VA study shows video games can help with mental health issues - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

VA study shows video games can help with mental health issues

A recent study with a small sample of veterans trying to recover from mental health issues found that video games can help in overcoming such problems as PTSD and substance abuse disorders.

The researchers concluded that although the impact of video games may vary based on the user, clinicians may wish to discuss video game play with their patients to help them “optimize their use of games to support recovery.”

“Gameplay may promote a mindfulness-like psychological [escape] but can also provide users with benefits of confidence, social connection, personal growth, and opportunities for employment or even leadership,” the researchers wrote. “These benefits are accessible to people with disabilities for whom traditional treatments, leisure activities, or social interactions may be challenged by circumstances or limitations. Games could be implemented in large populations very inexpensively, thus acting as potentially very cost-effective recovery supports or mental health treatments.”


Some of the participants, the researchers also note, described using video games to “distract from overwhelming symptoms, including suicidal thoughts and drug or alcohol use.”

VA study shows video games can help with mental health issues

The study included 20 veterans — 15 men and five women — who ranged in age from 25 to 62. Sixteen of the 20 vets reported they had PTSD or trauma-related symptoms. Most of the participants said they had more than one current mental or behavioral health diagnosis, with PTSD and depression being the most common combination. Three people had more than one type of trauma, such as combat — or training-related trauma, military sexual trauma, or childhood sexual abuse.

Dr. Michelle Colder Carras, a public health researcher, led the study, which appeared in November 2018 in the journal Social Science Medicine. With extensive research experience in video game play and in mental health recovery, she interviewed the veterans on the value of the games. (She shares that she’s also played video games herself and has recovered from her own mental health problem.)

VA study shows video games can help with mental health issues

In the study, the video game genres included sports, puzzles, gambling, role-player action, fantasy settings, and shooter games. But Colder Carras emphasizes that the genre or specific game isn’t what necessarily helped with recovery. The benefits, she says, stemmed more from the connections the veterans made with other video game players; the distractions they created for themselves by playing the games and removing their focus, for example, from alcohol or drugs; and the meaning they derived from the games.

“Meaning derived from game narratives and characters, exciting or calming gameplay, and opportunities to connect, talk, and lead others were credited as benefits of gaming,” the researchers write. “Responses often related closely to military or veteran experiences. At times, excessive use of games led to life problems or feeling addicted, but some veterans with disabilities felt the advantages of extreme play outweighed these problems.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Baseball Hall of Famer and Army vet Tommy Lasorda passes away at 93

If you’re a Dodgers fan, you know the name Tommy Lasorda. An icon of the team, Lasorda coached the Dodgers from 1973 to 1976 when he took over as manager. He managed the Dodgers from 1976 to 1996 and was still a regular sight at Dodger Stadium from then on. He served as their Vice-President, interim General Manager, Senior Vice-President, and Special Advisor to the Chairman. Lasorda was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager in 1997. On January 7, 2021, he died of a sudden cardiopulmonary arrest.

Hailing from Norristown, Pennsylvania, Lasorda graduated high school in 1944. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies the next year and began his professional career with the Concord Weavers in the Class D North Carolina State League. However, he put his baseball career on pause to serve in the military. He served on active duty in the Army from October 1945 to the spring of 1947. During his time in the service, Lasorda was stationed at Ft. Meade, Maryland. As a result, he missed out on the 1946 and 1947 seasons.

VA study shows video games can help with mental health issues
Lasorda shows President George H. W. Bush around Dodgers Stadium (George H. W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum)

Following his Army service, Lasorda returned to baseball. He played for teams like the Schenectady Blue Jays, the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Montreal Royals, the Kansas City Athletics and the New York Yankees. He closed out his playing career in 1960 as the winningest pitcher in the history of the Royals with a record of 107-57. For this, he was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

In 1960, Lasorda was hired as a scout for the Dodgers. He went on to manage in their rookie and minor leagues until 1973. It was then that he was called up to become the third-base coach on the staff of Hall of Fame manager Walter Alston. Though Lasorda was offered several major league managing jobs with other teams, he turned them all down to remain with the Dodgers. In 1976, following Alston’s retirement, Lasorda took up the torch and became the Dodgers manager. During his tenure, he compiled a 1,599-1,439 record as manager, won two World Series championships, four National League pennants, and eight division titles.

Despite officially retiring in 1996, Lasorda managed the U.S. national team at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and led them to gold. He also coached the 2001 All-Star Game as third-base coach. Lasorda remained active with baseball and the Dodgers scouting, evaluating, and teaching minor league players, advising the Dodgers’ international affiliations, and representing the team in public appearances and speaking engagements. He also visited troops at over 40 military installations around the world and took part in the 2009 USO Goodwill tour for troops in Iraq. “I bleed Dodger blue,” Lasorda famously said, “and when I die, I’m going to the big Dodger in the sky.”

MIGHTY MONEY

4 tips for buying your first car as a junior troop

Purchasing your first car is a minefield filled with predatory lenders and scams. Young troops, unfortunately, fall victim to these bloodsuckers every year because they do not know of the special offers and protections available to them. It’s exciting to be on the lot, test driving your potential steed, but knowing the pitfalls that lurk in those lots will save you and your wallet a lot of grief.

