There’s increased incidence of ALS — also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease — among veterans of all wars, from the Vietnam War to the Gulf War to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
This week, Marine Corps veteran Roger Brannon reached the two-year anniversary of a life-altering amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosis, a milestone that many in his position will not live to see. ALS is an incurable, neurodegenerative disease that progresses rapidly.
(Courtesy of the Brannon Family)
Over 80 percent of those diagnosed die within two to five years. Military veterans are two times more likely to develop ALS than those who’ve never served. It was once thought that increased incidence of ALS was limited to veterans of Vietnam and the first Gulf War, but it’s now striking Enduring Freedom vets who served in Afghanistan at the same rates. Despite this, there’s a surprisingly low amount of awareness of the disease among the veteran community.
Roger Brannon and his wife Pam are on a mission to change this. Up to to 95 percent of veterans who develop the disease are diagnosed with sporadic ALS — which means there is no family history of the disease and doctors unable to precisely pinpoint a cause.
(Courtest of the Brannon Family)
“They can’t tell us why we have it, what we did to get it, and that’s very unnerving because you can’t tell any other veteran or friend what to do to not get ALS,” Roger says.
What Roger and Pam are doing is sharing what they know: resources, coping strategies, and VA benefits. Veterans actually have far greater available to them than the average ALS patient in America. For example, Radicava, the first drug treatment specifically for ALS approved since 1995, was made available to VA hospitals before more widespread distribution – and the Department of Veterans Affairs has automatically assumed, since 2008, that a veteran’s ALS is service-connected.
ALS is a terminal disease but early diagnosis can slow its progression and knowing about it increases the likelihood of identifying it quickly. All veterans and their families can do is arm themselves with the best information on how to deal with what lies ahead. With a pre-teen and teen at home, the hardest thing for Pam Brannon is not knowing if they will ever live out the family’s dreams.
“Will there be a next birthday? A next anniversary? Will Roger live to see a graduation?” Pam asks. “At the end of the day, there’s no book for when you’re diagnosed with a terminal disease.”
When we talk about American arms deals, usually the United States is the seller, and almost everyone else is the buyer (if they know what’s good for them). But this time, Israel has the technology that everyone in the air defense arena should aspire to, especially in terms of protecting people from missile attacks.
The Israelis have had to perfect their surface-to-air missile tech, especially when it comes to intercepting missiles and rockets while in mid-flight. The Jewish state has been taking random rocket, mortar, and missile attacks from anti-Israel terrorist organizations like Hamas, based in the Gaza Strip to Israel’s south and Hezbollah, based in Lebanon, to Israel’s north. Currently, the system is a short-range interceptor system, but its effectiveness is its primary selling point.
According to the Israel Defense Forces, the Iron Dome’s high rate of success can be repeated almost anywhere, given that the system is a mobile, all-weather system. In 2011, before its widespread deployment, the Iron Dome successfully intercepted four of the five rockets fired by Palestinian militants at the city of Beersheba. The next year, when IDF troops invaded the Gaza Strip, Hamas Qassam rockets were successfully intercepted 75-90 percent of the time, with some 300 rockets being fired at Israel.
This kind of success rate far outpaces the U.S. Patriot missile batteries, which is around 50 percent most of the time but can be as high as 75 to 85 percent. Given this success and the dire need for short-range anti-missile batteries in NATO-allied Europe, the 7 million deal is an easy win for both parties. Israel’s Iron Dome beat out similar weapons from Boeing and General Dynamics Land Systems’ Stryker during short-range air defense operation demonstrations at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
Israel’s Iron Dome Missile Defense System intercepts an incoming projectile during 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defense.
(Photo by Emanuel Yellin)
The United States currently used its THAAD missile defense system to protect Europe from short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missile threats but does not have short-range surface-to-air defense systems in place as of now. The best part about the Iron Dome deal for the United States is the all-weather mobility the system offers as well as the ability of the Iron Dome’s Tamir missiles to fire at multiple targets simultaneously, at different ranges.
We see a lot of FLIR footage showing bad guys blowing up, but what really goes into schwacking ISIS on a regular and persistent basis? Here’s a quick look at the life of a bomb from birth to boom.
1. After the bomb is manufactured it is trucked to a military ammo depot.
2. When the aircraft carrier is ready to go to sea, it loads some of the ordnance — tailored for the planned mission — pierside.
