On Aug. 4, 1972 dozens of naval mines exploded suddenly in the water south of Hai Phong, North Vietnam. The incident was witnessed by U.S. military pilots, and there was no apparent reason why the mines detonated. They had only been there for a few months and there was nothing in the waters around them. The detonations took all of 30 seconds.
For decades, the event remained a mystery – mostly because the U.S. government classified the investigation of the detonation until 1990. Delores Knipp, an Air Force veteran and Colorado University engineering professor began looking into it.
She was speaking to a colleague who was working at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center in 1972, when he was visited by a group of Navy officials in uniform. He couldn’t remember what they wanted to talk about exactly, but the visit piqued Knipp’s curiosity.
Knipp began looking into what might have happened around that time frame in 1972. That’s how she came upon the declassified report of mysteriously exploding naval mines in North Vietnam, linked to Operation Pocket Money. The operation was intended to prevent the movement of supplies from the North to the South by sea during the Easter Offensive.
She then began to look into scientific events that might be able to explain the phenomenon. On that day, observatories noted a series of solar flares, one of them “gigantic” that would have an effect on the Earth, one of the largest solar flares ever recorded.
While it normally takes a matter of days for a solar flare to travel the distance to Earth, the 1972 flare reached Earth in 14.6 hours and people noticed, even if they didn’t realize what was happening.
All over the planet, people were bombarded with X-ray emissions, an aurora was visible from the southern coast of England that could be seen from Spain, and Canada’s power grid experienced fluctuations. The flare also damaged the solar panels on orbiting satellites.
It also set off a naval minefield placed in North Vietnamese waters. The mines, the report says, were magnetic sensor mines. The Navy began to look for better ways to prevent an unintended detonation caused by magnetic interference from space.
The Navy also didn’t tell the global scientific community about its conclusions. Since the Navy didn’t address it, neither did most of the scientific community. But Knipp believes the event was much more important than the Navy realized.
Knipp said that the 1972 solar storm was an event on par with the 1859 Carrington Event, one of the largest geospacial storms ever recorded. A coronal mass ejection bombarded earth, displaying strong auroras from the Rocky Mountains to the Caribbean Sea. It was also big enough to disrupt telegraph transmissions all over the world.
If a solar storm like that hit Earth today, it would cause widespread blackouts and damage worldwide electrical grids. The damage it would cause has been estimated to cost as much as $2.6 trillion to repair.
Given the U.S. Navy’s relatively recent experience with solar flares and the lessons learned from the 1972 solar storm, there’s no telling if another Carrington Event would set off magnetic naval mines, but by then, it might be the least of our problems.
World War I veteran John Ronald Reuel “J.R.R.” Tolkien published The Hobbit in 1937 and followed it up with The Lord of the Rings (1954-1944), books that would shape fantasy epics forever. The stories take place in Middle Earth, a medieval-esque land inhabited by humans, elves, dwarves, hobbits, dragons, orcs, and trolls, as well as sorcerers and wizards and witches and all manner of magics.
Thanks to sexy Legolas Peter Jackson, everyone has heard of Tolkien’s creations, but not everyone knows where he drew his inspiration from. Finally, the biopic Tolkien will tell the author’s tale.
Tolkien would lost two friends in the Battle of the Somme, a heavy toll for anyone to bear. Tolkien would also suffer from ‘trench fever’ — a typhus-like condition — that would heavily debilitate him for the rest of his service.
The journey from warrior to artist is a fascinating one, and Tolkien is one of the greatest. He had already begun writing some of his earliest tales, and after the war he sought employment as an Assistant Lexicographer on the New English Dictionary and later as an Associate Professor in English Language at the University of Leeds.
Based on the trailer, the film appears to celebrate Nicholas Hoult’s Tolkien, from his early education, love of language, and close friendships; to the war; and, of course, to his relationship with Edith Bratt, played by Lily Collins.
For fans of his work, the film looks promising.
For anyone who knows the toll that war can take, the film looks familiar — and perhaps promises a way “back again.”
Tolkien is directed by Dome Karukoski and will open on May 10, 2019.
2:20 p.m. on February 20, 2020, is not a time Nikki James Zellner will soon forget.
Zellner received an emergency notification from the daycare her two sons, Ronan and Owen, attend in Virginia Beach, where the Navy family is stationed. The facility alerted parents to come pick up their children due to a carbon monoxide leak.
“When we arrived, the children and staff had been evacuated and I was starting to hear stories related to what was going on behind the scenes,” she said. “The one that gave me the biggest pause was that a teacher’s husband had to bring in a detector because the teachers and students were getting sick after hours of symptoms, and there was no detector on site, because there was no Virginia law requiring them to be.”
At that moment, the narrative for Zellner went from “this happened to my child” to “I’m not going to let this happen to anyone else’s child.”
She started by communicating directly with the daycare, asking direct questions, and refusing to jump to conclusions.
“While waiting for their feedback, I got busy researching,” Zellner explained. “I learned that carbon monoxide (CO) detectors weren’t required in Virginia schools, regardless of if they had a source for CO on-site (common sources are fuel-fired sources like furnaces, HVAC systems, kitchen appliances), if the school was built prior to 2015. It wasn’t part of the state code – and in Virginia, it wouldn’t be retrofitted to existing unless legislation was passed to make it apply.”
