Here's the origin of the respected battlefield cross - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

Troops die in battle — it’s an unfortunate fact, but it’s the nature of the job. Countless men and women have sacrificed themselves to protect their fellow service members, their friends and family back home, and the lifestyle we enjoy here in the U.S. “Battlefield crosses” were created to honor the fallen. A deceased troop’s rifle is planted, barrel-first, into their boots (or, in some cases, the ground) and their helmet is placed atop the rifle. Like all things military, this cross is part of a long-standing tradition — a tradition that has evolved since its first use on the battlefields of the American Civil War.

Despite the fact that it’s called a cross, there’s no single religious ideology attached to the practice.


The tradition of marking the site where a troop met his end began in the Civil War. Historically, large-scale battles meant mass casualties. After armies clashed and the smoke settled, bodies were quickly removed from the field to stop the spread of disease. Blade-cut, wooden plaques were placed at temporary grave sites so that others could pay respects.

 

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross
The grave marker of Lt. Charles R. Carville, a member of the 165th New York Volunteers who died at Port Hudson May 27, 1863. (Nation Museum of American History)

It wasn’t until World War I, when troops were issued rifles and kevlar helmets, that these wooden blocks were replaced with the crosses as we know them. To many, it was the equipment that made a trooper, so creating a memorial from that same gear was poignant.

In World War II, dog tags were standard, making troop identification easier. The tags were eventually placed on the memorials, giving a name to the troop who once carried the gear on which it was draped. When available, a pair of boots was placed at the bottom of the shrine, too.

A pair of boots, a rifle, a helmet, and some identification — there’s something eerily, symbolically beautiful about the battlefield cross, composed of the core components of a troop.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross
A battlefield cross sits on display during sunrise, April 15, 2016, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 93d Air Ground Operations Wing set up the cross for Lt. Col. William Schroeder. (Photo by Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan)

Today, given the technology, photos of the fallen are also sometimes placed near the memorial. These crosses help give troops closure and a way to pay their respects to their brothers- and sisters-in-arms.

Intel

5 bugs you can actually eat to survive

The idea of chowing down on some insects doesn’t sound too appetizing, but when you’re on the brink of starvation, it might be your best option. When you’re stuck out in the middle of nowhere, food sources can get pretty scarce. On top of all that, even if you were to catch a small game animal while enduring the elements, you’d still have to start a fire and cook that sucker to avoid ingesting any nasty parasites.

On the contrary, if you find a source of edible insects, you can just pop them into your mouth and get some lifesaving nutrition. Keep an eye out for these bugs if you find yourself in a bind.


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Ants

These are probably the most popular insects to munch on. In fact, you’ve probably had a few crawl into your mouth while camping without even knowing it — don’t worry, it happens. You can efficiently collect these nutritious little bugs from their hills. Sure, you’re invading their personal space, but you have to eat, too.

Just make sure they’re not the painful kind first.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

That’s good eatin’!

Grasshoppers

No, we’re not referring to young individuals who are learning martial arts. We’re talking about those little ugly things that jump from seemingly nowhere and land on your arm.

Packed with the protein you need to sustain yourself until you can find help, grasshoppers can be easily collected and stored for a quick snack throughout the day.

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Stink bugs

Though their name may have you believe otherwise, you can actually eat these suckers if you’re super desperate. Although they don’t look all that enjoyable, like most insects, they’re packed with the energy-providing protein you need to push yourself out of a desolate area.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

It’s dinner time!

Termites

Another excellent source of protein and energy, termites can be found devouring large pieces of wood. These six-legged pests aren’t know for being filled with parasites, which means they’re good to eat. Once you find a log that’s been hollowed out by these eager eaters, give it a shake and watch them crawl out.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

Bon appetit!

Wood Lice

Also known as the “potato bug,” this little thing isn’t technically an insect — it’s actually a terrestrial isopod crustacean. Sure, maybe it doesn’t belong on list of bugs, but it does tastes similar to shrimp. They can be boiled in hot water just before being enjoyed by a struggling camper that’s to hold on for dear life.

Maybe we’re exaggerating a bit, but they do taste better than they look. Trust me.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the elite PJs rescue troops in the mountains of Afghanistan

US Air Force Pararescue specialists, or PJs, are one of the most elite special operators in the world.

Consisting of about 500 airmen, PJs “rescue and recover downed aircrews from hostile or otherwise unreachable areas,” according to the Air Force.

These “highly trained experts perform rescues in every type of terrain and partake in every part of the mission, from search and rescue, to combat support to providing emergency medical treatment, in order to ensure that every mission is a successful one.”

“One of the challenges [in Afghanistan] is the altitude and terrain because we are surrounded by mountains,” Maj. Jason Egger, 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron commander at Bagram Airfield, said in a Defense Department news release on the training.

“We overcome that challenge by working with the Army pilots, which gives us the capability to get to the altitude we need and insert the teams,” Egger added.