3. The rest of it is loaded closer to the war zone using underway replenishment.
4. As the aviators plan the strikes in the carrier’s intelligence center, the “ordies” in the magazine many decks below build the bombs they’ve requested, adding the appropriate fin kits and fuses to the bodies of the weapons.
5. Once built, the bombs are wheeled to the ordnance elevator and taken up to the hangar bay.
6. The bombs are inventoried and then taken to the flight deck and staged behind the carrier’s island.
7. As launch time approaches, squadron ordies wheel the ordnance to their jets.
8. Bombs are uploaded onto the airplane’s weapons racks using good ol’ fashioned muscle power.
9. Aircrew check with the ordies to make sure everything’s good-to-go before cranking the jets up for launch.
10. Once the jet is positioned on the catapult for launch, pilots show their hands above the canopy rail while ordies pull the arming pins.
Ordie pulls the pin arming a laser Maverick hanging from an F/A-18 Super Hornet. (Photo: U.S. Navy)
Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned military spouse heading to their umpteenth ball, rest assured you can have an enjoyable, memorable event. Military balls are a time-honored tradition, and while they’re not in everyone’s immediate comfort zone, they can make for a fun experience you won’t soon forget.
In order to attend your best ball yet, take these tips to heart, and to your upcoming formal event.
Choose an outfit you love
First things first, it’s important to dress the part. Whether you’re decked out in a fancy gown, perfectly tailored tuxedo, or anything in between, find what suits you. Choose attire that makes you feel strong and confident. No one wants to be adjusting their undergarments every few minutes. Take some time to find an outfit that actually fits, and that flatters your personal tastes.
You’ll be far more relaxed when feeling attractive, so don’t be afraid to put yourself first and find a getup you’re excited to show off!
No one wants to sit next to strangers … but it’s even worse when sitting next to a stranger who doesn’t talk or engage in any type of conversation. (Yes, this happens.) Talk to folks at your table and make nice! It will make the evening far more enjoyable, even if you don’t walk away friends. If you’re introverted, break the ice with small talk over decor, seating arrangements, the weather, parking, anything!
Whether or not you end up sitting next to folks you know, engage with them, and remain friendly throughout the night to make for a better time.
Each service branch and battalion will have its own traditions, so go ahead, jump on the bandwagon! We’re talking chants, specific handshakes, checking out displays, or voting for personalized awards. Jump into the fun!
Then again, be careful of TOO MUCH fun. Military balls are known for being heavy on the libations, and it’s a good idea to stay aware of how much you’re drinking, especially if sampling group punches.
Chances are, you won’t be associated with the unit for long, so you can make the most of each ball appearance by going all in and doing what it is they do best.
Don’t come starving
While it’s true you’re there to eat, that’s just part of the night. There are too many variables — maybe you won’t like the food, maybe someone took your fish and left you with steak (or vice versa, depending on your preferences). Or maybe you’re busy talking and don’t want to be shoving food in your face while doing so. In any case, eat a snack before you come and maybe plan a drive-thru trip on your way home. Whatever you can do to make sure you aren’t hangry!
Make a day of it
Relax. Take your time to get ready. Don’t rush it so you can enjoy the experience as a whole. This is a fun experience for all. Don’t consider the day just for your spouse or “mandatory fun,” but something you can celebrate together and with coworkers.
Show off your date!
As an extension of your military member, how you act, and what you do reflects on them. Remember to be on your best behavior (of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun!). Be polite, make small talk, and find a way to have fun. You should also take their lead. Let them introduce you to coworkers, get appetizers, order drinks, etc. While yes, you’re going to have a good time, technically, this is their work event, and you should follow their moves.
Attending a military ball should be a fun, memorable experience, no matter how many of them you attend. Look to the above to more easily plan your night toward having a great time!
A naval aviator who earned the Medal of Honor during the Korean War was laid to rest with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, April 4, 2018.
Family and friends of Capt. Thomas J. Hudner, Jr., as well as a number of service members, attended the ceremony which began at the Old Post Chapel on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, in Arlington, Va.
Rear Adm. William Galinis, Program Executive Officer, Ships presented the flag that draped Hudner’s casket to his wife, Georgea Hudner. Also in attendance was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson, Rear Adm. Samuel Cox, (Ret.), Director, Naval History and Heritage Command, and Cmdr. Nathan Scherry, Commanding Officer, Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Thomas Hudner (DDG 116).