But Zellner’s research also uncovered a scary reality nationwide.
“Only five states require CO detectors in educational facilities like daycares, public schools, private schools and any place where children are taken care of,” she said. “How many kids and educators aren’t being protected because people just assume carbon monoxide detectors are on site?”
Zellner’s first points of contact were Senators, Representatives and Delegates that represent Virginia and her district. Then, she spoke to the Director of State Building Codes at the Department of Housing and Community Development to make sure she had a firm understanding exactly of the law and when it applied.
“I also started a petition making folks aware of the situation,” she shared. “Within three days, we had 1,000 signatures. Within the week, we had a breaking news story and a commitment from one of the Delegates to work with us on possibly introducing legislation in the 2021 session.”
To date, Zellner’s petition has more than 1,200 signatures, and her determination landed her on the front page of the Sunday edition of Virginia’s leading newspaper.
“There’s this strange feeling that comes over you when you know that you’re the person that’s supposed to do something,” Zellner emphasized. “That you have the means to do something, and you have the unique perspective to tell the story on why something needs to change. I have a background in media relations and content development, I know how to investigate and ask direct questions, I know how to navigate the political landscape after working in a nonprofit and I’m not afraid to put myself in the line of fire and make a ruckus about it. These are our children. These are our educators. It’s too big of a risk. I feel compelled to raise awareness about it – I can’t explain it any other way. All stakeholders are accountable for solving this – hopefully before it upgrades from close call to tragedy.”
What inspires you about the military community?
The most inspiring thing to me about the military community is their ability to problem solve any situation. What’s today’s mission? How can we help each other? What’s our end goal? This isn’t just the service members – these are the wives, the mil-kids, the support givers – it truly is a community of givers. And it’s up to each member of the community to give more than they take – and I think that really sets the military community apart.
What piece of advice would you give to fellow military spouses?
The biggest piece of advice I have for military spouses is to share your stories. Get comfortable talking about the uncomfortable. Humanize your experiences and make those connections. If we as a group want people to understand our lives, we have to share our lives not just inside but outside of the military community.
What is your life motto?
“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re going to stay silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”
If you could pick one song as the theme song of your life, what would it be and why?
‘No Hard Feelings’ by The Avett Brothers. The Avett Brothers have some of the most honest music out there – and this one just really hits home for me. For me, it’s really about forgiving and being forgiven – and just being able to distinguish what’s important and what’s not so you can live a meaningful life. I think it’s my theme song because even after some really impossible hardships, I’m still able to take gifts from those moments instead of just pain.
What’s your superpower?
I have a fierce love for my people. I will turn superhuman when it comes to their needs – regardless of how much time I have or what’s going on in my life. If you’re someone I trust and love, I will spring into action for you in the biggest way possible.
In less than two weeks, the biggest movie of the first half of the year will hit theaters. Avengers: Endgame will be the end of an era, mostly because there’s every reason to believe that at least two of the core Avengers — Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans — won’t be coming back to make more of these movies. But what if these movies are actually a little hazy in your memory? Or, more interestingly, what if you kind of can’t remember which Marvel movie is which, but you want to catch up a tiny bit before Endgame drops? There are literally twenty movies out on home video, and one movie still in theaters. So, should you binge-watch all of them before seeing Endgame?
Nope! In fact, there are really only five Marvel movies you have to watch to get good and refreshed for Endgame. If you barely care about Marvel, here’s the bare minimum of what you need to see. So, if you are cramming before Endgame, hopefully this will make the next two weeks fun, rather than feeling like watching a bunch of superhero homework.
1. Iron Man (2008)
The film that started it all, and possibly one of the best superhero/action movies of all time. The third act is a little wonky and predictable, but it’s hard to believe this insane movie phenomenon started just 11 years ago with this film. Tony Stark built this movie franchise…in a cave…with a box of scraps!!
Though Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger do a good job setting up those respective characters, you can totally skip those movies and just watch the Avengers after you see Iron Man. At the time it came out, the novelty of this movie was nuts. None of us could believe that six superheroes were teaming up in the same movie! Wow! Somehow just seven years later, that idea seems quaint.
Reason to watch it before Endgame: Because the new Avengersmovie is actually about the Avengers, watching their first big adventure together will help you understand how this became such an important super team in the first place.
In between Avengers and Civil War were mostly bad movies. With the exception of Guardians of the Galaxy, the Marvel movies prior to Civil War and after The Avengers are mostly forgettable and, in some cases, straight-up bad. (Thor: The Dark World springs to mind.) Yes, while one could make an argument for watching Captain American: The Winter Soldier or Iron Man 3, you really get everything you need to know in Civil War. And, the movie is nuts.
Reason to watch it before Endgame: Captain America and Iron Man’s partnership and friendship basically ends in this movie. The newer movies are connected to that aftermath. This helps explain how all that went down.
This is a no-brainer, but if you don’t see Infinity Warbefore Endgame you will be utterly lost. In some ways, it appears that Endgame is just like…the rest of Infinity War. These aren’t really two separate movies, not really. So, make sure to watch this one right before you see the new one.
