dad in appearance. Burly and stout, he sports a much larger frame than his father, who had been thin and wiry, at 5-foot-6-inches tall, and weighing only 120 pounds during active duty.

Paul shares his father’s love of animals. And Paul raised his four children with the same grounded morals he learned from his father. Paul said his father offered sound advice that Paul would later instill in his children. “Be a man of your word,” Paul recalled his dad saying. “Do what you say. If you can’t fulfill a promise, don’t make it. Be mindful of people around you because everyone has feelings.”

In the family’s living room, Paul sits next to a black and white portrait of Murl as a young soldier, flanked by faded portraits of Paul’s children and grandchildren. Decorated with beige ceramic lamps, rustic wooden chairs and shelves, the room has changed little since Pauline and her husband moved into the home more than 50 years ago.

For decades the photo loomed over the room. As a boy, Paul occasionally would stare at the black and white picture in awe.

When he asked his father about his time in the Army, he’d receive the same cold response: “We went over there, we did what we had to do,” Paul recalled his father saying. “And it needs to stay over there.”

Paul grew up without knowing the full extent of his father’s achievements on the battlefield. And for the most part, so did Pauline.

Generations have passed since the soldier with only an eighth-grade education used wit and intelligence to thwart enemy advances. But buried in eyewitness accounts and in the testimonials of fellow soldiers, Conner’s heroic deeds remained etched in history, unknown to his family and many of Albany’s residents.

“I just thought he was a farmer and he did a little something in the war,” said Walton Haddix, a family friend of the Conners. “But he never would talk about it. He never mentioned anything he did in the military.”

Outside of his war medals, this 200-acre farm on the lower east end of Clinton County is Conner’s lasting legacy. The family purchased the plot of land in 1949, after the government bought the family’s previous farm to make way for the Wolf Creek Dam and Lake Cumberland Reservoir. With his time in service long behind him, Conner turned his attention to his farm and raising Paul.

He never boasted about his wartime achievements, telling his wife he didn’t want to appear to be bragging. After all, Conner’s five brothers also served in the military: four in World War II and one in the Korean War.

As a farmer, he took pride in working on his farm, where he could often be found in his long-sleeved khaki shirt, farmer’s billed cap and overalls, riding a tractor or teaching Paul how to grow tobacco from the soil.

But the war never truly left him. Sometimes, at night, Conner would wake, gripped with tension and reliving moments from the battlefield, said his wife. Instead of returning to bed, Conner would retreat to the family’s wooden porch, where he lingered for hours smoking cigarettes.

The episodes at times became so traumatic, Pauline declines to talk in detail about them. Pauline said her husband suffered symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder, an illness that had not yet been widely identified until the Vietnam War.

“If anyone had PTSD, it was Murl,” Pauline said.

Conner carried the burden internally, never voicing his anguish to his family. The last time Conner had spoken publicly about the war, it happened to be the same day Pauline laid eyes on her future husband for the first time.

A hero’s welcome

On a bright spring day in May 1945, the Wells family heard that a war hero, a native of Clinton County, would be returning after four years overseas.

The local American Legion post organized a parade in the town square to welcome back a war veteran whose bravery had townspeople talking. They traveled from surrounding counties, some by wagon. Others drove in by car, while some came on foot.

Garlin Murl Conner, a farmer’s son who voluntarily joined the Army in 1941, had come home from the war.

Pauline Wells, still in her teenage years, climbed into the back of the family’s horse-drawn wagon along with her two brothers, two sisters and her parents at the family’s farm in northern Clinton County. They drove the wagon along a dirt trail, 10 miles to the town square. The county’s schools dismissed classes early so students could attend the parade.

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange
Pauline Conner, an 89-year-old resident of Clinton County, Kentucky, holds the photo of her late husband, 1st Lt. Garlin Murl Conner.



Pauline’s family learned that following the parade, Conner would be speaking to the crowd about the war. So townspeople crowded into the second floor of the old courthouse. Sergeant Alvin C. York, the most decorated soldier of the First World War, also attended, beginning what became a lifelong friendship with Conner. Pauline leaned onto the wooden bench in the back row to hear Conner speak.

“I was expecting a giant of a man,” Pauline said.

When Conner finally emerged before the crowd, his appearance stunned Pauline. Wearing his olive-colored military dress uniform, the lieutenant’s small stature underwhelmed the young Pauline. With narrow shoulders, and a slender frame, Conner hardly appeared like heroes in storybooks.

“That little wharf rat,” Pauline said to her mother, Tressie. “He couldn’t have done all the things they said he’d done.”

But unbeknownst to Pauline and her family, Conner had long proved his mettle to U.S. forces, the Allies, and fellow soldiers, his commanding officer would say.