It’s your first car and having your finances accounted for will make it easier when the additional expenses of maintenance, insurance, gas, and registration come into play. You wouldn’t go into battle without ammunition and you should equally not venture onto a lot without knowing your credit score, pre-approval amount, and potential financial threats.

Here are 4 tips for identifying and preventing scams targeting you, a junior troop, as you shop for your first car.


VA study shows video games can help with mental health issues

The “refusing pre-approved checks” scam

You found it. It’s the perfect car to take you from base to places where knife hands and regulation haircuts do not exist, but there is one problem: the dealer doesn’t want to accept your pre-approved check from your lender (bank). They may try to spin something along the lines of, “I don’t trust those, I’ve been scammed before.” They’re playing the victim; don’t believe them. Their next move will be to convince you to sign a financing agreement with them instead, effectively scamming you into a higher APR loan.

Walk off that lot and never look back. You don’t need that evil put on you, Ricky Bobby.

VA study shows video games can help with mental health issues

The “you have bad credit” scam

As a young troop, you probably don’t have a credit history at all, which is a double-edged sword. The positive is that lenders will give you the benefit of the doubt. Why? Well, because of your service, you’re easy to find and collect from if you become delinquent on payments. So, if a dealer says you have bad credit when you know, for a fact, that you don’t, it’s another scam waiting to happen.

We’re willing to bet that the dealer will tell you your only option for approval is to finance through them at a ridiculously high rate. The solution here is the same as before — walk.

VA study shows video games can help with mental health issues

The “buy here, pay here” financing scam

In this scam, the dealer will promise that you’re going to get a sweet APR if you finance through him, but the application process takes a few weeks. He’s a nice guy, though, so he’ll let you take the car home while everything finalizes. He’s trusting you, but then, once those weeks pass, he calls you with bad news: the loan was denied, and you’re forced to pay a much higher APR or lose that car.

The best defense against this scam is shop around for different lenders, get pre-approved, and don’t accept any unknowns. Do not let dealers talk you into something you’ll regret later. Not all “buy here, pay here” offers are scams, but why take the risk when the alternative is clear as day?

The “price is too good to be true” scam

There are advantages to buying directly from a person instead of a dealer, like a faster turnaround or a better deal. But keep your head on a swivel because you’ll also leave yourself open to other risks and scam artists. As always, if in doubt, bring a friend. With some information and a properly calibrated BS meter, a troop can venture into the unknown unafraid.

The ‘price is too good to be true’ is when a victim sees a car they want to purchase online and it’s priced well below market value. Usually, it’s a classic or an exotic car — something to entice the victim to overlook a few details. The scam artist states that they’re out of the country with the vehicle (for one reason or another), but they’ll ship the car to you — but only after they receive your payment. The scam artist will make it seem like they’re the one at risk.

Once the scammer receives your money, they will cease speaking to you and disappear. Surprise!

The lesson here? Always make purchases in person and be wary of wire transfers and money orders. And, as always, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

If you feel like you have fallen victim or see a scam targeting your brothers-in-arms, you can report the car-buying scam at Fraud.org

Articles

Navy’s newest destroyer “Zumwalt” broken down in Panama Canal

The Navy’s newest destroyer, USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), broke down while transiting the Panama Canal and is now pierside at the former Rodman Naval Station awaiting repairs. The destroyer suffered what USNI News reports as “minor cosmetic damage” as a result of the engineering failure.


According to the USNI News report, the destroyer’s engineering casualty was caused by water induction in bearing for the ship’s Advanced Induction Motors, which are driven by the ship’s gas turbines, and which generate the electric power to turn the two shafts on the vessel. The Advanced Induction Motors also provide electrical power for the ship’s systems.

VA study shows video games can help with mental health issues
USS Zumwalt is floated out of dry dock. (U.S. Navy, October 28, 2013)

The water induction caused both shafts to stop, and the Zumwalt had to receive assistance from tugboats to complete its transit of the canal. The vessel had mechanical problems in September, prior to its commissioning on Oct. 15 of this year. In both the September incident and this one, the apparent cause seems to be leaks in the ship’s lube oil coolers. The destroyer also took a hit when the Long-Range Land Attack Projectile for its Advanced Gun Systems was cancelled due to rising costs.

The Zumwalt is not the only vessel to have had engineering problems. Since late 2015, at least five Littoral Combat Ships have also had engineering issues, and the Navy’s new aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), has had trouble with its flight systems, including the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), the weapons elevators and the ship’s radar systems, including the AN/SPY-3 radar.

USS Zumwalt is slated to remain in Panama for ten days while the repairs are affected. It will then head to San Diego, where it will spend most of next year spinning up its weapon systems. In addition to the Advanced Gun Systems, the destroyer also has two Mk 44 30mm Bushmaster chain guns, and twenty four-cell Mk 57 vertical-launch systems (VLS). The ship can also carry two MH-60 helicopters.

Two sister ships to USS Zumwalt, USS Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001) and USS Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG 1002), are under construction. The class was originally planned to consist of 32 ships.