This is a little bit of a wild card, but other than Captain Marvel, the most recent Marvel Studios movie is Ant-Man and the Wasp. Unlike Captain Marvel, you can watch Ant-Man and the Wasp at home! There’s not a ton in this movie that connects to Endgame, other than the fact that Ant-Man being stuck in the Quantum Realm could be pivotal to what happens to the Avengers going forward. And, best of all, this is the only Marvel movie on this list that is specifically about a superhero who is also a dad trying to do right by his daughter. That reason alone makes it worth your time.
5 Questions Your Kids Will Have After ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp,’ Answered
It was a big weekend for the Arizona Cardinals. The team has been struggling this season and they were looking to roll into Green Bay and hand the vaunted Packers their first loss at home. It was a special game for a number of reasons, but for Larry Fitzgerald, it allowed him to participate in the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign.
The star wideout is one of the greatest players in the NFL today, and his cleats bore the name and likeness of one of the NFL’s legends – Pat Tillman.
NFL uniform wear is incredibly strict, and the league is known to hand down steep fines to players who step onto the field out of regs. But during the “My Cause, My Cleats” weekend, 800 select players get to sport customized cleats that raise awareness and funds for their personal causes, from fighting colon cancer to ending sex trafficking. Larry Fitzgerald wanted to honor the men and women who serve in the U.S. military.
As an Arizona Cardinal, that meant honoring the legacy of Pat Tillman.
Fitzgerald’s cleats were custom-made by Miami, Florida-based Marcus Rivero of Soles by Sir. He incorporated an image of Pat Tillman himself, as well as the name of former Arizona Senator, John McCain, who died earlier in 2018. The designer also added the name of Fitzgerald’s grandfather, who served in the Korean War.
Beyond simply making and wearing the custom cleats, the Cardinals wide receiver gave a special experience to two U.S. Army veterans and Pat Tillman scholars, Joseph Wheaton and Jameson Lopez. Wheaton is a native of northern Maine who joined the military after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Lopez is member of the Quechan Tribe from Arizona’s Colorado River Valley.
The Cardinals wide receiver gave the two scholars a tour of the Cardinals facility, a chance to meet the trainers and staff, and presented them each with a Pat Tillman Cardinals jersey.
Fitzgerald’s custom “My Cause, My Cleats” wear, honoring Pat Tillman, Arizona Sen. John McCain, and his own grandfather, a Korean War veteran.
The mission of the Tillman Foundation is to empower military veterans and military spouses to become the next generation of great American leaders. More than 580 Tillman Scholars around the country are tackling the widespread issues surrounding national security, healthcare, technology, civil rights, and education.
“I’ve always just had so much respect for everything the organization and foundation has done,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald and the Cardinals improved to 3-9 with a win over Green Bay at home as Fitzgerald caught three passes for 48 yards wearing his custom Pat Tillman-inspired cleats.
The ferocity of the Tet Offensive, which began 51 years ago, surprised most Americans, including service members manning the television station in Hue, Vietnam.
Detachment 5 of the American Forces Vietnam Network (AFVN) was located in a villa about a mile outside the main U.S. compound in Hue, in a neighborhood considered relatively safe from attack.
After the AFVN crew had signed off the air that night and settled into their billets, they heard an explosion down the street. Some of them were already asleep, but a few were still up watching fireworks through their window, since it was the first night of Tet, the Vietnamese lunar New Year.
“Then the real fireworks started,” said Harry Ettmueller, a specialist five and broadcast engineer at the time.
Mortars and rockets began to blast the city landscape and tracer rounds could be seen in the distance.
“It was quite a light show,” said former Spc. 4 John Bagwell, a broadcaster who jumped out of bed once he heard the noise.
Spc. 4 John Bagwell broadcasts for the 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam before he was transferred to AFVN Det. 5 in Hue during January 1968.
(U.S. Army photo)
One mortar round hit the maintenance shed next to their TV station, which was located behind the house where the AFVN team of eight slept.
The team then pulled out their weapons: World War II carbines along with a shotgun, three M14 rifles, and an M60 machine gun that jammed after two shots.
They took up positions in doorways and windows to stop possible entry. They even handed a carbine to a visiting NBC engineer, Courtney Niles, who happened to be an Army veteran.
Battle for Hue
Station commander, Marine 1st Lt. James DiBernardo, called the Military Assistance Command-Vietnam, or MAC-V office in Hue, and was told to keep his crew in place. A division-sized force of the North Vietnamese army, along with Viet Cong guerrillas, was attacking locations all across the city.
They had even captured part of the citadel that once housed Vietnam’s imperial family and later became the headquarters of a South Vietnamese division.
The NVA attack on Hue was one of the strongest and most successful of the Tet Offensive. Even though more than 100 towns and cities across the country were attacked during Tet, the five-week battle for Hue was the only one where communist forces held a significant portion of the city for more than a few days.
On the second day of Tet, the power-generating station in Hue was taken out and the telephone lines to the AFVN compound were cut. The crew became isolated.
AFVN had begun augmenting its radio broadcasting with television in Saigon in early 1967. Then TV went to Da Nang and up to Hue.
The U.S. State Department decided to help the Vietnamese set up a station for local nationals in what had been the consulate’s quarters in Hue. AFVN set up their equipment in a van just outside the same villa and began broadcasting to troops in May.