Here’s how PJs rescue troops in the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan.


Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

US Air Force PJs on the ground during a training mission in Afghanistan on Nov. 5, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

A CH-47 Chinook helicopter takes off during a PJ training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

After getting a call, the PJs load into an Army CH-47 Chinook, which they often use for transports in rescue missions in Afghanistan.

“Most of the central and northern Afghanistan area is very high altitude, and that’s where the CH-47s can really provide some special capability because of their ability to get to that high altitude area and insert the team,” Eggers said.

Read more about Chinooks here.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

A CH-47 Chinook helicopter flies over an MRAP during a PJ training mission on Nov. 5, 2018 in Afghanistan.

(US Air Force photo)

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

An Air Force PJ fast-ropes down to the ground during a training mission in Afghanistan on Nov. 5, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

At the site, PJs fast-rope down to the ground to get the troops in need.

PJs can also insert from higher altitudes, and therefore train in high altitude jumps from fixed-wing aircraft.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

PJ operators perform rescues during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

A PJ operator helps an service member with a simulated injury during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

PJs provide first aid to wounded service members during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018. The wounds were simulated for the training’s realism.

(US Air Force photo)

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

PJs flying in Chinook helicopters during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

PJs carrying a service member with a simulated wound during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

PJs conduct combat arms training Nov. 1, 2018 at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

(US Air Force photo)

But PJs also undergo intense combat arms training as well, which is needed in certain rescue scenarios.

“The PJs and the combat rescue officers have a pretty broad skill set, and it’s pretty difficult to stay sharp on all those skills,” Eggers said. “So continuing to keep them engaged through training, it keeps those skills sharp throughout the entire deployment.”

Watch the full interview with Eggers here, and the PJ training videos here, here and here.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Their first battle: George A. Custer charges into Manassas

Famous Maj. Gen. George A. Custer is probably best known for his exploits after the Civil War, but he graduated from West Point in June 1861, arriving in the regular Army just in time to lead cavalrymen in the First Battle of Bull Run that July. Yeah, Custer rode into combat the month after he graduated college.


Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

Cadet George A. Custer at West Point in 1859.

(Public domain)

The First Battle of Bull Run, or the First Battle of Manassas as it was known in the South, focused on the railroad intersection at Manassas. The railroads that intersected there were key to Washington’s ability to send troops and supplies south into Virginia in case of an invasion of the South. Both sides knew this and wanted to control the junction.

The South stationed an army there, but those men largely fell back when 30,000 Union troops assembled nearby in June 1861. Just weeks later, the field commander of the Union Army, Gen. Irvin McDowell, proposed using his 30,000 men to further drive back the Confederate defenders and then advance on Richmond. His goal was to capture the Virginia capital, recently selected as the second capital of the Confederacy.

While the Confederate forces under Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard had fallen back when the Union troops showed up, they were obviously not willing to leave the capital undefended. They had to fight the Union at Manassas Junction.

Custer arrived in Washington D.C. on July 20, 1861, the day before the battle broke out. He had been held on West Point’s campus for disciplinary reasons right after he had graduated from the school as the 34th ranked student in a class of 34. Because of his late start after this detainment, he barely reached D.C. in time for the battle.

He reported to the Adjutant-General’s office and was told that he had been assigned as an officer in the 2nd Cavalry Regiment. (This was an auspicious assignment. Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee had commanded the unit until January 1861.)

But after giving Custer his orders, the adjutant offered to introduce Custer to Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott. At the time, Scott was the Commanding General of the United States Army. Custer gave his assent, and Scott asked Custer if he would rather spend the following weeks training recruits or if he desired “something more active?”

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

A Union artillery battery is overran at the First Battle of Bull Run.

(Sidney King, public domain via Good Free Photos)

Custer said he wanted more active work, and Scott ordered him to procure a horse and report back by 7 p.m. to carry dispatches to McDowell, the field commander. Custer did so, introduced himself to the general and his staff, and then reported to his regiment.

Because of West Point’s detaining him, Scott had managed to ingratiate himself with the Army’s top commander and its top field commander mere hours before its first engagement, a fight he would now ride in. It was a pretty great start for a bottom-of-his-class West Pointer.

But when the actual battle touched off, Custer was present and in the saddle, but did not see serious action. The Union commanders had seven cavalry troops on the field, but largely used them attached to infantry brigades where they would, at most, protect the infantry’s flanks or do a little reconnaissance.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

Custer, on the right, as a captain after he captured one of his West Point classmates.

(Library of Congress)

Still, he made himself present and provided warnings to commanders, leading to a citation in reports from the battle and impressing George C. McClellan. The battle went badly for the Union, and McDowell was removed from command. That might seem like a problem for the cavalry officer who had just impressed McDowell, but McDowell was replaced by McClellan.