Conner was a quiet man of few words. The native of nearby Aaron, Kentucky, stood before the crowded courtroom and said what would be his last public statements about his time in the war.

“It gives me great pleasure,” Conner began, “to be able to come out here today. I am not a speaker, and did not come here to make a speech.”

“But,” Conner continued, “I will try to explain to you a small part of the war in Europe and some of the things I saw.”

Conner didn’t mince words. He talked first about the early November morning in 1942 when his unit first landed on the shore of Fedala, Morocco, in support of Operation Torch. American and Allied forces wrested control of North Africa from the Axis powers in only three days.

He moved onto the invasion of Licata, Sicily, a war-ravaged city that lay in tatters after 38 days of continuous fighting. Through his 10-minute testimony, Conner didn’t talk about his medals, or the times he fought on the front lines ahead of his men. Instead he spoke of his unit’s achievements, and how they survived the changing elements and terrain.

Finally, Conner touched on his unit’s trek into southern France and a difficult battle in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains. But he didn’t say a word about any of his selfless, valorous acts. Nor did he mention a fateful January morning near a small French village during the aftermath of the Battle of the Bulge, when for three hours in the winter of 1945, he risked his life so his unit could survive.

At any cost

On the morning of Jan. 24, 1945, the men of the K Company, 7th Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division entered the Brunwald Woods near Houssen, France.

As U.S. troops scrambled to reinforce their position in the small village near the German-French border, a bitter cold swept over eastern France, creating a stinging chill.

As the frigid wind stung their faces, K Company’s soldiers marched into the snow to take on a Battalion of desperate German soldiers.

Conner had rejoined his unit in the French countryside while still recovering from a sniper bullet wound in his left hip. Conner, knowing a crucial battle loomed, had earlier slipped out of the field hospital in northern France and returned to the front lines.

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange
Garlin Murl Conner lived a quiet life on a farm in Southern Kentucky. His neighbors and even his family did not know the extent of his valorous acts during World War II until years after his death.



Upon his return, Conner learned that his commanding officer, Lt. Col. Lloyd Ramsey, had made arrangements to send him home. Conner had earned eligibility to return to Kentucky based on his time served and accolades earned. Ramsey removed Conner from the front lines and reassigned him to serve as his intelligence officer in battalion headquarters for his own safety.

Hitler’s army, facing looming defeat, countered American forces with desperate barrage after barrage, attacking U.S. forces with ruthless resolve. The German assaults gravely concerned Ramsey. The day before, the Germans had rallied for a fierce offensive against another company, costing the Americans 25 men.

Ramsey needed a patrol team to scout the enemy’s position, but resources ran thin.

Conner, still ailing from his hip injury, once again volunteered to take a patrol and said he would attempt to use direct artillery to halt the German offensive. Ramsey, knowing the weight of Conner’s previous contributions and his pending return home, reluctantly agreed.

“No words can express the outstanding leadership qualities that Lt. Conner had,” the late Ramsey wrote. “(He was) always willing to do more than his part.”

Conner had built a reputation as an expert scout and marksman. The soldier from the Bluegrass State had earned the respect of his fellow soldiers by fearlessly confronting the enemy and taking dangerous missions. Maurice Williams, a soldier who served under Conner, said Conner’s background as a Kentucky outdoorsman helped prepare him to go undetected in combat. Raised on a farm during the Depression era, Conner learned to become a skilled marksman and hunter.

“He could go through the woods unnoticed,” Haddix, the family friend, said. “And if a squirrel (was) in a tree somewhere and move its tail, he could see it.”

While other soldiers would go on night scouting missions with team members, Conner operated alone.

Conner had fostered such a respect from his fellow soldiers, and had performed with such distinction, that he earned a battlefield commission at Anzio. Conner, along with the highly-decorated Murphy, both served in the 3rd Infantry Division, which suffered more casualties than any other during World War II.

“He always led from the front,” wrote Williams, who fought alongside Conner earlier in the war. “And his platoon felt safe following him.”

At about 8 a.m. on Jan. 24, a sudden barrage of light artillery swept on the American troops. Six German Panzer tanks emerged from the frigid air, flanked by a battalion of 600 German soldiers descending on K Company. The powerful, 9-foot tall tanks nearly spanned 27 feet across and 12 feet wide.

“The Americans, the Allies, had nothing like it,” said Luther Conner, President of Clinton County’s historical society. “It was the most potent war weapon at that time. It was just a monster. It caused fear just for a soldier to see the size of it.”