Following the Tet Offensive, not much remained of the house where members of AFVN Det. 5 held off the North Vietnamese in a 16-hour firefight.
Hundreds of TVs were brought up from Saigon and distributed to troops. Ettmueller said he was often flown by Air America to units near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to distribute them.
In January 1968, with the 1st Cavalry Division and elements of the 101st Airborne Div. moving up to the northern I Corps area of operations, AFVN decided to add radio broadcasting to the TV station in Hue.
Broadcasters Bagwell and Spc. 5 Steven Stroub were sent from 1st Cavalry to help set up the radio operation. They arrived a day and a half before Tet erupted.
For the next five days, sporadic fire was directed at the AFVN billets, Ettmueller said. The staff members remained in defensive positions at doors and windows.
Bagwell said they were hopeful MACV would send a rescue mission for them, but by the fifth day, they were running out of food and water.
As night fell Feb. 4, the North Vietnamese launched a company-sized assault against the AFVN compound. Dozens of Vietnamese rushed the house and the Americans kept up a steady fire through the windows.
Each time the WWII carbines were fired, though, the magazines fell out and had to be reinserted, Ettmueller said. But he had an M14 and put it on full automatic.
During the assault, a young boy appeared in the window where Bagwell was on guard. The boy was trembling as he pointed his weapon at Bagwell, who hesitated.
“He shot and one bullet came close to my ear and I could hear it whiz by,” Bagwell said. “The next bullet he shot came close to the other ear. I realized if I didn’t kill him, he’d kill me.”
He pulled the trigger on his M14 and the boy fell backward.
North Vietnamese rushed the house repeatedly during the night. Sgt. 1st Class John Anderson, the station’s NCOIC, was awarded a Silver Star for manning the living room door with a shotgun to turn back assault after assault.
“He personally was responsible for inflicting deadly fire on the attacking enemy force,” reads the citation, adding that Anderson held his post despite being severely wounded by enemy grenades.
At one point, a Vietnamese soldier came running toward the door with a satchel of explosives strapped around him. Ettmueller said when one of their bullets hit the soldier’s satchel, it exploded, taking him out and a couple of others near him.
During the course of the night, at least three rocket-propelled grenades were fired at the house and a B40 rocket went right through the front window and hit the back wall. The wall collapsed on Ettmueller and Marine Sgt. Tom Young, forcing both men to crawl out from underneath the debris.
“They pretty much… leveled the house,” Bagwell said.
Breakout and capture
By morning, the house was on fire and the AFVN crew was beginning to run low on ammunition.
They decided their best chance was to try and make a run for the MACV compound. NBC engineer Niles said he knew the layout of the city the best, so he volunteered to be the first one out the door. Bagwell was close behind him.
The plan called for both men to cross the road into a ditch so they could lay down covering fire for the rest of the team. However, Niles was fatally shot. Bagwell applied a quick tourniquet, but said it did not help much.
Anderson and others in the house saw the direction of the gunfire. After a brief pause, the seven of them ran out the door and turned in the opposite direction. They made it through a hole in the fence line and sneaked around a North Vietnamese team manning a machine gun on the second floor of a building under construction.
They made it through another hole in a fence into a small rice paddy, when they came up to the U.S. Information Services library next to a concrete wall topped with barbed wire.
There, the North Vietnamese caught up to them.
Young stepped out to lay down covering fire and was killed by automatic gunfire from the machine-gun position.
Ettmueller described the chaotic situation: “There we were, trapped. More rounds coming in; more grenades being thrown. Chickens running all over the place, jumping up in the air and flying. More rounds coming in.”
Stroub was shot in the left arm and had an open fracture. He passed out, Ettmueller said. Anderson was shot with a bullet that penetrated his flak jacket and grazed his diaphragm. He began to hiccup.
As the AFVN team began to run out of ammo, the North Vietnamese closed in and captured them.
The prisoners were bound with wire and had their boots removed, and then ordered to march forward. Ettmueller helped Stroub up, but it was not long before he stumbled and fell. An NVA soldier opened fire from above with the machine gun and executed him.
Meanwhile, Bagwell was left alone outside the station after Niles was fatally shot. The North Vietnamese had taken off in pursuit of the rest of the AFVN team.
Bagwell, who had been in Hue only a few days, had no idea which way to go and he was out of ammunition.
He wandered the streets, not sure what to do. “I was quite amazed with all the fighting going around that I hadn’t been shot.”
Then he looked down at his boot and spotted a hole. With his adrenaline pumping, he had not felt anything, but “the next thing I knew I was in pain.”
Bagwell looked up and saw a Catholic church. He knocked on the door and pleaded with a priest to help him. About 100 Vietnamese civilians were already hiding in the church.
The priest insisted Bagwell change his clothes. They buried his uniform and M14 in the courtyard. Then the priest wrapped Bagwell’s face in bandages.
“His idea was to make me look as much like a Vietnamese as possible,” Bagwell said.
Not long afterward, North Vietnamese soldiers burst into the church looking for Americans.
“They came by and started pointing their rifles right at my face,” he said. “I just closed my eyes and thought, ‘there’s no way they’re not going to know I’m not Vietnamese.'”