As McClellan re-organized and re-trained the Union military, he kept an eye on Custer who was quickly impressing others, largely through brash actions. During the Peninsula Campaign, he saw a debate about whether it was safe to ford a river and ended the argument by riding into the middle of it and reporting that, yeah, he wasn’t dead. It was probably fine.

His bravado earned him fans, and his connections to top officers got him looked at for commands that a young officer likely wouldn’t have gotten looked at for. In fact, he rose so quickly that he received a brevet promotion to brigadier general of volunteers at the tender age of 23.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Drone footage shows leveled compound where ISIS leader died

New drone footage shows what remains of the Syrian compound where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died as US Delta Force commandos raided the secret lair on Oct. 26, 2019.

Turkish state-run news outlet Anadolu Agency released the footage Oct. 28, 2019. It shows the compound in Barissa, Syria, completely leveled, with people milling about in the rubble.

US fighter jets fired six rockets into the building after the kill team left, in order to prevent the building from turning into a shrine for the terrorist leader.


Watch the full video below:

Drone Video Shows The Devastated Compound Where Al-Baghdadi Died | NBC News

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Earlier this month, Trump announced he was removing American troops from northern Syria, causing Turkey to invade the region, which may explain why it was a Turkish news outlet that got to the scene first to take the drone video.

Trump said Al-Baghdadi fled into an underground network of tunnels when the raid started, wearing a suicide vest and bringing three children with him.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

Drone footage of the compound, bottom right, was taken by a Turkish state-run media outlet.

(Anadolu Agency)

When he reached the end of the tunnel, Trump said the most wanted terrorist in the world ignited the suicide vest, killing himself and all three of the children.

The explosion caused the tunnel to cave in, so US forces weren’t able to completely remove Baghdadi’s body. But they got enough of it to conduct DNA testing to confirm that the man was indeed the head of ISIS.

US forces stayed on the scene for about two hours, recovering highly sensitive information on the group.

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

Read more:
MIGHTY TRENDING

5 honorable ways veterans pay respect to the fallen

Veterans visit their fallen brothers and sisters at cemeteries all around the globe every day. Most people pay their respects by leaving some flowers to decorate the area while others leave a personal touch. Some of the tokens left at gravesites have rich history and deep meaning.


Check out these five ways we’ve paid homage to our fallen.

1. Connection through coins

We’re not talking about command coins, even though leaving one is still respectful. We’re talking about quarters, dimes, and nickels. Each coin has a special meaning attached to them that dates back to WWII.

  • A penny on a headstone is a message to the fallen’s family that someone visited the grave to pay their respects.
  • A nickel indicates the grave was visited by another veteran who trained in boot camp with the deceased.
  • A dime means the veterans served together in some way.
  • A quarter tells the family that someone visited the site who was near the hero when he or she died.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross
Actor and Army Veteran Don Knotts’ gravestone.  (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

2. Placing stones on the headstones

If you’ve haven’t seen “Schindler’s List,” then you need to stream it tonight after you buy a box of tissues (trust me, you’re going to need them). At the very end of the film, you’ll see a powerful moment where “Schindler’s Jews” and the actors who played them in the film place stones on his grave site.

Many Jewish military veterans continue this tradition placing stones on the graves to help keep the dead from haunting the living.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross
The military respects all veteran’s religious freedoms and rights. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

3. Sticking lit cigarettes into the ground

Go to any base, and you’ll see service members “smoking and joking” at designated areas called “smoke pits.” It’s a time where we socialize while puffing on a cigarette or enjoying a lip full of dip.

If the fallen was known for his or her tobacco use, lighting a cigarette for them to smoke is a standard practice.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross
Smoke ’em, if you got ’em.

4. Leaving a small bottle or two of liquor

The majority of service members drink — it’s just what we do when we bond with our military brothers and sisters. So that tradition carries on well after we get out. When we visit one of our fallen comrades at the cemetery, we commonly bring their favorite alcoholic beverage with us and leave it behind.

If we feel like it, we’ll even take a shot with them.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross
Veterans will always be brothers for life.

Also Read: 7 times when heroic veterans saved the day

5. Reliving old memories

There’s nothing better for veterans than to get together with their military family while visiting a deceased grave site and relive the good times through story. Having a few beers and reminding the group all the funny experiences you had with the fallen can be incredibly therapeutic and bring the group closer together.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross
Brotherhood doesn’t expire even in death. It only makes it stronger.

What are some unique ways you’ve paid you’re respects? Comment below.

MIGHTY CULTURE

100 year old sentinel returns to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

At 100, Jack Eaton is the oldest living, oldest known sentinel of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. His and other sentinels’ names are there on plaques, commemorating their service. Sentinels, all volunteers, are members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as “The Old Guard.”

Life in the Army for Eaton began when he left coal country in southeastern Pennsylvania to enlist in 1937 at age 18. Stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, he said, he fired expert with his rifle and was very competitive in military training and other activities, and that got him selected for the job. Sentinels are also usually tall, and Eaton’s height also helped. At 6-feet, he was considered tall at the time.