Articles

USMC versus Peoples Liberation Army Marine Corps in the South China Sea

With tensions in the South China Sea simmering — and getting hotter (the People’s Liberation Army Navy stole an American underwater drone) — the chances that America and China could come to blows are increasing. The fight could very likely be a naval-air fight, but there could also be the need for something not really seen since the Korean War: amphibious assaults.


The United States has the world’s preeminent military force in that capacity: The United States Marine Corps.

The People’s Republic of China turns to the People’s Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps for its needs in this area. These two forces are similar in that both have a mission to deploy by sea to carry out operations on land.

The Chinese force, though, consists of two brigades in the South China Sea area, totaling 12,000 active-duty personnel, according to GlobalSecurity.org. Calling up reserves could boost the force to 28,000.

That force is arguably outmatched by the USMC’s III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), based out of Okinawa. A typical MEF has over 50,000 Marines, and features both a division and an air wing.

VA study shows video games can help with mental health issues
U.S. and Chinese Marines shoot the type-95 rifle in a joint training exercise. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jeremy J. Harper)

The Chinese Marines are equipped with armored vehicles, notably the Type 59 main battle tank and the Type 63A amphibious tank. The former is a knockoff of the Soviet T-55, carrying a 100mm gun.

The latter is an interesting design, equipped with a 105mm main gun, which holds 45 rounds, but capable of swimming to shore. China also has large stocks of Soviet-era PT-76 and indigenous Type 63 amphibious tanks in its inventory as well.

The Marines have the M1A1 Abrams tank, which is not amphibious. That said, this is a very tough tank that has deflected shells from more powerful tank guns from 400 yards. Against the Type 63A, it would easily survive a hit and then dispatch the tank that shot at it.

While the Type 63A can swim to a battlefield, it trades protection for that ability. The result is that its thin armor can be easily penetrated, and that is bad news for its crew.

VA study shows video games can help with mental health issues
Chinese Type 63A amphibious tank, complete with a 105mm main gun. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The tank disparity is not all that would hamper the Chinese Marines. The People’s Liberation Army Navy did not see fit to provide the Chinese Marines with any organic aviation. III Marine Expeditionary Force has the 1st Marine Air Wing, a powerful force that includes a squadron of F/A-18D Hornets, KC-130J tankers, and AH-1Z attack helicopters. That does not include units that rotate in from the United States, including AV-8B Harriers and F/A-18C Hornets.

In short, the United States Marine Corps brings in over 240 years of tradition, as well as far greater manpower, resources and capabilities. At present, if the United States wants China off of its unsinkable aircraft carriers, the American leathernecks would, in all likelihood, succeed.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These soldiers built 3 tanks in a night to face the entire Nazi ‘bulge’

On Dec. 18, 1944, Pfc. Harry Miller was cold, exhausted, and covered with grease. His hands were numb from the cold and he was bone tired after working all night. He and his fellow Soldiers from the 740th Tank Battalion had toiled around the clock to piece together three American tanks from an ordnance depot in Belgium.


With only the three refurbished tanks, Miller and the 740th was asked to stop the 1st SS Panzer Division, the German spearhead in the Battle of the Bulge.

Related video:

Even before the Germans launched their surprise Ardennes offensive that December, Miller was not thinking about Christmas. His only thought was on keeping warm, he said. Northern Europe had been gripped by record-breaking cold.

VA study shows video games can help with mental health issues

When the German tank columns first approached, Miller and his fellow Soldiers were in Neufchateau, Belgium, but they had no tanks. At the beginning of the battle, the 740th was ordered to proceed to an ordnance depot in nearby Sprimont. Miller was hopeful, as he believed tanks would be issued at the depot. However, upon arrival, there were no functional tanks.

Depot personnel had left town in a hurry, leaving all of their equipment and tools behind. Miller and the 740th worked throughout the night and by morning, three tanks and a tank destroyer rolled out the gate. They were ordered to Stoumont to stop the German advance.

Also read: This is the massive Nazi sneak attack at the Battle of the Bulge

The 740th’s three tanks faced the lead element of Battle Group Peiper and the 1st SS Panzer Division. One M-1 Sherman tank fired and destroyed a German Panther. A second Sherman destroyed a second German tank. A third tank, a restored M-36, destroyed a third German tank. With the three German tanks out of action, and the narrow road blocked, the attacking German column retreated. Thus, a few restored tanks within their first one-half hour of combat had turned the tide of the German attack.

Miller was part of a specialized unit. A few days later he crewed one of six Sherman tanks that formed the Assault Gun Platoon. His tank had a 105mm gun.

VA study shows video games can help with mental health issues

During much of the Battle of the Bulge his unit supported the 82nd Airborne Division.

Miller remembers the snowfall was especially heavy. Members of 82nd were cold and exhausted. Marching through four feet of snow was laborious. A few lucky Soldiers from the 82nd jumped on his tank to hitch a ride to avoid walking in the deep snow. Suddenly the tank took on enemy fire. When they heard audible dings from enemy bullets hitting the tank, the 82nd Soldiers scrambled off to take defensive positions.