Broadcast Engineer Staff Sgt. Donat Gouin sits behind the television van for Detachment 5 of the American Forces Vietnam Network in Hue.
(U.S. Army photo)
But the North Vietnamese walked on past him. Bagwell was then taken by the priest up into the bell tower of the church to hide.
Other American forces, however, had been told that NVA fighters were hiding in the church, Bagwell said. So, they began to shell the church and hit the bell tower.
Part of the tower collapsed. “I just crawled out of all the mess and crawled back downstairs,” Bagwell said.
The priest then rushed up to him and said, “You know, you’re kind of bad luck. We need to get you out of here.” He pointed across rice paddies to a light in the distance and said he thought that was an American unit.
As he crawled through the rice paddies, Bagwell said a U.S. helicopter began circling him and shining its search light down, thinking he was Vietnamese, since he had no uniform.
“Actually, during that time, I counted about 12 times that I should have been shot and killed,” Bagwell said. “Six by the North Vietnamese and six by the Americans.”
When the sun came up, Bagwell was near a U.S. signal unit. He took off his white shirt and put it on a stick, yelling “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot! I’m an American!”
They held a gun to him and asked if he was really an American.
“You can’t tell with this Okie accent?” Bagwell replied.
“Well, what were you doing out there?” a soldier asked.
“I was with the TV and radio station,” Bagwell said.
“No, I don’t think so; they’re all dead or prisoner,” the soldier insisted. “The only body we haven’t found is Bagwell.”
The North Vietnamese executed an estimated 3,000 South Vietnamese civilians in Hue during Tet for sympathizing with American forces. Bagwell said he learned that a Catholic priest was executed for hiding a U.S. soldier in a church, and he knew that soldier had to be him.
The prisoners of war from AFVN Det. 5 — Ettmueller, DiBernardo and Anderson, along with Marine Cpl. John Deering and Army broadcast engineer Staff Sgt. Donat Gouin — were forced to walk 400 miles barefoot through the jungle over the next 55 days.
For five years, they were tortured, interrogated and moved from one POW camp to another, until released from the infamous Hanoi Hilton in the 1973 prisoner exchange.
Bagwell and Ettmueller were inducted into the Army Public Affairs Hall of Fame in 2008. The Army Broadcast Journalist of the Year Award is named in Anderson’s honor.
Editor’s note: Bagwell and Ettmueller were interviewed this month by phone. Retired Master Sgt. Anderson was interviewed in 1983 when he was a civilian public affairs officer at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
In contrast, the total number of fatal casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 is 6,995.
Suicide is a threat to our nation’s service members — and in U.S. Army Paratrooper and creator Jordan Martinez’s words, “Now, more than ever, we must tell stories about their experiences and remind others how important it is to never give up on the battle at home.”
His passion for this topic is what inspired the USC School of Cinematic Arts graduate student to create The Gatekeeper, a psychological thriller that accurately, artistically, and authentically highlights the real struggles veterans face with PTSD and suicide.
This ain’t no ordinary student film:
‘The Gatekeeper’ cast and crew filming on location at the Los Angeles National Cemetery.
The Gatekeeper will be the first film in USC history to use motion capture technology for pre-visualization. Martinez has invested state of the art technology and equipment, incredible production locations, and professional cast and crew for this film, including Navy veteran and Stranger Things actress Jennifer Marshall and Christopher Loverro, an Army veteran and the founder of non-profit Warriors for Peace Theater.
Martinez is a combat veteran who saw first-hand the psychological effects war has on returning service members — and decided to do something about it.
Or you can contribute to their Indiegogo campaign, which will directly pay for authentic looking military grade equipment, wardrobe, weaponry, and locations, as well as daily expenses for the crew. Student films rarely yield a return on the financial investment of the students who create them, so supporting a campaign like this will go directly to helping a veteran tell a critical military story — the first of many, unless I’ve read Martinez’s tenacity, vision, and drive wrong.
Military movies can often remind Veterans of their service. They can also bring up painful memories of the past.
Air Force Veteran and Silver Star recipient John Pighini is someone who knows both sides of this issue. He recently worked as a technical adviser on a major motion picture that showcased the bravery of service members, but also brought up a painful past. These movies can sometimes show Veterans dealing with their own struggles: anger, paranoia, edginess, regret and survivor’s guilt.
Pighini saw those struggles on the big screen after working on the movie. “It feels like they take post-traumatic stress and they set it right in your lap,” he said. “Don’t go to this movie and not take a handkerchief or tissues with you. You will not make it through.”
PTSD in Veterans
These are the feelings Pighini knows all too well. He served as a pararescueman during Vietnam, which led to his role on the movie as a technical adviser. As members of Air Force Special Warfare, pararescue specialists rescue and medically treat downed military personnel all over the world. These highly trained experts take part in every aspect of the mission and are skilled parachutists, scuba divers and rock climbers, and they are even arctic-trained in order to access any environment to save a life when called.
Dr. Paula Schnurr, executive director for National Center for PTSD in VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, started studying PTSD in 1984. She said Vietnam Veterans are still dealing with effects because the lack of support when they returned from deployment.
“Vietnam Veterans, like Veterans of earlier wars, were expected to come home and get on with their lives,” she said. Schnurr added the publicly opposed war made Vietnam Veterans’ transition hard to come home.