Eaton spoke during a tour of the Pentagon, where he met with Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist and others.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

Army Capt. Harold Earls, right, commander of the Tomb Guard, presents World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, with a signed photo and challenge coin from the Tomb Guard.

(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Vanessa N. Atchley)

Earlier in the day, he also visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, after arriving on an Honor Flight from Burton, Michigan, where he now lives.

While at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, Eaton said he was struck by the elaborate, precision movements of the sentinels, although he remembers it being similar during his time there, with knife-edge creases on the soldiers’ uniforms. He recalls the snap and pop sounds of doing the manual of arms with his rifle.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, visits the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 23, 2019.

(Photo by Marine Corps Sgt. Dylan C. Overbay)

One thing that has changed since Eaton’s days as a sentinel is that the changing of the guard ceremony is now every hour instead of every two hours. Eaton said he was told that the change was made so more visitors could view the ceremony, and he said that’s a good thing for the public to see.

Eaton picked up rank quickly and eventually became corporal of the guard, responsible for ensuring that the changing of the guard and other activities went smoothly.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

World War II veteran Jack Eaton, left, and Army Capt. Harold Earls, commander of the Tomb Guard, speak to new recruits in the Tomb Quarters at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 23, 2019.

(Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

Eaton’s enlistment expired in 1940, and he went to work for Hudson Motor Car Company. His work there was short-lived, however, because the United States entered World War II after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Eager to get into the war, Eaton returned to Fort Belvoir. His old unit had disbanded, but his old company commander was still there and remembered him. He got Eaton into welding school in Washington, where he trained daily on the use of oxy acetylene and various forms of electric welding. The training soon paid off, he said.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, points to his name on a plaque at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Oct 23, 2019.

(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Vanessa N. Atchley)

Eaton was assigned a truck full of welding gear and mechanical tools and parts, as well as a full-time mechanic. In 1942, just months after the war started, Eaton, his mechanic and the truck were shipped off to England, where they went from airfield to airfield repairing heavy equipment such as bulldozers, graders and cranes used to build runways.

It was a lot of work, he said, because many new runways were being built. This required a lot of heavy equipment, which frequently broke down.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, is greeted by Soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 23, 2019.

(Photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

As the war progressed, Eaton, his truck and his partner were transferred to France, and eventually to Germany. By the end of the war, he had attained the rank of technician fourth grade.

After the war ended in 1945, Eaton said, he went back to Hudson to work, but only for a short time, because he found a better job in the window replacement industry.

After a while, he said, he decided he could make a lot more money starting up his own window business, and he did so after purchasing a 2,100-square-foot factory and showroom. His business was such a success that he was able to retire at the ripe young age of 55.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director, Arlington National Cemetery and Army National Military Cemeteries, World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, and Rep. Jack Bergman of Michigan walk at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 23, 2019.

(Photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

Eaton said he’s impressed with the service members he meets today. As for advice to give them on how to succeed, he offered: “Accept responsibility, don’t shirk your duty, honor your oath, be proud of what you do and try to do better each time.” He also said that healthy competition with other soldiers will do much toward self-improvement.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, and Army Capt. Harold Earls, commander of the Tomb Guard, point to Eaton’s name on a plaque at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Oct 23, 2019.

(Photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

As for his secret to living to be 100 and walking around the Pentagon at a fast pace without a wheelchair, Eaton credited the genes of his mother, who lived to be 100. He also said he quit smoking in his early 30s, drinks moderately — or not at all for long periods of time — eats right and gets up every morning to do rigorous exercises.

Eaton said he’s lived a full and happy life and was blessed to have the chance to serve his country and contribute to society afterward.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The long and difficult road to changing Feres Doctrine

In high school, Jordan Way played football and lacrosse, as well as participating in ballroom dancing. He worked with the school’s Best Buddies program, partnering with special needs students in a mentoring capacity. “One of our nicknames for him was ‘Adventure,'” said his father, Dana Way. “Hiking, fishing, shooting, bow and arrows — he did not turn down a challenge.” Jordan was devoted to his family and devoted to his role as a U.S. Navy corpsman.

Yet only four years into his time in the Navy, Jordan was dead from opioid toxicity following shoulder surgery at the military hospital at Twentynine Palms Base. His parents were shocked to discover that a longstanding legal precedent known as the Feres Doctrine prevented them from suing the government for medical malpractice.


“My son never left the United States,” said Suzi Way, Jordan’s mother. “He was not in a war situation. He was having routine surgery, and he died. And he has no voice because of the Feres Doctrine.”

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

U.S. Navy sailor Jordan Way died following shoulder surgery and while under the care of military medical professionals.

(Photos courtesy of Suzi Way.)