Two thirds of the battalion pushed toward K Company, attempting to split and divide the Americans. A week earlier, a German Panzer division attacked Second Battalion’s 600 soldiers. About 100 returned to their units. Germans killed or took the remainder as prisoners.

Near Houssen, K Company faced similar odds. Conner knew his unit’s only chance in the wintry conditions rested in his hands. He needed to guide artillery fire on the Germans.

Conner saw the towering frames of German Panzers barrelling through the forest. Without a moment’s hesitation, the soldier sprinted straight toward tanks, carrying a telephone, radio, and wire reel.

Conner uncoiled the wire as exploding shells and wood splinters from the surrounding woods showered upon him. Conner ran nearly 400 yards toward the enemy, ignoring warnings from his unit, said Chilton.

He did not stop until he had advanced 30 yards past the American Infantry front line.

There, in a shallow ditch beneath the January snow, Conner planted himself before the oncoming German fire. And for three hours, Conner laid like immovable rock under a violent wave, directing artillery rounds onto the German infantry. As swarm after swarm of German soldiers came like an avalanche upon him, Conner, barked directions and coordinates to battalion headquarters.

“Although he was in a prone position, the ditch only covered part of his body,” wrote 1st Lt. Harold Wigetman, who served as the S-3 in 3rd Battalion. “He was wedged in there so tight, that it was almost impossible for him to move or shift his position.”

The Germans soon grew aware of the lone figure in the snow guiding the American artillery. German soldiers began to swarm and surround Conner and the Americans. The German army mounted a final surge to overwhelm the American forces.

Conner, seeing the enemy close, made a lasting, drastic choice to defeat the German infantry.

Conner directed American artillery rounds toward his position, and the surrounding Germans. As the enemy attack continued to unfurl, Conner put himself in peril so that his unit could achieve victory.

“He cared about his men more than he cared about himself,” Chilton said.

With bullets flying toward him from both directions, Conner never wavered. At one point, a German soldier ran within five yards of Conner clutching a grenade before an American stopped him. Haddix said Conner dispatched German soldiers with his submachine gun.

“With icy self-control, he kept telephoning his directions,” Wigetman wrote, “although he must have seen that the (Germans) would have killed him before he could get on his feet.”

The American onslaught led by Conner overwhelmed the German attack. By the time the final rounds fell, Conner’s actions had resulted in killing 50 German soldiers and leaving more than 150 wounded. American munitions destroyed the six German tanks.

“I saw elements waver … their fighting spirit broken by the deadly concentration of (American) fire,” Wigetman wrote.

Conner paid a heavy toll for his valor during the war. The injury to his left hip would hamper his mobility for the rest of his life. Like many veterans of his generation, Conner did not think highly of anything he had achieved in Europe, his wife said.

“He was always very humble,” Pauline said. “He did what he felt like he had to do to protect our freedom to vote and our freedom of speech, which we have truly earned from what he did and others like him.”

Ramsey called Conner the greatest combat soldier he had ever seen. Troops who remembered him noted Conner’s cool resolve under the most difficult conditions.

Wrote Williams in his journal, “I had such confidence in (Lt.) Conner. I would have followed him anywhere he wanted to go.”

New beginning

In the years after Conner’s heart attack in 1979, he found a new calling. He listened with concern to stories of soldiers who had not received their veteran’s affairs benefits. Some servicemen struggled with living expenses after they left the service.

Conner and his wife would drive across Clinton County’s 196 square miles of rolling hills and farmland to meet with vets. They extended their travels to 10 neighboring counties. Once a month they would place their paperwork and a suitcase in their Buick sedan and travel to veterans’ homes or meet them at their office in the courthouses. Pauline acted as his secretary, fielding phone calls and helping her husband coordinate his appointments with the veterans in need.

The night episodes continued through the years, Pauline said. And Conner still struggled to sleep on some nights. But helping other veterans, she said, helped him find peace.

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange
Garlin Conner sits with his wife, Pauline, during the early years of their marriage.


“(Assisting veterans) became his life,” Paul said.

But listening to the tales of other soldiers and hearing about their struggles awakened a longing in Conner he thought that he had long buried.

Throughout his four years in the Army, Conner’s concerns rested with his soldiers, never seeking personal glory, but always on the lookout for how he could help, whether scouting the enemy position, or finding ways to help retired vets file their military records. But hearing their stories, Pauline said, she noticed for the first time regret.

That regret became clear in 1996, his wife said.

Chilton, a former Army Green Beret from Wisconsin, wrote a letter to Conner in search of information on his late uncle, Pfc. Gordon Roberts, who was killed after landing at Anzio. Conner, no longer able to speak or write, invited Chilton to his Albany home.