The National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study, completed in 1988 by the Research Triangle Institute, was pivotal for Veterans and the medical community. At the time, it was the most rigorous and comprehensive study on PTSD and other psychological problems for Vietnam Veterans readjusting to civilian life.
The study findings indicated about 30% of all male and 27% of female Vietnam theater Veterans had PTSD at some point during their lives. At the time, that equated to more than 970,000 Veterans. Additionally, about one half of the men and one third of the women who ever had PTSD still had it.
PTSD symptoms may increase with age after retiring from work, or from medical problems and lack of coping mechanisms.
Having a mission
Having a mission can help Veterans deal with PTSD. While working on a recent movie, Pighini recalled the struggles he still deals with–50 years after his Vietnam service.
“The early days, we didn’t know what we had,” he said. “As we get older, we become more melancholy. We’re not busy and we’re not out there on the firing line.”
While filmed in Thailand, Pighini said the smells from Southeast Asia raised the hairs on the back of his neck. Despite the flashbacks, Pighini said he hopes viewers realize the importance of putting a spotlight on PTSD. He added movies also depict the courageousness of military members. In the movie he worked on, the movie told the story of an Air Force pararescuemen who lived by their motto, “That others may live.”
“That means you lay it out,” Pighini said. “You do whatever you need to do to save a life. It’s the ethos we have. It’s what we live by. If you have to lay down your life or one of your limbs or whatever it is, you do it. It means everything.”
A 95-year-old World War II veteran died during a so-called Honor Flight carrying him home from a weekend in Washington, DC.
Frank Manchel was returning home to San Diego, California, after an all-expenses-paid trip to DC honoring WWII veterans when he died on May 5, 2019, the non-profit Honor Flight San Diego said in a statement.
Dave Smith, founder of Honor Flight San Diego, told the Union-Tribune that Manchel’s death was “almost instantaneous.”
“He was laughing, chatting, having a good time — and then he collapsed,” he said.
Manchel, who served as an Army technical sergeant in WWII, had flown to DC with 82 other veterans, family members, and volunteers, to visit historic landmarks in the country’s capital.
The group visited the WWII Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Air Force Memorial, the Navy Yard’s museum, and the military electronics museum.
Manchel’s sons, Bruce and Howard, as well as his 93-year-old brother, Jerome, and nephew, David, joined him on the trip.
Bruce Manchel said in a statement on May 6, 2019 seen by INSIDER that his father died after “the most amazing weekend, surrounded by his newest best friends.”
“We thank all of you — Honor Flight San Diego, American Airlines, San Diego International Airport, friends, and supporters for your concern and for allowing the weekend to be so special for all of us to share together.”
Following Manchel’s death, an American Flag was draped over his body, and two chaplains on board the flight said prayers.
When the plane landed in San Diego, veterans saluted as they passed by his body.
Honor Flight San Diego told INSIDER that American Airlines offered to take Manchel’s remains and relatives to Detroit, Michigan, at no charge ahead of May 9, 2019’s funeral. Honor Flight San Diego’s founder will be in attendance.
This is the seventh death to happen during an Honor Flight Network flight, the Associated Press reported. Honor Flight San Diego requires veterans and their guardians to complete medical questionnaires before flying.
In 2018, fewer than 500,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII were still alive, according to US Department of Veterans Affairs statistics cited by the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.
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The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 87,000 with over 1.4 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.
Here’s a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast regions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has told cabinet ministers and regional heads to prepare to battle the coronavirus as he outlined steps being taken to counter the outbreak.
“Right now we need to get ready to fight for the life of each individual in every region,” Putin said during a video conference from his residence outside Moscow on April 8 during which he outlined measures being implemented to counter the growing outbreak in the country.
Russia has more than 8,670 officially confirmed coronavirus infections and at least 63 fatalities.
However, critics have cast doubt over the veracity of the figures, saying the actual toll could be much higher.
Among the steps publicized by Putin during his address was extra pay for medical personnel and the freeing up of 10 billion rubles (3 million) from the federal budget to be disbursed among the country’s more than 80 administrative regions.
In addition, he said that medical personnel who are in direct contact with coronavirus patients would be in line for an additional bonus.
Addressing the economy, Putin said that there was “practically no such thing as a total shutdown of business,” despite the obstacles and restrictions being faced.
“We must realize what kind of damage and destructive consequences this can bring about,” he said.
Putin also told the nation that he realized it is difficult to “remain inside four walls all the time.”
“But there is no choice,” he said. “One has to make it through self-isolation,” he told chiefs of Russia’s regions, which are mostly under strict lockdown.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani has urged the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide Tehran a multibillion-dollar emergency loan it had requested to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
The epidemic has further damaged Iran’s economy, already battered by U.S. sanctions that were reimposed after Washington in 2018 withdrew from a landmark deal between Tehran and world powers to curb the country’s nuclear program.
Tehran, as well as several countries, the United Nations, some U.S. lawmakers, and human rights groups have urged the United States to ease the sanctions to help Iran respond more effectively to the virus.
The outbreak has officially infected more than 62,500 people and killed over 3,800 in the country. Iranian officials have been criticized for their slow initial response to the pandemic, and experts have been skeptical about the veracity of official figures released by the authorities, who keep a tight lid on the media.