Jordan was one of thousands affected by the Feres Doctrine in the 70 years it has been in effect. But as of Dec. 20, 2019, active duty military personnel will finally have legal recourse in cases of medical malpractice. President Donald Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2020, which includes a new mechanism holding the Department of Defense accountable for medical malpractice in military medical facilities. It was a hard-fought battle, but one that has potentially far-reaching consequences for service members who suffer from negligent care.

In 1950, the case Feres v. United States was heard and decided by the Supreme Court. The court held that the United States cannot be sued by active duty personnel under the Federal Torts Claims Act for injuries sustained due to medical negligence. As clarified four years later in United States v. Brown, “The peculiar and special relationship of the soldier to his superiors, the effects of the maintenance of such suits on discipline, and the extreme results that might obtain if suits under the Tort Claims Act were allowed for negligent orders given or negligent acts committed in the course of military duty, led the Court to read that Act as excluding claims of that character.”

Natalie Khawam, the lawyer representing the Way family as well as other families that have been affected by Feres, saw this as a fundamental insult to the civil rights of active duty service members and has been fighting to change the precedent through an act of Congress. “We consider ourselves a superpower, but our military has less rights than our civilians, and less rights than other countries, our allies,” Khawam said. “Shame on us.”

Dana Way vociferously agreed. “Our active duty servicemen who volunteer by signing that line — where in that document does it say, ‘I give up my Constitutional rights’?”

In eighth-grade Pop Warner football, Jordan Way severely broke his wrist. “His hand was hanging almost 180 degrees off his arm,” said his mother Suzi. She added that he was a longtime “fitness nut” and injured his shoulder in 2017. His parents wanted him to return home to see the surgeon who had fixed his wrist years earlier. But as a corpsman, Jordan trusted in the team of military medical professionals who would be overseeing his care.

This proved to be a mistake. Following the shoulder surgery, Jordan was left in agony. Five hours after the surgery, he went to the emergency room and lost consciousness from the pain. ER doctors increased his oxycodone dosage and sent him home. The next day, when nothing had improved, his surgeon increased the dosage again. But the doctors had all failed to see what was happening.

“He was getting the physical effects of the opioids; he was not getting the analgesic pain relief,” explained Dana. As a result, the high dosage of oxycodone left his body unable to move food through his digestive tract — he was not processing any nutrients. He became hypoglycemic and his organs began to shut down. In the end, he fell asleep and never woke up.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

Jordan Way, back row center, with his family.

(Photo courtesy of Suzi Way.)

“These doctors, they didn’t maliciously kill our son,” Suzi said. “I pray for them all the time because I know they have to go to bed at night with the woulda, coulda, shoulda. But they also didn’t help Jordan. They were negligent. They were complacent. They didn’t do their jobs.”

After a long and arduous process of trying to determine what exactly had happened to their son, Army Colonel Louis Finelli, Armed Forces Medical Examiner System Director, admitted to the Ways that Jordan’s case was a “preventable and avoidable death.”

Dana Way sees the Feres Doctrine as a roadblock to quality medical care within the military. “The people in power know ultimately nobody’s going to get held responsible for it,” he said. “If you’re active duty military, you’re essentially a piece of equipment. You are a typewriter, you’re a calculator. If you break, you get thrown into a pile and they move on to the next one. To me, that’s wrong.”

Although Feres has not been overturned, it will be substantially diminished in scope by the NDAA signed last week. Service members will still be unable to sue in federal court for damages caused by medical malpractice, as was originally proposed in the Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act. That act was part of the House of Representatives’ version of the bill, named after another of Khawam’s clients who is battling terminal stage 4 lung cancer. Instead, active duty military personnel will be able to submit claims to the Department of Defense itself.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

Rich Stayskal and lawyer Natalie Khawam in Washington.

(Photo courtesy of Natalie Khawam.)

Khawam sees this as an unmitigated victory. “I don’t think anybody will be upset that they can’t go to federal court if they have the remedy, the recourse, of federal court decisions,” she said. “It’s the best of both worlds.” As specified in the NDAA, the Department of Defense will be held to the same standards as those outlined in the Federal Torts Claims Act, and Khawam hopes that it will actually lead to much faster resolution of claims than if the cases were to be seen in federal court.

In its original form as the Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act, all claims would have been seen in federal court, but that proposal faced a roadblock from Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Graham was a staunch opponent of any changes to the Feres Doctrine, stating that such changes would be like “opening Pandora’s Box.” Despite a concerted effort among Stayskal and his advocates, any attempt to contact Graham was met with “crickets,” according to Khawam.

In an innovative tactical maneuver, by taking the process out of federal courts and into the Department of Defense itself, the proposal was approved by the far-more-amenable Senate Armed Services Committee. By doing an end-run around Graham, the act, in its new form, made it into the final reconciled version of the NDAA and was signed into law by the President.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

Jordan Way’s funeral.

(Photo courtesy of Suzi Way.)