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Raymond Minami)
Full military honors were rendered by the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard at the Old Post Chapel and at the final interment site at ANC. In addition, the ceremony also included a missing man formation flyover by Strike Fighter Squadron 32 (VFA-32), the same squadron Hudner was assigned to when he earned the Medal of Honor. VFA-32 flew out of Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Raymond Minami)
Hudner received the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty” during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War. During a mission, one of his fellow pilots, the Navy’s first African American naval aviator to fly in combat, Ensign Jesse L. Brown, was hit by anti-aircraft fire damaging a fuel line and causing him to crash. After it became clear Brown was seriously injured and unable to free himself, Hudner proceeded to purposefully crash his own aircraft to join Brown and provide aid. Hudner injured his own back during his crash landing, but stayed with Brown until a rescue helicopter arrived. Hudner and the rescue pilot worked in the sub-zero, snow-laden area in an unsuccessful attempt to free Brown from the smoking wreckage. Although the effort to save Brown was not successful, Hudner was recognized for the heroic attempt.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Raymond Minami)
“A hero the day he tried to rescue Jesse, a hero when he served our community, and a hero when he passed,” said Scherry. “Whenever I spoke to him, he always talked of Jesse and Jesse’s family. He never spoke of himself, or anything he did. It was never about Tom… We will, as the first crew of his ship, carry forward his legacy and his values of family, life, equality, and service every day of our lives.”
Hudner was the last living Navy recipient of the Medal of Honor from the Korean War.
After receiving recognition for his heroism, Hudner remained on active duty, completing an additional 22 years of naval service during which his accomplishments include flying 27 combat missions in the Korean War and serving as the executive officer aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) during the Vietnam War.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mikelle D. Smith)
PCU Hudner is expected to be commissioned in Boston later this year and will be the 66th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer to join the fleet.
The Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy’s unique and enduring contributions through our nation’s history, and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services. NHHC is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, ten museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.
Contrary to popular belief, neither the North Vietnamese Army nor Viet Cong guerrillas could match the U.S. forces toe-to-toe during the Vietnam War — either in skill or of firepower. What they could do is hamper the Americans’ ability to pursue them in a retreat. One of the ways they did that was by using creative methods to rig booby traps to injure or kill U.S. troops.
They were often marked by the Viet Cong using broken bushes, palm leaves, or certain alignments of sticks, such as a rectangle or tripod. The retreating Vietnamese would fashion traps from crude spikes, grenades, wires, and even memorabilia.
1. Punji Sticks
These are traps made with sharpened bamboo stakes, often smeared with urine, feces, or another substance that would cause infection in the victim. The VC would dig a hole and put the sticks in the bottom, then cover it with a thin frame. The victim would put his foot through the cover and fall on the spikes below.
A more insidious trap featured spears pointed downward so victims would be injured only when they tried to pull out of the trap.
2. Snake Pits
Yes, this is exactly what it sounds like. Viet Cong guerrillas would often carried Bamboo Pit Vipers in their packs to (hopefully) kill anyone who searches through them. They would also tie the deadly snakes to bamboo and hide them throughout their tunnel complexes. When the Bamboo was released, so was the snake – right onto the enemy.
The snakes were nicknamed “three-step snakes,” because three steps was all you could make before the venom kills you. U.S. “tunnel rats” had to be specially trained to navigate and disarm these traps.
Two cans were mounted on trees along either side of a path. The safety pins on the grenades are removed and the explosives are put into cans, which hold down the striker levers. The tripwire was then tied to each grenade. When the wire was tripped, the grenades were pulled out of the cans to detonate instantly. This could also be done with one can and a stake.
4. Flag Bombs
The NVA and VC loved to fly flags and they knew U.S. troops loved to capture enemy flags. So when they were forced to leave a base or location, they often rigged the flags with an explosive of some kind, so when US troops started to take down the flag, it would set off the charge.
In fact, any attempt to move the pole or flag set off the booby trap. This is similar to a “keepsake, lose hand” trap, where the NVA would intentionally rig anything a U.S. troop would consider a war trophy with an explosive.
5. Cartridge Trap
This trap was an awful one because it was very difficult to detect. A cartridge – a round of ammunition – would be set into a piece of bamboo and lowered into a shallow hole in the ground. At the bottom of the bamboo was a board and a nail.