“We are a member of the IMF…. There should be no discrimination in giving loans,” Rohani said in a televised cabinet meeting on April 8.
“If they do not act on their duties in this difficult situation, the world will judge them in a different way,” he added.
Last month, the Central Bank of Iran asked the IMF for billion from its Rapid Financing Initiative to help to fight the pandemic in one of the hardest-hit countries in the world.
An IMF official was quoted as saying the Washington-based lender was in dialogue with Iranian officials over the request.
Iran has not received assistance from the IMF since a “standby credit” issued between 1960 and 1962, according to the fund’s data.
U.S. President Donald Trump has offered some humanitarian assistance, but Iranian officials have rejected the offer, saying Washington should instead lift the sanctions, which Rohani on April 8 equated to “economic and medical terrorism.”
Medicines and medical equipment are technically exempt from the U.S. sanctions but purchases are frequently blocked by the unwillingness of banks to process transactions for fear of incurring large penalties in the United States.
In one of the few instances of aid, Britain, France, and Germany used a special trading mechanism for the first time on March 31 to send medical supplies to Iran in a way that does not violate the sanctions.
The three countries sent supplies via Instex, the mechanism set up more than a year ago to allow legitimate humanitarian trade with Iran.
On April 7, Iran’s parliament reconvened for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak forced it to close, and rejected an emergency bill calling for a one-month nationwide lockdown.
More than two-thirds of the legislature’s 290 members gathered in the absence of speaker Ali Larijani, who tested positive for the virus last week.
During the session, deputy speaker Massud Pezeshkian criticized the Rohani administration for “not taking the outbreak seriously.”
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on April 7 condemned the detention of journalist and workers’ rights defender Amir Chamani in the northwestern city of Tabriz after he posted tweets about the health situation in Iran’s prisons and protests by inmates.
The Paris-based media freedom watchdog quoted Chamani’s family as saying he was detained on April 2 after being summoned by the cyberpolice.
The authorities have given no reason for the arrest of Chamani, who was transferred to a detention center run by the intelligence department of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, according to RSF.
Romania has confirmed another 344 cases of COVID-19 to reach 4,761, with 18 more fatalities that brought the toll to 215, the country’s coronavirus task force said on April 7, amid renewed calls for a sustained increase in the number of tests.
More than 700 of those infected are health-care workers.
The first fatality among medical staff was reported on April 8 — an ambulance paramedic from the northeastern city of Suceava who had reportedly kept working without being tested for days, although his health was deteriorating rapidly.
Suceava is the epicenter of the outbreak in Romania and has been under lockdown since last week.
The first coronavirus death was registered in Romania on March 22.
An additional 631 Romanians tested positive for COVID-19 abroad, most of them — 412 — in Italy, the world’s hardest-hit country. Some 37 Romanians have died so far in Italy, Britain, France, Spain, and Germany.
The country has been under a state of emergency since March 16, and President Klaus Iohannis on April 6 announced his intention to extend it by one month, while the government decided to postpone local elections that should have been held in early summer.
The Suceava paramedic’s death adds to worries about how Romania’s system is coping with the epidemic. Doctors and nurses have spoken out in recent weeks over insufficient equipment for those treating COVID-19 cases, and many medical staff have resigned over the shortages as well as mismanagement and fatigue.
Romanian platform for online activism DeClic has launched an Internet campaign urging the authorities to speed up the testing under the slogan “Mr. [Prime Minister Ludovic] Orban, don’t toy with our lives.”
Romania, a country of 19.5 million, has tested 47,207 people for coronavirus. By comparison, fellow EU member the Czech Republic has tested almost 99,000 people out of a total of 10.5 million. The Czech death toll stands at 99, less than half of Romania’s.
With reporting by RFE/RL’s Romanian Service, digi24.ro, g4.ro, Reuters, and hotnews.ro
A former top official of the independent Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Akhmed Zakayev, has been hospitalized in London with coronavirus symptoms.
Zakayev’s relatives told RFE/RL that the exiled former member of the Chechen separatist government was hospitalized on April 6 after he experienced difficulties breathing.
The relatives added that three days prior to his hospitalization, other family members were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever and cough, as well.
Medical officials asked Zakayev’s relatives to sign a consent paper to use artificial respiration during his treatment.
Zakayev, 60, served as culture minister, deputy prime minister, prime minister, and foreign minister in Chechnya’s separatist government.
He and his immediate family members have been residing in exile in London since 2002.
He is wanted in Russia for alleged terrorism, which he and his supporters deny.
On Jan. 23, 2019, Lopez told the court he met Guzman at Puente Grande in 1999. He said he resigned in late 2000, deciding to leave when the government launched a corruption probe at the prison. Guzman contacted him soon after, Lopez said, seeking help to maintain the privileges he had gotten through bribery and other inducements.
It long been suspected that Lopez aided the escape, and it is widely believed that Guzman was snuck out in a laundry cart, though others dispute that account. On the stand, Lopez denied involvement in the January 2001 escape but said a laundry cart was involved.
Senior “Chapo” Guzman lieutenant Damaso Lopez arrested in Mexico
Guzman “told me the only person responsible for that escape had been Chito, who was employed in the laundry,” Lopez testified, according to Vice reporter Keegan Hamilton.