Fittingly, Trump was revered by Jordan Way, who was buried with a Trump/Pence button on his dress uniform. Given their struggle to get answers about their son’s death from the military, Suzi Way is wary that claims will now be handled by the Department of Defense. “I know how exhausting it has been for my husband and I to find out how and why our son died. That took hundreds of phone calls, hundreds of emails to our elected officials, hundreds of emails to DOD from the very top of the food chain down. How can one ensure the standards are being upheld if they are standards that are privileged to the DOD’s eyes only?”

Khawam, however, is “on cloud nine,” she said. “I feel like it’s been Christmas every day. 70 years of this awful injustice — I felt like it was this locked-up vault that everybody kept saying, ‘It’s never going to change, it’s never going to change.’ And we finally unlocked that vault and cracked it open.”

Of course, “now the work starts from here,” Khawam added. The next step is actually pursuing the claims for Stayskal, Way, and others who have been denied legal recourse because of the Feres Doctrine.

Even Suzi Way, despite her hesitance about the final form of the bill, is glad that there has been momentum. “I went to bed last night,” she said, “and for the first time in almost two years, I didn’t hear Jordan in my mind saying, ‘Mom, I did nothing wrong. I did everything the doctors told me to do, let people know!’ My son’s voice is being heard that was once silenced due to Feres, and this is balm to my grieving soul.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

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Shipping costs to troops spiked in 2018 and need to switch back

Care packages are how troops stay connected with the ones they love back home. Most troops will have their family send them little trinkets or mama-made cookies to make things better while troops without families have their day brightened by a sweet, heartfelt thank-you card sent by a grade schooler.

These packages are the one constant that every troop, regardless of where or when they served, can depend on. But on January 21st, 2018, the shipping costs for postage to and from all APO/FPO/DPO addresses increased substantially. Thankfully, this increase can be reverted and the rate for shipping can be permanently fixed, benefiting the troops.


Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

Nothing can bring joy to troops like a care package from home.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)

The increases in shipping costs to APO/FPO/DPO addresses were part of an overall increase in the price for all mailing services, across the board. Rates for APO/FPO/DPO mailing addresses were hit hardest — almost doubled. In the defense of the United States Postal Service, the APO/FPO flat-rate box was only increased by five cents and they’ve always supported the troops, but a recently proposed bill can take that support further.

If there were a separate, fixed rate for all postage going to and from troops at APO/FPO addresses, it would be classified as Zone 1/2 postage from any CONUS location. Meaning, that if you were to ship a big ol’ care package not in a APO/FPO flat-rate box, it would cost the same as sending a letter to a soldier stationed in Germany.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

But mainly, you don’t want to screw over the nice people who just want to help support the troops.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot)

In addition to offering a single, fixed rate for those who want to send a care package abroad that might not fit within a fixed-rate box, this could also open up companies to more readily offer online shopping opportunities to deployed troops.

This also means that troops would be more able to ship things from deployed environments back to the States. So, a deployed parent could pick up souvenirs at a local bazaar for their kid while crafty troops could ship certain personal belongings home before they return stateside so don’t need to wait for the connex to return months later.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

The bill would apply to all troops everywhere, even if they’re sailing in the middle of nowhere.

(U.S. Navy photo by Lorenzo J. Burleson)

The bill that includes this fixed cost, H.R.6231 – Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2018, has been introduced to Congress by Rep. Thomas MacArthur. It would permanently establish a single rate for mail and packages being sent to and from at APO/FPO/DPO addresses.

Congressman MacArthur has championed veteran issues since his assignment to the Armed Services Committee and its two subcommittees, the Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces and the Subcommittee on Military Personnel. He also introduced the Veterans’ Mental Health Care Access Act, which would have allowed veterans to access any mental health care facility and eligible for reimbursement — but it failed to garner approval.

To help make sure that this bill makes it through Congress, contact your representative and let them know how you feel. Let them know that this bill will greatly benefit the morale of our fighting men and women. According to Skopos Labs, the bill only has a 3 percent chance of being enacted, so if you feel passionately about it, don’t wait; act.

If you’re unsure of who your representative is, you can use this tool right here and let them know you support H.R.6231 — the Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2018.

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13 ways vets with PTSD can get some freakin’ sleep

There is evidence that people with with PTSD, including Veterans, often suffer from sleep problems and poor sleep, which can make it difficult to function and decrease quality of life.


Insomnia can be a significant challenge. Among active duty personnel with PTSD, research tells us 92 percent suffer from clinically significant insomnia, compared to 28 percent of those without PTSD.

Veterans with PTSD often suffer from nightmares, as 53 percent of combat Veterans with PTSD report a significant nightmare problem. In fact, nightmares are one of the criteria used to diagnose PTSD. Often, nightmares are recurrent and may relate to or replay the trauma the Veteran has experienced. They may be frequent and occur several times a week.

Sleep challenges can compound the effects of PTSD, and can lead to more negative effects, including suicidal ideation and behavior. Insomnia is associated with an increased risk of suicide, even independent of PTSD as a risk factor.