Chilton visited Conner on a fall day in 1996. He sat with Conner in the family living room, and asked him questions about his uncle and the war, while Conner nodded his answers from his wheelchair.

Chilton learned that Conner had indeed served with his uncle, and that Conner had carried his uncle in his last moments to a medical aid station. Conner, reliving a moment from 50 years prior, began to weep.

Pauline suggested that she could sort through her husband’s old war records to search for documentation of Roberts’ service. She carried her husband’s weathered, military green duffel bag out of the living room closet and pulled out old paperwork, records and medals contained inside a cardboard box.

As Chilton skimmed through the pages, his eyes widened. Chilton saw the decorations: the Purple Hearts and Bronze Star and Silver Stars. The Kentucky native had participated in eight major campaigns and had been wounded in each of the countries he toured.

“My God,” a stunned Chilton said to Pauline. “This man should have been awarded the Medal of Honor.”

Chilton, feeling sudden inspiration, asked Pauline and Garlin if he could pursue an application for the medal on Murl’s behalf. Pauline turned to her husband.

“I looked at [Garlin],” she said. “And he was looking at me so straight with tears in his eyes.”

Conner nodded his head yes. After 50 years, he was finally ready to apply for the honor that he had for so long been reluctant to seek.

Lifetime bond

“He’s my hero,” Pauline said, sitting in the Conner family’s living room, clutching the brown picture frame holding her husband’s black and white service photo. “He always has been.”

Wearing a black blazer and rose-colored blouse, her once-blonde locks have faded into gray. Now 89 years old, her voice wavers when she talks about the life of her late husband. She fondly recalls his humility and his quiet way of voicing his approval.

Finally, she talks about that spring night in 1945, when she and Garlin slipped away from Clinton County in his convertible with nothing but a homemade dress to get married at a courthouse in Rossville, Georgia. They would stop at a neighboring town on the way to Georgia to purchase clothing for Pauline. Pauline said Garlin’s patience and understanding swayed her to marry him after two weeks of dating.

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange
Army veteran Garlin Conner (left) retreated to working on a tobacco farm following his military service in World War II.



Though their early marriage suffered the occasional bumps, Pauline stood by her husband’s side for more than five decades. Conner suffered a heart attack in 1979, after falling ill riding on the tractor. He underwent open heart surgery later that year, and a second surgery 11 years later.

In the years before his death, Garlin had battled numerous illnesses, including kidney failure, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. He suffered a stroke that left him bedridden and no longer able to speak. Pauline took on the role of caretaker, cooking his meals and driving him to his medical appointments. She took a part-time job for additional income.

Conner passed mercifully on a November day in 1998. He was 79.

“The last few years my dad was alive, he wasn’t really alive,” Paul said. “It progressively got worse. I wish I hadn’t have had to see that part of it. But we can’t choose how we’re going to live and how the last days are going to be.”

At the Weldon Haddix Funeral home along Business Route 127 in Albany, hundreds waited in line to view Conner’s remains. In the rectangular, brick building nestled between local businesses on the north side of Albany, farmers, neighbors and veterans paid their respects. Veterans whom Conner had helped approached Pauline to express their gratitude for Conner’s assistance years ago. Neighboring farmers whom Conner helped as president of the Clinton County Farm Bureau also attended. To this day, Pauline said, veterans still greet her.

“They come up and hug me for what I’ve done, for what [Garlin] has done,” Pauline said. “And I always hug them and tell them I love every one of them.”

Conner’s acts left a lasting impression on Ramsey. The two remained in touch for decades through letters and phone calls. Ramsey later retired as a major general and suffered five combat wounds during his time in service. He encouraged Conner to apply for the medal over the years, Pauline said. But each time, Conner declined and the medals and decorations remained mostly untouched inside the duffel bag, in the living room closet.

Ramsey, whose 34-year career spanned three wars, wrote in 2006: “One of the most disappointing regrets of my career is not having the Medal of Honor awarded to the most outstanding soldier I’ve had the privilege of commanding.” The Army medically retired Ramsey in 1974.

A final plea

Chilton continued to press on Conner’s application for the Medal of Honor, writing letters and contacting politicians.

New evidence had been uncovered by Congressman Ed Whitfield’s office in the National Archives in Washington, including three eyewitness accounts written by fellow soldiers who fought on the front lines with Conner. The three affidavits painted in vivid detail accounts of Conner’s acts in January 1945. But even the affidavits would not be enough.

The Army Board for Correction of Military Records rejected Chilton’s original application for Conner’s eligibility for the medal. Haddix assembled a legal team, headed by Dennis Shepherd of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs as lead trial counsel, and included Luther Conner, who also serves as the Conner family’s lawyer, to begin work on a lawsuit which was filed in federal court. That lawsuit would obtain a ruling ordering the Board to grant Pauline a new hearing and to consider the new evidence.