Chito, a laundry room worker at the prison, “had taken [Guzman] inside a laundry cart that was picking up dirty laundry and transported him to the parking lot … he put him in the trunk of his car,” Lopez said.
Lopez said that Guzman revealed more about the escape months later, in the mountains of Nayarit, a state near Sinaloa in northwest Mexico.
“He told me that really the plan for his escape was spontaneous,” Lopez testified, according to Hamilton. “This was because some of his friends in the federal government had notified him that an extradition order had been issued.”
After that, Guzman offered Lopez a job, and over the next decade and a half Lopez became deeply involved in the cartel’s operations — including efforts to spring Guzman from prison in 2015.
Lopez said he met with Guzman’s wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, and his sons in mid-2014, just a few months after Guzman was recaptured.
During that meeting, he said, they discussed buying land near the high-security Altiplano federal penitentiary, west of the capital in Mexico state, where Guzman was held and that Coronel told Lopez that Guzman had asked for him to buy weapons and an armored vehicle to use in the breakout.
Emma Coronel Aispuro
It took months to dig a mile-long tunnel under the prison, and Guzman could reportedly hear the excavation in his cell — so loud that other inmates complained. (Footage from Guzman’s cell the night of the escape also picked up sounds of his henchmen smashing through the floor of his shower.)
During that time, Coronel was a major player in the plot, Lopez said, carrying messages to and from Guzman.
Coronel has never been charged with a crime, but her role as intermediary for Guzman and his associates during the 2015 escape may explain the tight restrictions the US has put on her contact with her husband while he’s been in US custody. In November 2018, as the trial was starting, the judge in the case denied a request to allow Guzman to hug her.
The audacious escape through a mile-long, ventilated tunnel on a motorcycle rigged on rails garnered international attention. Lopez added more detail to the account, saying that one of Coronel’s brothers was driving the motorcycle, which had been towed through the tunnel.
Lopez said that, like the 2001 escape, his involvement was limited. “I never knew, not even about one shovel of earth that was removed there,” he said. “His sons were doing that.”
In early 2016, Mexican newspaper Reforma reported that Mexican officials allowed a private company to connect a geolocation-monitoring bracelet to Guzman while he was at Altiplano, but Reforma was unable to find definitive answers about who authorized the device, rising concern it was part of the kingpin’s escape plan.
“Some high officials in the federal government consider that, because of the grade of precision in the digging and the excavation,” Reforma reported at the time, “the tunnel through which ‘El Chapo’ escaped could not have been constructed without the help of geolocation device.”
President Enrique Peña Nieto, accompanied by Cabinet members, holds a press conference in the Palacio Nacional announcing the capture of Joaquín Guzmán.
Lopez said the excavation was in fact aided by a GPS watch smuggled into the prison for Guzman to wear. (A Mexican official who talked to Guzman after he was recaptured in 2016 said Guzman told investigators that his henchmen dug two tunnels under the prison, the second coming after they arrived at the wrong cell.)
Guzman remained on the run for 13 years after his 2001 jailbreak, but his freedom after the second escape was short-lived. Mexican authorities caught up with him in northwest Sinaloa state in January 2016.
After his capture he was returned to Altiplano, which holds many high-profile criminals. While there, Guzman sent a message through his wife that he wanted to mount an escape again, Lopez said. To carry that out, Lopez said the Sinaloa cartel paid a million bribe to the head of Mexico’s prison system.
The US Navy caught a Russian destroyer on video nearly colliding with a US warship in a dangerous close encounter at sea.
The Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov closed with the US Navy Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville on June 7, 2019, putting the sailors on board at risk, the US 7th Fleet said in a statement.
The US Navy says the Russian vessel engaged in “unsafe and unprofessional” conduct at sea. Specifically, it “maneuvered from behind and to the right of Chancellorsville, accelerated, and closed to an unsafe distance of approximately 50-100 feet.”
The Russians are telling a different story, accusing the US Navy of suddenly changing course and cutting across the path of its destroyer. The US Navy has videos of the incident to back its narrative.
(1/2) USS Chancellorsville Avoids Collision with Russian Destroyer Udaloy I DD 572
Naval affairs expert Bryan Clark offered some clarity on just how risky this situation is, explaining that 50 feet to 100 feet for a destroyer is comparable to being inches from another car while barreling down the freeway.
“It’s really dangerous,” he told Business Insider. “Unlike a car, a ship doesn’t have brakes. So the only way you can slow down is by throwing it into reverse. It’s going to take time to slow down because the friction of the water is, of course, a lot less than the friction of the road. Your stopping distance is measured in many ship lengths.”
“When someone pulls a maneuver like that,” Clark added, “It’s really hard to slow down or stop or maneuver quickly to avoid the collision.”
(2/2) USS Chancellorsville Avoids Collision with Russian Destroyer Udaloy I DD 572
The Russian version of the story is that the US ship is to blame.
“The US guided-missile cruiser Chancellorsville suddenly changed course and cut across the path of the destroyer Admiral Vinogradov coming within 50 meters of the ship,” the Russian Ministry of Defense said in a statement. “A protest over the international radio frequency was made to the commanders of the American ship who were warned about the unacceptable nature of such actions.”
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