Prolonged or intense stress, such as that experienced during a trauma or in PTSD, is associated with a decreased level of serotonin. The serotonin system regulates parts of the brain that deal with fear and worry. Low serotonin production disrupts sleep and often leads to more significant sleep disorders, like insomnia.

Those with PTSD who experience these brain chemistry changes may be hyper-vigilant, even in sleep. This can make it difficult to fall asleep or remain asleep. Excess adrenaline can make Veterans feel wired at night and unable to relax and fall asleep. With elevated cortisol, there is a decrease in short-wave sleep, and increases in light sleep and waking.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross
Courtesy of David Palka

Treating PTSD and sleep disorders

It’s important for Veterans to seek treatment for trauma-related sleep difficulties. With treatment, Veterans can work to improve sleep difficulties and get more restful sleep. Treatment for Veterans with PTSD may include:

1. Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy is used to facilitate processing of a traumatic event. It may include therapies such as prolonged exposure, cognitive processing therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. Although psychotherapy may not be directly aimed at sleep improvement, it can be effective in relieving PTSD, and in turn, the symptoms of sleep disruption from PTSD.

2. Cognitive behavioral therapy: With cognitive behavioral therapy, Veterans with PTSD discuss their sleep habits and identify opportunities for improvement of sleep hygiene.

3. Relaxation therapy: Often combined with meditation, relaxation therapy is used to promote soothing and a peaceful mindset before bedtime. Ideally, relaxation therapy can alleviate hyperarousal so that Veterans with PTSD can relax and fall asleep more easily.

4. Light therapy: Light therapy uses exposure to bright light to realign the circadian clock. With exposure to bright light during the day, your brain is better able to understand that it’s daytime, and time to be alert. Patients of light therapy often fall asleep more easily and sleep later.

5. Sleep restriction: Sleep restriction is controlled sleep deprivation, which limits the time spent in bed so that sleeping takes up 85 to 90 percent of the time spent in bed.

6. Medication and supplements: Medications are typically considered a last resort for solving sleep difficulties due to their potential side effects. Supplements of melatonin, a natural hormone that regulates the sleep cycle can help patients sleep better. Medications including sedatives and hypnotics may be used if therapies and natural supplements are not effective.

Here’s the origin of the respected battlefield cross

Strategies and techniques to help PTSD-affected Veterans get to sleep

Treatment of PTSD and related sleep disorders is key. However, there are steps Veterans can take in addition to treatment that can alleviate the sleep disruption associated with PTSD. These include:

7. Sleep in a comforting location: Your sleep environment should be a location where you feel safe, and free of any triggers that might cause you to relive trauma.

8. Ask friends and family for support: Some with PTSD feel safer and more comfortable sleeping with a trusted friend or family member in the same room or a nearby room.

9. Wind down in the evening: Spend time in the evening before bed winding down from the day to induce relaxation. If you take time to relax and maintain a consistent bedtime routine, you can signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep. This can be done by going through the same steps before bed every night, ideally relaxing activities such as playing soft music, meditating, practicing muscle relaxation, taking a warm bath, or reading a book.

10. Setup the ideal sleep environment: A nightlight might make you feel more comfortable sleeping in a dark room. If your sleeping environment can be noisy or disruptive, consider playing soft music or using a white noise machine to block out sounds that can startle you out of sleep. Make sure to control the temperature of your room and keep it between 60-67 degrees fahrenheit. From your mattress to your bedding, make sure you know what keeps your spine in alignment and alleviates any pressure points or additional issues you might face.

11. Give yourself enough time to sleep: Being rushed in the evening or morning can contribute to feelings of stress that may exacerbate sleep struggles for Veterans with PTSD. You shouldn’t feel like you don’t have enough time to sleep. Schedule enough time for adequate rest, leaving extra time if you often experience difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep through the night.

12. Listen to your body’s sleep cues: Following trauma, you may need more sleep than you’re expecting. Listen to your body and go to bed when you feel ready to sleep. However, it’s important to avoid getting into bed too early and lying awake for long periods of time.

13. Avoid activities that can interfere with sleep: Eating a large meal, drinking alcohol, consuming caffeine, or napping or exercising a few hours before bed can make it difficult to fall asleep. Avoid screen time late at night, including video games, TV, and mobile devices.

MIGHTY MONEY

Six things to consider with the new payroll tax deferral

More than a million service members had an increase in their September mid-month pay because of the payroll tax deferral program set forth by President Trump. The presidential memorandum directs employers to stop withholding payroll tax until the end of the year to “support working Americans during these challenging times.”

While most civilian companies have declined to implement this directive, the federal government has given service members and civilian employees who make less than $4,000 biweekly or less than $104,000 annually no way to opt-out.

So how does this affect you and your family?


Six things military families might want to consider with the new payroll tax deferral

You will see a boost in pay – but there’s a BIG catch.