In 2014, U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell ruled that the statute of limitations to correct Conner’s military record had expired and that the family could no longer continue to seek the award.

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange
Garlin Conner took joy taking care of animals and working on his farm in southern Kentucky.


After the judge dismissed Pauline’s case in 2014, she said she had lost hope. She returned to Albany and resigned herself to the idea that her husband’s decorated service record would remain as it was, without the addition of the honor that Conner’s family and friends felt he deserved. Despite the backing of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, several generals and Congressman Ed Whitfield, Conner’s chances for the Medal dimmed.

But then, on March 2, 2015, Conner’s case reached a turning point at the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. During the appeal for Conner’s Medal of Honor bid, Assistant U.S. Attorney Candace Hill was assigned to represent the government’s stance against Conner’s case. For 15 minutes, Hill defended the Army’s previous stance during the proceedings, saying the case should be left alone.

But then, in a closing moment of abject candor, Hill revealed her true feelings.

Hill broke into tears, as she discussed her father’s service as an officer in the same unit as Conner during World War II. She said her father suffered a severe leg injury on Jan. 25, 1945, one day after Conner’s heroic acts.

“For all I know,” she said. “Garlin Conner may have … helped save his life.”

Hill’s words, according to an Associated Press report, convinced the panel to submit Conner’s case to a federal mediator. The mediator then directed the ABCMR to grant a new hearing and to consider all evidence, including the recently discovered eyewitness accounts. The following October, the Board granted “full relief” to Pauline’s request to upgrade Conner’s Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor.

Still, Conner’s bid for the medal needed further approval from the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of Defense, and the president.

Last March, Pauline received a call from a military officer at the Pentagon who told her to expect an important phone call from a high-ranking DOD official regarding her husband. Could this be the phone call she had been waiting for? It must be a trick, Pauline thought, and she called Luther Conner, the family’s attorney, to confirm its validity. When Luther gave his assurances, Pauline still asked Luther, and his wife Susan, to sit with her for the important call.

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange
Garlin Conner’s grave sits in Memorial Hill Cemetery in Albany, Kentucky.


The following Monday the phone rang.

“Is this Lyda Conner?” asked a man with a gruff, New York accent.

“I go by Pauline,” she said.

“You sound just like an old country gal,” the man said.

“I am,” Pauline said, soon realizing the caller was the president.

“It’s a beautiful place down there where you live,” President Trump said.

“Yes it is,” Pauline said, as she sat in the family’s tidy living room, amid family photos of Conner, her son, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Outside, redbirds chirped in the cool spring air.

“You are the widow of Lieutenant Garlin Conner?” Trump asked.

“I am,” she confirmed.

After a brief exchange of pleasantries, Trump said, “Well I’ve got some good news for you. He has a wonderful military record — one of the best I’ve ever seen. I am going to award him the Medal of Honor.”

The news soon spread to the rest of the Conner family, Conner’s legal team and Clinton County’s residents. Chilton, who spent much of his own time and money on Conner’s journey, could breathe a sigh of relief. Chilton traveled across the country in his quest to bring the Medal of Honor to the Conner family. He’d conducted dozens of interviews with former veterans who knew Conner. Nearly all have since passed. Chilton also penned what he said could be hundreds of hand-written letters to congressmen and to the Army.

A 22-year quest for a man who left everything on the battlefield had finally ended. Conner will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony June 26.

“It gets you kind of numb, you know?” Chilton said. “It sinks in and you understand it. You realize how long you’ve been after it and how long you’ve been doing it. I was just kind of numb … I felt good for him. I felt good for his wife; she suffered through all this stuff. I felt good for (Paul). They’ll all know this forever: (he’s) a hero.”

Pauline was asked what she thought her husband would say if he was still alive. Pauline thought for a moment. And she recalled how her husband might not want the honor, and might brush it aside once more. He might defer credit to the men he fought alongside. But Pauline said she sensed her husband’s attitude toward the honor had changed during his waning years. She remembered his regret in the 1996 meeting with Chilton.

Maybe, Conner might just tip his cap, and smile.

“More than anything I miss him,” Pauline said wistfully. “And I wish he was here so he could go get the Medal himself. Because I think he would have been proud of it. I know he would have.”

“I always kept thinking he didn’t want it in his younger days. And he didn’t really. … When he got older, he wished he had.”

The story of Garlin Conner doesn’t lie in his heroic acts or in his courage under the grimmest of odds. His family says it lies in his unending desire to help others, whether guiding soldiers on the battlefields of Western Europe, or helping veterans in the rolling hills of Clinton County, Kentucky.