The Battle of the Bulge lasted from Dec. 16, 1944 to Jan. 25, 1945. It was the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II. For the Americans, out of 610,000 troops involved in the battle, 89,000 were casualties. It was the largest and bloodiest battle fought by U.S. troops in World War II.

The 740th Tank Battalion was formed at Fort Knox, Kentucky, on March 1, 1943. It had mostly men from Texas and Oklahoma. They trained at Knox and at the Desert Training Center in Bouse, Arizona.

Leaders: 8 amazing facts about General Douglas MacArthur

Miller is a veteran of 22 years in the Army and Air Force. The Columbus, Ohio-native had always wanted to serve in the Army and enlisted at the age of 15 in 1944. Besides being a veteran of World War ll, he served in the Korean War with Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters, in the communications center.

VA study shows video games can help with mental health issues

Miller later served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War with the Strategic Air Command. He was in charge of codes and cryptology used for command missions, including bombing runs in Vietnam. He retired from the Air Force in January 1966 as a senior master sergeant and a communications operations superintendent.

Upon retirement, Miller worked as a private investigator, director of security and safety at St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and as a safety inspector at the University of Texas in Arlington, Texas, where he again retired in January 1989. He took up jazz and swing drumming lessons at age 69 to play with Seattle, Washington bands.

Miller, 89, resides at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, D.C. He laments that out of 800 Soldiers from the 740th, only six were able to attend this year’s reunion on Labor Day.

Miller said he is proud of all of his military service and wishes he could do it all over again. He advises Soldiers who are serving today to stay in and retire.

MIGHTY TRENDING

America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan

A US service member died in a non-combat incident in Afghanistan Sept. 4, 2018, marking the second American death in two days in the war-torn country.

The incident is currently under investigation, according to an Operation Resolute Support press statement that was decidedly short on details. The fallen’s name will be released 24 hours after the individual’s next of kin have been notified.


MIGHTY TRENDING

This Vietnam-era Marine received the Medal of Honor

President Donald Trump placed the Medal of Honor around the neck of retired Sgt. Maj. John Canley on Oct. 17, 2018. But, for the Vietnam War hero, it has always been about his Marines.

On Jan. 31, 1968, Canley and about 140 members of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, were charged with taking back Hue City at the start of the Tet Offensive. When their commanding officer was seriously injured, Canley, the company gunnery sergeant at the time, took control and led his men through what would become one of the bloodiest battles during the Vietnam War.


Their actions would serve as an important turning point in the conflict.

As Canley, now 80, and his men made their way into the city, enemy fighters “attacked them with machine guns, mortars, rockets and everything else they had,” Trump said.

“By the end of the day, John and his company of less than 150 Marines had pushed into the city held by at least 6,000 communist fighters,” he continued. “In the days that followed, John led his company through the fog and rain and in house-to-house, very vicious, very hard combat.

“He assaulted enemy strongholds, killed enemy fighters and, with deadly accuracy, did everything he had to do.”

VA study shows video games can help with mental health issues

President Donald Trump presents the Medal of Honor to retired Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. John Canley during an East Room ceremony at the White House on Oct. 17, 2018.

That included braving machine-gun fire multiple times in order to reach and move wounded Marines to safety, all while ignoring injuries of his own.

After five long days of fighting, Canley joined Sgt. Alfredo Gonzalez in charging a schoolhouse that had become a strategic stronghold for the communist fighters. The pair faced heavy machine-gun fire, but forged ahead with rocket launchers, driving the enemy from their position.

“The enemy didn’t know what the hell happened,” Trump said.

Gonzalez, who was killed, would be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Canley continued leading his Marines into the schoolhouse, where room-by-room they faced close-quarters combat until they were able to take it back from enemy control.

“John raced straight into enemy fire over and over again, saving numerous American lives and defeating a large group of enemy fighters,” Trump said. “But John wasn’t done yet.”

Despite sustaining serious injuries, he continued facing down the enemy in the days to come, the president added, personally saving the lives of 20 Marines in a display of “unmatched bravery.”

For his actions and leadership, he received the Navy Cross, his service’s second-highest award for bravery. But Canley’s Marines didn’t think that was enough.

VA study shows video games can help with mental health issues

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense inducts U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) John L. Canley into the Hall of Heroes during a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 18, 2018, after being awarded the Medal of Honor by the President.

(DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

They spent the past 13 years gathering interviews, first-person accounts and other materials needed to see their company gunny’s award upgraded to the only one they thought he deserved: the Medal of Honor. It was denied 10 times, but they persisted.

“For me personally, it was an act of love,” said former Pfc. John Ligato, one of Canley’s Marines and a retired FBI agent who led the fight to see the medal upgraded. Ligato attended Oct. 17, 2018’s Medal of Honor ceremony and said all he could do was sit back and smile.

The event brought dozens more Marines who fought alongside Canley and Gold Star family members who lost loved ones in the fight to Washington, D.C. Ligato said it gave the Marines and their families a chance to reconnect — including several who don’t typically attend reunions due to their injuries or post-traumatic stress.

Throughout the festivities meant to honor one man, Canley continues giving all the credit to his Marines, Ligato said. It’s “all he wants to talk about.”