The regular weight of someone walking on the cartridge would drive the nail into the primer, turning the nail into a firing pin and firing the bullet upward through the unsuspecting victim’s foot.
6. Bamboo Whip
Another sharpened bamboo trap, the whip consisted of spikes over a long bamboo pole. The pole was pulled back into an arc using a catch attached to a tripwire. When the wire is tripped, the catch gives out and sent foot-long spikes into a trooper’s chest at a hundred miles an hour.
A tiger trap was similar to the mace, in that a tripwire would undo the catch on a rope. Only instead of a swinging ball, the death from above took the form of an man-sized plank weighted with bricks and full of barbed metal spikes quickly falling to earth on someone’s forehead.
In 2010, the commander of Canada’s busiest Air Force Base, Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Trenton, confessed to a series of vile, heinous crimes. “Colonel” Russell Williams admitted to murdering a Corporal under his command, 37-year-old Marie-France Comeau and a civilian, 27-year-old Jessica Elizabeth Lloyd. He broke into the homes of two other women (his neighbors) and sexually assaulted them. He also admitted to burglarizing dozens of homes to steal underwear and lingerie from the women living there, some as young as nine years old. He took thousands of pictures of all his crimes, storing them on his home computer.
Williams pleaded guilty to 88 charges and was sentenced to two life sentences for first-degree murder, two 10-year sentences for other sexual assaults, two 10-year sentences for forcible confinement and 82 one-year sentences for burglary; all to be served concurrently at Kingston Penitentiary. He was stripped of his rank and Canadian Forces burned his uniforms, then destroyed his medals and his commission scroll, a paper signed by the Governor General and Defence Minister (with the permission of the Queen) confirming his status as a serving officer.
Col. Williams had a distinguished 23 year career before he started his predatory crime spree. He served as a pilot instructor to Canadian Forces school in Manitoba. He was a graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada, where he wrote a thesis supporting the pre-emptive war in Iraq. As a pilot, he flew dignitaries in VIP aircraft, including Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, the Governor General of Canada, and the Canadian Prime Minister. He also deployed to Dubai as a base commander supporting Canadian Forces in Afghanistan. He assumed command of CFB Trenton, which is where Canadian troops killed in Afghanistan arrive upon returning home. The base is the starting point for funeral processions along the Trenton-Toronto “Highway of Heroes.”
Marie-France Comeau was in her home in Brighton, Ontario on the evening of November 25, 2009. As she was in the basement trying to get her cat to come upstairs when she noticed the cat was fixated on the corner of the basement. Williams entered the basement earlier through an open basement window. He had already broken into her house to make sure she lived alone (While there, he took photos of himself wearing Comeau’s underwear). As Comeau went to see what the cat was looking at, Williams attacked her with a large flashlight attempting to knock her out. He tied her to a pole in the basement and took photos of her there. He took her upstairs, sexually assaulted her, then put duct tape over her mouth and nose and held it there until she died.
He first saw Jessica Elizabeth Lloyd as he peeped into her home on January 27, 2010. He watched her as she ran on a treadmill. He later entered her home while she was away to make sure she lived alone. He then left, leaving her back patio unlocked. He then waited in a field for her to come home and go to sleep. He took photos of her in the clothes she wore to bed, her eyes covered with duct tape. He then took video of himself raping Lloyd. He took Lloyed to his home in Tweed, Ontario. He held her captive in Tweed for almost 24 hours, then walked her out of his house as if he was going to let her go, then crushed her skull from behind with a large flashlight and then strangled her. He took photos before he buried her body 40 feet on the side of a road south of Tweed.
His full confession is cued up in the video below.
The Taiho launched on April 7, 1943, and was commissioned on March 7, 1944. With the Japanese Navy in retreat across most of the Pacific, the admirals held the Taiho in reserve until it could be sent where it would make a significant difference.
The ship was committed to combat in June as part of the Battle of the Philippine Sea, one of the largest carrier battles in history. The goal of the Japanese forces was to force a confrontation with the U.S. and wipe out the greater American numbers.
But the Taiho only participated in part of the defeat. In the opening hours of the battle, the USS Albacore spotted the carrier and launched a spread of six torpedoes right as the second wave of planes was taking off.