Chilton, a military veteran of 20 years, traveled the world with both the U.S. Army and the Israeli Army during Desert Storm. Perhaps the Wisconsin resident put it best.

“I’ve traveled a lot and I’ve seen a lot,” Chilton said. “But I’ve never met anyone like Garlin Conner.”

Editor’s note: Garlin Murl Conner will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the White House June 26, 2018. President Trump will present the Medal to Conner’s widow, Pauline, at the ceremony.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Twin brothers use sibling bond to give back to their units

Many siblings serve together in the military, but not many are able to leverage their family ties to give back and further their units. For the Vetere brothers, they are leveraging each other’s experience in their different units to initiate and implement additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3D printing, to their respective units.

Twin brothers, U.S. Navy Lt. Adam Vetere and U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Mark Vetere, are natives of Andover, Massachusetts. Adam, currently serving as a Civil Engineer Corps officer assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1, is working with Chief Utilitiesman Justin Walker and Electronics Technician 1st Class James Merryman to implement additive manufacturing into daily battalion operations.


Mark, currently assigned to Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31, has been implementing additive manufacturing to his unit for nearly two years. Now Adam is planning to implement the technology into NMCB-1 operations.

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange

“At first I volunteered for the position because of my personal interest in learning about 3D printing; I think it has great potential in the Naval Construction Force,” said Adam. “Knowing my brother was the 3D printing representative for his command made it easier to get involved because I knew from the start I could learn a lot from him.”

With Mark and his team’s experience, the opportunity presented itself for NMCB-1 to send their additive manufacturing team to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, to discuss best practices, learn about printing capabilities, training programs and new policy being implemented into the different services.

“We were able to leverage our close relationship as twins to be able to skip passed a lot of the formalities and get straight to business,” said Adam. “It was easy to have full and open conversations about program strengths, weaknesses, policy shortfalls, lessons learned and areas of improvement. It was extremely beneficial.”

“It was eye-opening,” said Walker. “It gave us ideas on how we can implement this technology into our processes by seeing how they are currently operating. This opens up great potential for future interoperability.”

For the twin brothers, the military first drew their attention back in high school.

“I wanted to join the military, and our parents wanted us to go to college,” said Adam. “I feel like we made a good compromise and decided to apply for one of the service academies.”

Both brothers graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2015, though Adam was initially denied when he first applied.

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange

U.S. Naval Academy.

“I just knew it was somewhere I wanted to go,” said Adam. “Knowing my brother would be there with me was the great part of it.”

Adam describes serving in the military as a lifestyle he and his brother enjoy sharing.

“We both love serving and love the lifestyle that is the military so we hope to continue it,” said Adam. “It’s nice to be able to have such a close relationship with someone that knows all the acronyms, jargon, processes and challenges that go into the military lifestyle. That certainly has made things easier.”

When asked about his parents and their thoughts on both him and his brother serving together, Adam chuckles with his response.

“I think they are proud of us, or at least I hope,” said Adam.

The twin brother’s decision to join the military came about in part because of a visit their parents took them on to New York City in 2001.

“Our parents took us to Ground Zero in 2001 around Thanksgiving time,” said Adam. “I was only nine at the time but I still have an image burned into my head of the rubble I saw from the end of the street that day. At the time I imagine I had little idea of what I was looking at, but as I got older growing up in a post 9/11 United States certainly played a role in being drawn to the military.”

Both brothers look forward to their future assignments in their respective branches. Mark was selected to attend Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and Adam recently accepted orders to Naval Special Warfare Group 1 Logistics Support Unit 1 in Coronado, California.

This article originally appeared on United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

popular

These guys made an epic D-Day model with Legos

Lego lovers are known for their massive, over-the-top recreations of everything from The Wall from Game of Thrones to the battles and spaceships of Star Wars, but three big “brickheads,” Dan Siskind, Yitsy Kasowitz, and Cody Ossell, debuted a recreation of the beaches of Normandy on D-Day+1 at a large Lego convention in 2016 — to massive acclaim.


www.youtube.com

The beach scene features everything from tanks to mortars to ships and sea, as well as landing vehicles moving back and forth, ferrying supplies.

A medical unit treats wounded troops in one section while other soldiers move German prisoners across the sand.

The brick display features obstacles and fortifications, but wasn’t made to be perfectly accurate to history. For one, not everything is to scale. Most of the armored vehicles are nearly as tall as the cliffs they’re moving towards — and there’s a mermaid on the Landing Ship, Tank. The hippos in the water are probably incorrect, too, but we couldn’t tell you for sure as our zoologist is out sick today.