“You have one of the most heroic people in our nation’s history who’s not only courageous and humble,” Ligato said, “but understands that the Marine Corps is not ‘I.’ It’s ‘we.’ “

Canley is the 300th Marine to receive the nation’s highest valor award for heroism on the battlefield. Seeing the retired sergeant major receive the Medal of Honor in his dress blues is something that should make every Vietnam veteran and every Marine proud, Ligato said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Sailors may dress according to preferred gender off duty, Navy says

With the upcoming April 12, 2019 start of a new Pentagon policy that will bar most transgender people from entering the military and restrict transgender medical transition for those not grandfathered in, the Navy has released additional guidance noting that sailors will be permitted to “live socially” in their preferred gender while not on duty, even if they must conform to the standards associated with their biological gender while in uniform.

“There is no policy that prohibits the ability of a service member to express themselves off-duty in their preferred gender,” officials said in a recently released Navy administrative message. “Appropriate civilian attire, as outlined in the uniform regulations, will not be determined based on gender.”

The guidance does add that deployed sailors may be restricted in off-duty attire choices “to meet local conditions and host-nation agreements with foreign countries” at the discretion of regional commanders and senior officers.


“All service members are expected to continue to treat each other with dignity and respect,” the message adds. “There is zero tolerance for harassment, hazing or bullying of any service member in any form.”

Officials have insisted that the Pentagon’s new policy — which was spurred by a series of tweets from President Donald Trump in 2017 — does not constitute a ban on transgender individuals in uniform. However, it does restrict those who have not obtained a waiver by April 12, 2019, to serve in their biological gender only, and requires prospective troops with a history of “gender dysphoria” to verify that they have had 36 months of stability in their biological gender and are willing to meet the standards associated with it to enter the military.

The Navy and the Marine Corps, which both released additional guidance ahead of the new policy taking effect, did clarify that currently serving transgender troops who are deployed or otherwise hindered from getting a waiver by the deadline may submit an exception-to-policy request.

“This request must be routed to the commanding officer by the service member no later than 12 April 2019 and must contain a presumptive diagnosis from a provider (e.g., independent duty corpsman or civilian provider),” the Navy message states.

That request must then be forwarded with an endorsement from the service member’s commanding officer and submitted up through the first flag or general officer in the chain of command.

Marines may obtain an extension via a request to the deputy commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, according to a Marine administrative message. The request must include a presumptive diagnosis from a civilian medical provider or independent duty corpsman and include a commanding officer’s endorsement.

VA study shows video games can help with mental health issues

(Department of Defense)

The policy set to take effect aligns closely with a February 2018 memo to the president authored by then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis following a policy review of the impact of transgender troops on “readiness and lethality.”

“In my professional judgment, these policies will place the Department of Defense in the strongest position to protect the American people, to fight and win America’s wars, and to ensure the survival and success of our service members around the world,” Mattis wrote.

Many in Congress, however, have been fiercely critical of the new policy, pointing out the honorable service of the estimated 9,000 transgender troops now serving and the relatively low cost to the Defense Department — estimated at under million — of providing them with medical care to date.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

How a Navy SEAL honored the fallen with ‘target art’

On Sept. 11, 2012, a retired SEAL sniper took a small team to Blackwater’s former facility in the swamps of Virginia where he shot at a target from 911 yards 79 times — once for every Naval Special Warfare casualty since 9-11, those killed in both combat and training.


VA study shows video games can help with mental health issues
Until It Hurts features the target with the 79 bullet holes highlighted in red. (Photo: Eric Wickham)

He sent the first round downrange at 8:46 AM, the time the first airliner hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center, in honor of Petty Officer First Class Neil Roberts — the first SEAL killed during the war in Afghanistan. The shot found the target, and the bullet hole was labeled with Roberts’ name by a volunteer spotter downrange.

“I’d take the shot, and they’d find the bullet hole,” the sniper recalled. “They’d write the name down next to the hole. I’d hand the brass to my wife who had the list of names and she’d label it. It was kind of a sacred process.”

VA study shows video games can help with mental health issues
Until It Hurts target artwork.

Several days after the shoot, the SEAL sniper’s wife convinced him to show the target to one of the contractors working on their house who had a brother who supposedly did “target art.” The SEAL Googled him — Ellwood T. Risk — and realized the guy was the real deal.

The contractor called his brother on the spot, and without hesitation the artist said, “I’m in; I’ll do it for free.”

Risk had been saving military-related front pages of major newspapers since 9-11, waiting for just such an opportunity. The result is a powerful piece of art called Until It Hurts.

Until It Hurts features the target with the 79 bullet holes highlighted in red. The target is flanked by the front pages with headlines announcing the news of the wars over the years. At the bottom of the piece the 79 names of the fallen are listed in chronological order.

Former Navy SEAL Jason Redman, a well-known wounded warrior, author, and founder of Wounded Wear, a company that specializes in providing free clothing to wounded vets, heard about the artwork and contacted Norfolk-area businessman Todd Grubbs, who eventually bought the piece at auction for $10,000. That money was put towards clothing for wounded vets and the Navy SEAL Foundation, a non-profit that funds education for the dependents of fallen SEALs.

Redman and Grubbs see the sale of the piece as just the beginning of its utility.