The blast rocked through the ship, blowing out the sides and opening holes that stretched down below the waterline. So Komatsu’s actions were one of the more heroic moments in warfare history, but it wasn’t enough to save his friends or his ship.
One of the most legendary successes of the Royal Air Force in World War II was a bombing raid that was written off for decades as a largely symbolic victory, but was actually a technically challenging operation that choked Nazi industry in 1943 and helped ensure that German factories couldn’t produce the materiel necessary to win.
A Lancaster bomber with the special Upkeep bomb bay and bomb used in Operation Chastise in May, 1943.
(Royal Air Force)
The Dam Busters Raid, officially known as Operation Chastise, was the result of a series of bombing raids that hit target after target in the Ruhr region of Germany, but failed to significantly slow German industrial output. Planners needed a way to cripple German industry, and large-scale bombing wasn’t getting the job done.
So, they presented an alternative: Instead of attacking individual factories and areas, they’d wipe out an entire productive region with the destruction of key infrastructure. Some of the best and most obvious targets were the dams in the Ruhr region.
The dams fulfilled a few key roles. They channeled water to where it was needed, provided hydroelectric power, and kept thousands of acres of farmland protected for regular cultivation.
Workers construct tanks in factories in Germany during World War II. Factories like this one, and the factories that fed them raw materials, were targeted during Operation Chastise, the “Dam Busters Raid.”
Destroying the dam would wreak worse havoc, allowing flood waters to damage dozens of factories essential for everything from coke production to tank assembly as well as additional farmland. The raid would tip the scales of 1943 and 1944 — provided they could figure out how to pull it off.
And figuring it out would prove tough. This was before England’s “earthquake” bombs, so the weapons available at the outset of the raid were basically just normal gravity bombs. But hitting a narrow dam with a bomb is challenging, and even a direct hit on the top of the dam would be unlikely to actually cause any sort of breach.
It would take multiple strikes, potentially dozens, in almost the exact same spot to really break a dam from the top.
An inert, practice bouncing bomb skips along the water in this video still from training drops by the Royal Air Force 617 Squadron. The bomb is one of the “Upkeep” munitions, the barrel-form of the weapon aimed at destroying German dams.
(Imperial War Museums)
But if the bomb could strike the dam, that would be much different. A bomb strike against the air-exposed side of the dam could heavily damage it, and a bomb in the right spot on the water side of the dam would cause the whole thing to shatter under the combined pressure of the blast and the water.
So, Britain went shopping for options, and they found a weapon under development by British engineer Barnes Wallis, who wanted to create a better bomb for taking out destroyers.
His thought was fairly simple: A bomb with the right shape and spin could skip across the water until it struck a ship. Then, the spin would drive the bomb underwater as it basically rolled itself down the outside of the ship. It would explode under the waterline with a payload much larger than a torpedo, dooming the ship. These became known as the “Bouncing Bombs.”
One of the flight crews from the Dam Busters Raid pose in July 1943. Their successful attack made the brand new 617 Squadron world-famous overnight and crippled German infrastructure.
(Royal Air Force)
His weapon was adapted slightly for Operation Chastise. The original “High Ball” design, basically a sphere, evolved into the “Upkeep” bomb, a more barrel-shaped weapon.
The British created an all-new squadron to conduct the mission, the 617. Pilots from across the Western Allies, including U.S., British Canadian, Australian, and Kiwi personnel, were assigned. The plan was for a low-level, nighttime raid targeting three dams in the valley. The squadron began intense training with the special bombs.
The most successful method they found was flying 60 feet above the water at 232 mph ground speed. While this gave the greatest chances of success and minimized the likelihood that surprised, tired anti-aircraft crews would get a shot at them, it also made for spectacularly dangerous and tricky flying.
The dam at Edertalsperre in Germany after the Dam Buster raid. The hole in the dam was estimated to be 230 feet wide and 72 feet high.
At 9:28 p.m. on May 16, 1943, the 133 men took off in 19 bombers aimed at three separate and challenging targets. They flew in three waves and successfully breached two of the dams while damaging the third.
The next morning, the attacks were reported in Germany and England. Germany tried to downplay the results, and Britain played up the success. For a generation, the exact results were in controversy. Even British historians would claim that the attack was over-hyped.
The English King George VI inspects the airmen of the 617 Squadron, the Dambusters, on May 27, 1943, after their widly successful mission.