Check out the video above to see the map rooms, bunkers, and spent shells hiding in their complex, massive design.

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange
A wide shot of the D-Day+1 scene created for Brickmania 2016 showing Allied forces landing on the beaches of Normandy and pushing inland.
(Screenshot via Beyond the Brick YouTube)

 

The LST portion of the build is particularly impressive and has ranks of trucks waiting for their chance to drive down to the beach with towed artillery, supplies, and water tanks. Anti-aircraft crews man guns across the uppermost levels, and there’s even a signalman directing traffic on the deck.

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange
Canadian troops guard German prisoners on the day after D-Day, June 7, 1944.
(Library and Archives of Canada)

 

Some of the scenes in the Lego creation are more accurate than the men in the video imagined, like the troops guarding German prisoners. The interviewer and one of the creators go back and forth about whether it was likely that German prisoners would still be on the beach, but some Canadian troops spent the early hours of June 7, you guessed it, guarding German prisoners.

Still, it’s doubtful that Captain America was in attendance.

Articles

This filmmaker is the first Post-9/11 vet to be nominated for an Oscar

Henry Hughes deployed twice to Afghanistan as an airborne infantry officer and is now hoping his debut short film, “Day One” will bring home an Oscar on February 28.


VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange

Day One, which follows a female Afghan-American interpreter named Feda on her first day of patrols in Afghanistan, is Hughes’ first movie.

“I didn’t think it would happen this quickly,” Hughes told WATM about being nominated for an Oscar for his first film. “It’s a wonderful, serendipitous, golden ticket-type thing.”

In the film, the interpreter and the infantry platoon she works with go to the home of a suspected insurgent. At the house, the mission quickly gets complicated as the insurgent’s pregnant wife goes into labor. The interpreter, the platoon leader, and the insurgent all have to navigate the needs of the mother, the child, and the social and religious customs of Afghanistan.

It’s complicated stuff and very intense.

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange
Henry Hughes and his interpreter purchase items from a stall in Afghanistan during a deployment. (Photo courtesy Henry Hughes)

The story is inspired by real events, and most of the details come from Hughes’ experiences in Afghanistan with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. He decided to focus on the interpreter instead of the platoon leader so the movie would feel fresh to audiences used to seeing things from a soldier’s point of view.

“On my second tour I had a female interpreter,” he said. “She is an American, an Afghan-American. And I kind of just realized that if I was going to tell a story about our community, about our experiences, we needed a new way to get into it.”

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange

Following this woman who was new to the war gave him a chance to show the dual nature of combat.

“I thought, maybe we hadn’t seen something that was as enlightening as some of the moments in combat felt to me,” Hughes said. “Very sublime, hyperbolic. Where things are beatiful and kind of harsh at the same time. And I thought a way to do that would be to go through this woman who has to deal with both these gender issues and the culture issues.”

Learn more about the movie at its website and check out the trailer below. “Day One” will be available as a streaming movie for rental or purchase March 15th on Vimeo.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mV3IgCTIDYkfeature=youtu.be

MIGHTY GAMING

Latest ‘Call of Duty’ game sparks  backlash for its depiction of Russia

Activision Blizzard’s latest “Call of Duty” game is facing a fierce backlash in the Russian media for its depiction of the Eurasian country.

Despite being praised by many Western video game publications since its release last week, the title has not gone down well in Russia, which features heavily in the game.

The game has received thousands of negative user reviews on the review aggregator Metacritic, with users — many of whom wrote in Russian — variously accusing it of misrepresenting and even slandering the country.

On Metacritic, the average rating given by users to the PlayStation 4 version of the game at the time of writing stood at just 3.4 out of 10.


One user, writing in both English and Russian, demanded that Activision “return me my money,” another accused it of “Russophobia,” while a third accused Activision Blizzard of “demonizing Russia.”

Russian media outlets have also reportedly criticized the game. According to the BBC, the state TV channel Rossiya 24 released a four-minute report criticizing “Call of Duty,” while a prominent Russian blogger branded the game “too much” in a tweet Oct. 29, 2019, and called for Russian gamers to “boycott it and show some respect for themselves.”

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange

The game has received positive reviews from professional critics in spite of the backlash.

(“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare”/Activision)

Most of the controversy seems to stem from the game’s “Highway of Death” mission, which sees players advance along a highway while sniping at Russian forces.

Users have said the highway depicted in the mission resembles a real-life road called Highway 80, which links the Iraqi city of Basra and the Kuwaiti town of Al Jahra. The road was dubbed the “Highway of Death” in the 1990s because of its prominent role in the Gulf War.