“The art should be perceived as a celebration of life,” said Grubbs, who has no desire to let Until It Hurts languish on a wall in his home.

“My biggest fear is we give guys clothing and they kill themselves in it,” Redman said. “We’re not helping them find their purpose. The American people aren’t helping. You see nothing on the news anymore. Even those we’re still losing guys. We have to keep the discussion going, to contextualize the sacrifice for the entire country. This artwork helps.”

VA study shows video games can help with mental health issues
Former Navy SEAL and vet entrepreneur Jason Redman addresses the audience following the premiere of Until It Hurts in Norfolk, Virginia. (Photo: Eric Wickham)

Among Grubbs’ business concerns is film production, so naturally he thought of turning the artwork and the events surrounding it into a film. He enlisted the help of director Scott Hanson and together they created Until It Hurts, which premiered in Norfolk, Virginia on Feb. 21.

“Doing this documentary gave me the chance to work with SEALs and learn more about their families and what they do,” Hanson said following the premiere. “It makes me way more appreciative that I can do what I do.”

“It hits everybody in different ways,” Redman said. “A wounded warrior sees one thing, a Gold Star family member sees something else, and a civilian sees something else. And that’s what’s so great about it.”

“This was the first showing to a civilian audience,” Jake Healy, son of Senior Chief Dan Healy who was killed when the Chinook attempting to extract four SEALs trapped on a mountain was hit by an RPG — a tragedy well-documented in Marcus Luttrell’s book Lone Survivor and the associated major motion picture. “Their response to the movie tonight was powerful and reassuring.”

“I hope it will…highlight the sacrifice of Americans who understand what it took to make this country.” Redman said.

You can watch the full documentary right here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjUgPYiM2gg
WATM field correspondent Briggs Carroll contributed to this article.
MIGHTY HISTORY

This top-secret supersonic drone was found in the Arizona desert

Most of what is lying around in the dusty expanse of the aircraft graveyards around Tucson, Arizona is readily identifiable and not entirely remarkable.

Ejection seats from old F-4 Phantoms. An old CH-53 helicopter hulk. An interesting find over there is a fuselage section of a Soviet-era MiG-23 Flogger. No idea how it got here. Other than that, it’s just long rows of old, broken, silent airplanes inside high fences surrounded by cactus, dust, sand and more sand. An errant aileron on a dead wing clunks quietly against the hot afternoon breeze as if willing itself back into the air. But like everything here, its days of flying are over.


But there… What is that strange, manta-ray shaped, dusty black thing lying at an angle just on the other side of that fence? It may be an old airfield wind vane or radar test model. But it also may be…

VA study shows video games can help with mental health issues
Lockheed D-21B at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

I had only read about it and seen grainy photos of it. I know it’s impossible. The project was so secret not much information exists about the details even today. But I stand there gawking through the chain link fence as the ruins of the other planes bear silent witness. It’ like the corpses of the other airplanes are urging me to look closer. To not leave. Their silent dignity begs me to tell this story.

After nearly a minute of studying it through the fence I realize; I am right. It is right before my eyes. Ten feet away. Despite the 100-degree heat I get goosebumps. And I start running.

I quickly locate a spot where the entire fence line opens up. I skirt the fence and in a couple minutes running around the sandy airplane corpses I’m inside. There, sitting right in front of me on its decrepit transport cart and dusted with windblown sand, abandoned in the Sonoran Desert, is one of Kelly Johnson and Ben Rich’s most ambitious classified projects from the fabled Lockheed Skunk Works.

VA study shows video games can help with mental health issues
A previously classified photo of the Lockheed D-21 drone at the Skunkworks manufacturing facility.
(Lockheed Martin photo)

I just found the CIA’s ultra-secret Mach 3.3+ D-21 long-range reconnaissance drone. The D-21 was so weird, so ambitious, so unlikely it remains one of the most improbable concepts in the history of the often-bizarre world of ultra-secret “black” aviation projects. And now it lies discarded in the desert. The story behind it is so bizarre it is difficult to believe, but it is true.

July 30, 1966: Flight Level 920 (92,000 ft.), Mach 3.25, Above Point Mugu Naval Air Missile Test Center, Off Oxnard, California.

Only an SR-71 Blackbird is fast enough and can fly high enough to photograph this, the most classified of national security tests. Traveling faster than a rifle bullet at 91,000 feet, near inner-space altitude, one of the most ambitious and bizarre contraptions in the history of mankind is about to be tested.

“Tagboard” is its codename. Because of the catastrophic May, 1960 shoot-down of Francis Gary Powers’ Lockheed U-2 high altitude spy plane over the Soviet Union the CIA and is in desperate need of another way to spy on the rising threat of communist nuclear tests. Even worse, the other “Red Menace”, the Chinese, are testing massive hydrogen bombs in a remote location of the Gobi Desert near the Mongolian/Chinese border. It would be easier to observe the tests if the Chinese did them on the moon.

The goal is simple, but the problem is titanic. Get photos of the top-secret Red Chinese hydrogen bomb tests near the Mongolian border deep inside Asia, then get them back, without being detected.