(Royal Air Force)
The workers had to repair the physical dam before the fall rains or risk the region running low on water and electricity — even after the dam was repaired. They had to repair 100 damaged factories, not counting the 12 factories completely destroyed. Thousands of acres of farmland, necessary to feed the armies on the march, were ruined.
And, all of this came while the German army was desperately trying to stave off Soviet advances and just a year before the Normandy landings, increasing the chances of success there.
In other words, the mission was a stunning success. But it didn’t come without cost. Two bombers were lost on their way to the target. One struck the water’s surface and another hit electrical wires. Eight bombers were shot down.
53 Allied personnel were killed and another three captured.
With sequestration and troop drawdowns forcing the military to record low levels of readiness, the requirements for joining the U.S. armed forces have become more stringent, and the pool of eligible recruits has become smaller. Out of the 34 million 17-24 year olds in the U.S. only 1 percent are both eligible and inclined to pursue military service, according to the Defense Department.
Here are the nine most common reasons civilians are disqualified from service:
Marines do some pretty spectacular and/or ridiculous things while deployed. Anyone who follows Terminal Lance on Instagram can tell you that much. What Marine Warrant Officer Faustin Wirkus did was pretty spectacular, but really it was just a day in the life of a U.S. Marine. Except this time, the Marine in question ended up being proclaimed king of the island in a voodoo ceremony — and he ended up with a wife, whether he wanted to or not.
At this point, half of everyone is wondering what happened and the other half is wondering if voodoo is why you so rarely see the warrant officers in your unit. Well, It was why then-Sergeant Wirkus had to stop showing up for duty. It wasn’t that Wirkus was opposed to hard work — he was a United States Marine after all, and he grew up breaking coal from slate in the Pennsylvania Coal Country.
But, Wirkus, he had an island to rule.
Best. Additional Duty. Ever.
Wirkus arrived in Haiti in 1915 with his fellow Marines. He spent much of his first year around the capital of Port-Au-Prince. Germany had been intervening in a number of Caribbean insurrections. The Haitians suddenly overthrew the American-backed dictator on the island, and Caco Rebels installed an anti-American president.
The Marines were sent in to occupy and stabilize the island while enforcing the American “Monroe Doctrine” — an intolerance toward European meddling in the Western Hemisphere. They were also protecting U.S. economic interests. Wirkus was one of many Marines sent to Haiti aboard the USS Tennessee. It was aboard that ship he first saw the island of La Gonâve.
He asked a Marine NCO about the island. The reply was cryptic and short.
“If you’re lucky, you’ll never get any closer to that place than you are now. No white man has set foot on it since the days of the buccaneers. There’s a post on it now, but the men stationed there don’t usually come back — and if they do, they’re fit for nothing but the bug house… Place is full of voodoos and God knows what else.”
Luckily, he was kept in the capital during his first deployment in Haiti. He soon fell from a truck and broke his arm. After his recovery in the U.S., he was sent to Cuba, and eventually back to Haiti. It was four years later and the young Marine was now a Sergeant, but was a commissioned officer in the local Garde d’Haiti, keeping the Caco Rebels at bay in the outer edges of the island nation.
U.S. Marines in the occupation of Haiti.
He was good at it, and so, of course, he would eventually be sent to the one place everyone told him he would be lucky to never see. No, it was not Twentynine Palms, it was the mysterious island the NCO warned him about: La Gonâve.
Wirkus was extremely interested in the island. It captivated him but none of the other Marines could tell him anything about the island’s interior; none of them had ever dared to venture inland. His first assignment on the island was to assess prisoners of the Garde who were charged with “offenses against the Republic of Haiti” and “trivial voodoo offenses.”
Among them was a woman named Ti Memenne, who warned the Marine that she would see him again. Still, Wirkus sent her on to Port-Au-Prince with a recommendation for lenient treatment.
Faustin I was reincarnated as Faustin II.
“They made me a sort of king in a ceremony I thought was just a celebration of some kind. I learned later they thought I was the reincarnation of a former king of the island who had taken the name of Faustin I when he came into power. The coincidence was just good luck for me.”
Faustin II’s good luck was good luck for the locals. The 19-year U.S. occupation of Haiti did not go as smoothly or nonviolently for the rest of the country. But that good luck ran afoul of the President of Haiti, who was able to visit the island for the first time in 1928. Incidentally, he was able to visit without being murdered by the island’s inhabitants, thanks to the command decisions of Faustin Wirkus. The President was not thrilled with the King and requested he be transferred to the mainland United States.