This isn’t the only controversy Activision Blizzard has faced in recent weeks. The firm is receiving ongoing criticism for its decision to bar the esports professional Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai after he voiced pro-Hong Kong sentiments during a livestream.

Activision Blizzard did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider on the “Call of Duty” backlash. In a blog post last week, the firm described the game as “a fictional story that does not represent real-world events.”

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

The amazing reason Queen Elizabeth refused to sit on the Iron Throne

It’s not that she isn’t fond of games. Or that she isn’t fond of the show. Whatever she thinks of it, it employs upwards of thousands of her subjects. When Queen Elizabeth visited the set of HBO’s Game of Thrones and met with its producers and cast, she refused to have a seat on the now-legendary chair.

She just wasn’t allowed.


VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange

“What a charming prop,” she probably thought, thinking of her many, many actual thrones in her real-life palaces.

What Game of Thrones fans among us haven’t thought about getting a photo of themselves sitting in the chair that rightfully belongs to King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm? When offered the chance for herself, Queen Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of this Realm and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, declined.

Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss and cast members Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), Kit Harington (Jon Snow), Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), and Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) were left a little surprised. The Queen was very polite about the subject, but it was a polite refusal.

It turns out, the Queen of England can’t just sit on any throne she wants to.

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange

Unless it somehow *becomes* hers, I suppose. #Loopholes.

An old, old tradition really does prohibit the reigning English monarch from even sitting on a foreign throne. Note: This is not an actual law preventing the practice, it’s just a good practice that she’s carried on from the days of yore. While the Queen’s position is more of a ceremonial one these days, in some places, a King or Queen may actually wield the power of the state and sitting on the throne could be considered an act of aggression. When Kings and Queens meet, it seems like sitting only on appropriate chairs is just good practice.

So avoiding the fictional Iron Throne was probably just good practice. The 92-year-old monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland doesn’t need a special chair to feel important like the rest of us peasants.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force has selected bases for its future stealth bomber

On Nov. 16, 2018, the Air Force announced the first two bases that will host its new, highly advanced bomber for testing and maintenance.

The service said in a release that Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma would coordinate maintenance and sustainment for the B-21 Raider and that Edwards Air Force Base in California had been picked to lead testing and evaluation of the next generation long-range strike bomber.

Robins Air Force Base in Georgia and Hill Air Force Base in Utah will support Tinker with maintaining and, when necessary, overhauling and upgrading the new bomber, the Air Force said.


Personnel at those bases will be equipped to rebuild the aircraft’s parts, assemblies, or subassemblies as well as to test and reclaim equipment as necessary for depot activations.

The first B-21 is expected to be delivered in the mid-2020s.

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange

A B-2A stealth bomber at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma during a visit on April 11, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Greg L. Davis)

The release noted the “deep and accomplished history” of the Air Logistics Complex of the Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker and said officials believe the base has the knowledge and expertise to support the new bomber.

“With a talented workforce and decades of experience in aircraft maintenance, Tinker AFB is the right place for this critical mission,” Air Force Secretary Heather A. Wilson said.

Edwards Air Force Base is also home to the Air Force Test Center, which leads the service’s testing and evaluation efforts.

“From flight testing the X-15 to the F-117, Edwards AFB in the Mohave Desert [sic] has been at the forefront of keeping our Air Force on the cutting edge,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said. “Now testing the B-21 Raider will begin another historic chapter in the base’s history.”

Air Force Brig. Gen. Carl Schaefer, head of the 412th Test Wing at Edwards, said in 2018 that the B-21 would be tested at the base. Few details about the B-21’s development have been released, and previous reports suggested it could be tested at the Air Force’s secretive Area 51 facility.

VA will drop the fight against Navy vets affected by Agent Orange

A B-1B Lancer bomber awaits maintenance at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, Jan. 27, 2017

(US Air Force photo by Greg L. Davis)

The B-21 acquisition cycle is currently in the engineering and manufacturing-development phase, the Air Force said. The Raider’s design and development headquarters is at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Melbourne, Florida.

The Air Force expects to buy about 100 of the new bomber, with each cost over 0 million, according to Air Force Times.

The Air Force said in May 2018 that once the new bombers begin arriving they will head to three bases in the US — Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.

The service said those bases were “reasonable alternatives” for the new bomber, although it will likely not make a final basing decision until 2019.

The B-21 is to replace the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers at those bases, but the Air Force doesn’t plan to retire the existing bombers until there are enough B-21s to replace them.

Using existing bomber bases would reduce operational impact, lower overhead, and minimize costs, the Air Force said in May. “Our current bomber bases are best suited for the B-21,” Wilson said at the time.

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

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