Lockheed Skunkworks boss Kelly Johnson and an elite, ultra-classified small team of aerospace engineers have built an aircraft so far ahead of its time that even a vivid imagination has difficulty envisioning it.

Flat, triangular, black, featureless except for its odd plan form as viewed from above, like a demon’s cloak, it has a sharply pointed nose recessed into a forward-facing orifice. That’s it. No canopy, no cockpit, no weapons. Nothing attached to the outside. Even more so than a rifle bullet its shape is smooth and simple. This is the ultra-secret D-21 drone.

VA study shows video games can help with mental health issues
An Air Force photo of the D-21 mounted on the M-21 launch aircraft. The M-21 launch aircraft was a special variant of the SR-71 Blackbird. Only two were produced.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

The D-21 is truly a “drone”, not a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA). Its flight plan is programmed into a guidance system. It is launched from a mothership launch aircraft at speed and altitude. It flies a predetermined spy mission from 17 miles above the ground and flashes over at three times the speed of sound. It photographs massive swaths of land with incredible detail and resolution. And because of its remarkably stealthy shape, no one will ever know it was there.

Today the D-21 rides on the back of a Lockheed M-21, a specialized variant of the SR-71 Blackbird, the famous Mach 3+ high altitude spy plane. The M-21 version of the SR-71 carries the D-21 drone on its back up to launch speed and altitude. The it ignites the D-21’s unique RJ43-MA20S-4 ramjet engine and releases it on its pre-programmed flight.

Chasing the M-21 and D-21 combination today is a Lockheed SR-71, the only thing that can keep up with this combination of aircraft. It is the SR-71’s job to photograph and film the test launch of the D-21 drone from the M-21 launch aircraft.

There have been three successful launch separations of the D-21 from the M-21 launch aircraft so far. In each of these flights, even though the launch was successful, the D-21 drone fell victim to some minor mechanical failure that destroyed the drone, because, at over Mach 3 and 90,000 feet, there really are no “minor” failures.

Today Bill Park and Ray Torick are the flight crew on board the M-21 launch aircraft. They sit inside the M-21 launch aircraft dressed in pressurized high altitude flight suits that resemble space suits.

Once at predetermined launch speed and altitude the M-21/D-21 combination flies next to the SR-71 camera plane. Keith Beswick is filming the launch test from the SR-71 camera plane. Ray Torick, the drone launch controller sitting in the back seat of the tandem M-21, launches the D-21 from its position on top of the M-21’s fuselage between the massive engines.

Something goes wrong.

The D-21 drone separates and rolls slightly to its left side. It strikes the left vertical stabilizer of the M-21 mother ship. Then it caroms back into the M-21’s upper fuselage, exerting massive triple supersonic forces downward on the M-21 aircraft. The M-21 begins to pitch up and physics takes over as Bill Park and Ray Torick make the split-second transition from test pilots to helpless passengers to crash victims.

The triple supersonic forces rip both aircraft apart in the thin, freezing air. Shards of titanium and shrapnel from engine parts trail smoke and frozen vapor as they disintegrate in the upper atmosphere. There is no such thing as a minor accident at Mach 3+ and 92,000 feet.

Miraculously, both Bill Park and Ray Torick eject from the shattered M-21 mother ship. Even more remarkably, they actually survive the ejection. The pair splash down in the Pacific 150 miles off the California coast. Bill Park successfully deploys the small life raft attached to his ejection seat. Ray Torick lands in the ocean but opens the visor on his spacesuit-like helmet attached to his pressurized flight suit. The suit floods through the face opening in his helmet. Torick drowns before he can be rescued. Keith Beswick, the pilot filming the accident from the SR-71 chase plane, has to go to the mortuary to cut Ray Torick’s body out of the pressurized high-altitude flight suit before he can be buried.

The ultra-secret test program to launch a D-21 drone from the top of an M-21 launch aircraft at over Mach 3 and 90,000 feet, is cancelled.

The D-21 program does move forward on its own. Now the drone is dropped from a lumbering B-52 mothership. The D-21 is then boosted to high altitude and Mach 3+ with a rocket booster. Once at speed and altitude the booster unit drops off and the D-21 drone begins its spy mission.

After more than a year of test launches from the B-52 mothership the D-21 drone was ready for its first operational missions over Red China. President Nixon approved the first reconnaissance flight for November 9, 1969. The mission was launched from Beale AFB in California.

Despite a successful launch the D-21 drone was lost. In the middle of 1972, after four attempts at overflying Red China with the D-21 drone and four mission failures, the program was cancelled. It was imaginative. It was innovative. It was ingenious. But it was impossible.

So ended one of the most ambitious and outrageous espionage projects in history.

1604 Hrs. December 20, 2009. In the Back Storage Yard of the Pima Air Space Museum Outside Tucson, Arizona.

I pet airplanes when I can. I’m not exactly sure why, maybe to be able to say I did. Maybe to try to gain some tactile sense of their history. Maybe to absorb something from them, if such a thing is possible. Maybe so that, when I am old and dying, I can reflect back on what it felt like to stand next to them and touch them. I don’t know why I touch them and stroke them, but I do.

VA study shows video games can help with mental health issues


The fully restored Lockheed D-21 drone at the Pima Air Space Museum outside Tucson, Arizona.