Emperor Faustin II. Or Sergeant Fustin Wirkus. Again, depending on your belief in voodoo.
He went willingly in 1929 and left the Corps shortly after. He returned to active duty in the days before World War II and was made a Warrant Officer who served in the Navy’s pre-flight school in North Carolina. He died just months before the end of World War II and was interred in Arlington National Cemetery,
A Kurdish female militia that took part in freeing the northern Syrian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State group said on Oct. 19 it will continue the fight to liberate women from the extremists’ brutal rule.
In a highly symbolic gesture, Nisreen Abdullah of the Women’s Protection Units, or YPJ, made the statement in Raqqa’s Paradise Square — the same place where ISIS fighters once carried out public killings.
She said the all-women force, which is part of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces battling ISIS, lost 30 fighters in the four-month battle to liberate Raqqa.
Under the rule of the Islamic State group, women were forced to wear all-encompassing veils and could be stoned to death for adultery. Hundreds of women and girls from Iraq’s Yazidi minority were captured and forced into sexual slavery.
Raqqa was center stage of ISIS’ brutality, the de facto capital of the militants self-proclaimed “caliphate.”
“We have achieved our goal, which was to pound the strongholds of terrorism in its capital, liberate women, and restore honor to Yazidi women by liberating dozens of slaves,” Abdullah said.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of several factions including the YPJ, said on Oct. 17 that military operations in Raqqa have ended and that their fighters have taken full control of the city.
The spokesman for the US-led coalition, Col. Ryan Dillon, tweeted on Oct. 19 that the SDF has cleared 98 percent of the city, adding that some militants remain holed up in a small pocket east of the stadium. Dillon added that buildings and tunnels are being checked for holdouts.
Even as the guns have gone quiet, preparations for a reconstruction are underway.
In Saudi Arabia, a state-linked news website said a high-level Saudi official was in Raqqa to discuss the kingdom’s “prominent role in reconstruction” efforts. The Okaz site quoted unnamed Saudi sources as saying that Thamer al-Sabhan met with members of Raqqa’s city civil. The website said the United Arab Emirates will also play a role in rebuilding.
The report included a photograph of al-Sabhan, apparently in Raqqa with Brett McGurk, the top US envoy for the coalition battling the ISIS. Saudi Arabia is a member of the coalition. Al-Sabhan was previously ambassador to Iraq, but left amid threats from Iranian-backed militias.
The SDF is expected to hold a news conference in Raqqa on Oct. 20 during which the city will be declared free of extremists, for the first time in nearly four years.
The fall of Raqqa marks a major defeat for IS, which has seen its territories steadily shrink since last year. ISIS took over Raqqa, located on the Euphrates River, in January 2014, and transformed it into the epicenter of its brutal rule.
Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar Assad met with a visiting Iranian army commander on Oct. 19 to discuss bilateral relations, the state news agency SANA said. The Iranian general also conveyed a message from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
SANA said Assad and Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri focused on military cooperation, “which has witnessed a qualitative development during the war that Syria and its allies, mainly Iran, are waging against terrorism” in Syria.
Iran has been one of Assad’s strongest supporters since the country’s crisis began more than six years ago and has sent thousands of Iranian-backed militiamen to boost his troops against opponents.
SANA quoted Bagheri as saying that the aim of his visit is to “put a joint strategy on continuing coordination and cooperation at the military level.” He also stressed Iran’s commitment to help in the reconstruction process in Syria.
Bagheri met with several Syrian officials on Oct. 18, including Defense Minister Fahd Jasem al-Freij, and Syrian army commander, Maj. Gen. Ali Ayyoub.
Meanwhile the al-Qaeda linked Levant Liberation Committee released a rare video of its leader Abu Mohammed al-Golani, showing him speaking with his fighters. The release comes two weeks after Russia said it seriously wounded him in an airstrike.
The video appears to have been shot before an al-Qaeda offensive on a central government-controlled village on Oct. 6. Two days before the attack, Russia’s military claimed that al-Golani was wounded in a Russian airstrike and had fallen into a coma. The military offered no evidence of al-Golani’s purported condition.
The al-Qaeda-linked group subsequently denied al-Golani was hurt, insisting he is in excellent health.