(Pima Air Space Museum photo)

The D-21 is dusty and warm in the late afternoon Arizona sun. Its titanium skin is hard, not slightly forgiving like an aluminum airplane. It gives away nothing. Silent. Brooding. After I touch it my hand came away with some of the dust from it. I don’t wipe it off.

Sometime later in the coming years, the D-21B drone, number 90-0533, is brought inside the vast restoration facility at the Pima Air Space Museum and beautifully restored. Now it lies in state, on display inside the museum.

But when I first found it sitting abandoned in the storage yard, dusty and baking in the Sonoran Desert sun, it felt like its warm titanium skin still had some secret life left in it.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Rob Riggle and Seth Herzog are livestreaming a comedy show tonight. Here’s how to watch.

One of the few perks of quarantine is watching the entertainment community rally around those of us at home by providing us with incredible content to consume while we’re eating all of our quarantine snacks and longing for the days of simply being around other people.

If you’re going to be in social isolation, you might as well be laughing through it. And tonight, thanks to the great folks at the Armed Services Arts Partnership, you absolutely will be when you watch renowned comedian Rob Riggle interview Seth Herzog and other veteran comics perform. Here’s how to watch.


VA study shows video games can help with mental health issues

The what

Tune in to ASAP’s live-stream show featuring a conversation with Rob Riggle and Seth Herzog, and stand-up comedy from ASAP veteran comics. Tonight’s event is just one in a series of great performers. For the full list, visit ASAP’s website.

Rob Riggle is a comedian, actor, and Marine Corps veteran best known for his roles on The Daily Show, Saturday Night Live, The Hangover, and The Other Guys.

Seth Herzog is a NYC-based stand-up comedian featured on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

The where

Access to the live-stream will be provided to ticket holders after registering. Space is limited. Here’s where you can purchase tickets for only . Stage Pass holders gain free access. All proceeds from ticket sales support ASAP’s community arts programs.

The who

The Armed Services Art Partnership’s mission is to cultivate community and growth with veterans, service members, military families, and caregivers through the arts. Learn more here.

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Michael Garvey and Liberty perform at The White House in Oct. 2016.

The why

For one, this show is going to be awesome. Also, ASAP has an incredible mission. Here’s their story:

We believe that trauma and loss breeds creativity and discovery.

The veterans and military families in Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP)’s community prove this point. But, it also holds true for our founder, Sam Pressler. After losing a family member to suicide while in high school, Sam turned to comedic expression to cope. When he later learned about mental health challenges affecting veterans through his college research at William Mary, Sam felt compelled to act. While at WM, he launched the country’s first comedy class for veterans, as well as the largest veterans writing group in the Southeast. Within a year, a supportive community formed – one that gave veterans permission to process and express, connect and grow, heal and serve others.

After receiving the Echoing Green Fellowship, Sam converted the student organization into ASAP, a 501(c)3 non-profit. Today, ASAP is thriving in the D.C. Metro area and Hampton Roads, VA, serving thousands of veterans and military families, and empowering its alumni to become artistic leaders in their communities. As a result of our impact in the communities we serve, we have received significant attention. We have performed at The White House, have been featured on a PBS documentary, and have been recognized by Forbes 30 Under 30 list for “Social Entrepreneurship.”

The reintegration of our nation’s veterans is not just a veterans issue. It involves veterans and civilians, community arts organizations and local health providers, military recruiting and VA care. It requires social, physical, and artistic outlets just as much as it demands traditional medical care. Through our collaborative, community-driven, and deeply focused program model, we are forging a new path for veterans to reintegrate into civilian life, and for our communities to welcome them home.

Articles

Here’s what you need to know about Kim Jong Un’s missile arsenal

Upon taking the highest office in the land, President-elect Donald Trump will need to address the growing North Korean missile threat “almost immediately.”


“More often than not, we measure the mettle of presidencies by the unexpected crises that they must deal with,” said Victor Cha, a senior adviser and the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “For President Bush, this was clearly the terrorist attacks of 9/11, which completely changed every element of his presidency. For President-elect Trump, this crisis could very well come from North Korea.”

Also read: Former US general calls for pre-emptive strike on North Korea

Speaking on a panel at CSIS’s Global Security Forum, Cha added that the North would “challenge the new administration almost immediately upon taking office.”

The normally aggressive regime has been exceptionally busy in 2016 with an increased tempo in testing. The North has launched 25 ballistic missiles this year and remains the only country to have detonated nuclear devices in this century.

“Every launch that he launches, he learns more. He gets more capability,” retired US Army Gen. Walter “Skip” Sharp, a former commander of US Forces-Korea said during the panel.

“UN Security Council resolutions have been numerous that have told him he cannot do this, and I personally think it’s time to start enforcing this,” Sharp said.

The acceleration and frequency in testing shows not only the North’s nuclear ambitions but also that the rogue nation has developed something of an arsenal.

The following graphic from CSIS’s Missile Defense Project illustrates specifications and ranges of North Korea’s ballistic-missile arsenal.

VA study shows video games can help with mental health issues
Center for Strategic and International Studies/Missile Defense Project