For those who are eligible, pay will go up 6.2 percent, which is the amount of payroll tax that is normally paid on wages. This raise in pay will continue through December 31, 2020.

The potential pitfall will come in the new year, between January and April 2021, which is when the taxes that are currently being deferred are slated to be paid back, possibly by taking out twice the normal payroll tax amount each pay period.

The payback will come at a particularly bad time, since most families struggle in the first few months of the new year, while holiday spending bills come due and they wait for their tax refunds.

Do you invest in the TSP, an IRA, or a 529? You may get a nasty surprise in January

While I am a big proponent of automatic investing through payroll deduction or bank transfer since it allows you to “set it and forget it,” this is one instance where a good savings habit could potentially trip you up.

But service members (and their bank accounts!) may be in for a shock if they have their “usual” contributions to the TSP and other investments withdrawn from their pay in January and then have the additional payroll tax deducted as well.

The annual pay raise may offset some of the pain, but it’s not confirmed yet

The proposed defense authorization bill would give service members a 3 percent pay increase in 2021, so this could help ease the pain of paying back extra payroll taxes next year. However, the final bill has not yet been passed by Congress.

Adjusting withholding doesn’t help.

There has been some talk on the internet about adjusting withholding taxes to somehow make up for the payroll tax. This is not a great solution, since the two taxes are not the same. If you increase your withholding, that’s going toward your future income tax bill, not payroll taxes, so it won’t offset January’s tax payback.

If you overpay in withholding tax, you will have to wait until you file income taxes to recoup it.

Save the extra, and save yourself some pain next January

The easiest way to make sure that repaying the deferred payroll tax isn’t a painful experience is to set the extra money aside. The DFAS website says that military members can estimate their payroll tax by taking their monthly base pay and multiplying it by .062 and repeating that process for the four months that the tax is deferred, September through December.

This money can then be saved in a separate, yet easily accessible account. Unfortunately, interest rates are currently very low, so you won’t earn very much interest in such a short time, but at least the money will be available early next year, when it’s due to be repaid.

Getting out? You still have to pay it back

Retired pay is not affected, since it is not earned wages. If a service member leaves the military before the taxes are repaid, they are still on the hook for repayment. Failure to repay these taxes in a timely manner may result in penalties and interest fees.

While it’s possible that service members won’t be required to repay the deferred tax, it’s best not to count on that: it would take action by Congress in order to do that. But if you’ve set aside the funds already, and it turns out that the amount is forgiven, then you will be well on your way to establishing an emergency fund or adding to your existing savings.

DFAS has a dedicated page on the Social Security Payroll Tax deferral. If military families have more questions or concerns, they should contact their installation financial readiness personnel or Military OneSource.

For more savings strategies and inspiration, follow us on social media and visit militarysaves.org and take the Military Saves Pledge, the start of your own personal spending plan.


This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Mark Hamill confirms how Luke Skywalker returns in ‘The Rise of Skywalker’

Mark Hamill has just seemingly confirmed what every person who has ever seen a Star Wars movie or accidentally heard about Star Wars would have already assumed by just thinking about it for a second. Still, because figuring out the plots to Star Wars movies before they come out is more fun — and easier to do — than forecasting political elections, the following piece of information has to come with a massive warning. What Mark Hamill has said could be viewed as a spoiler that will ruin your enjoyment of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which isn’t really even out for a half-a-year anyway. So, you’ve been warned, if you want to keep reading, this article contains some stuff that Mark Hamill said about how he’s appearing in The Rise of Skywalker. (But if you’ve ever read any kind of book or seen a movie, of any kind, you will have seen this coming by virtue of the fact that you are a person in the world.)


Ready? After Luke Skywalker faded away and joined the Force in The Last Jedi, he will reappear in The Rise of Skywalker as…a Force ghost! On June 20, 2019, the Associated Press posted a brief interview with Hamill in which he said he “hopes” that The Rise of Skywalker is his last Star Wars movie and detailed exactly how Luke will return in the film.

“The fact that I’m involved in any capacity is only because of that peculiar aspect of the Star Wars mythology where if you’re a Jedi, you get to come back and make a curtain call as a Force ghost.”

That’s right, Luke is doing exactly what everyone expected him to do, show up with a little blue aura around his body, and vaguely explain what he can’t and can’t do as a creepy spirit. Then again, who knows? Yoda was a ghost in The Last Jedi and that motherfucker was able to conjure a lightning bolt from the sky and burn down a tree, mostly just to pull a prank and make a complicated diss about Luke not being able to finish reading like six books that had been sitting on the planet for who knows how long.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZRCIjMWRLg
Star Wars: The Last Jedi Yoda’s Force Ghost Scene [1080p HD]

www.youtube.com

So, will Luke be the kind of ghost who says ghostly things from the sidelines or the kind of ghost who takes Kylo Ren on a Dickensian adventure to show him the error of his ways? Either way, at this moment, we know Mark Hamill’s Luke isn’t the only ghost haunting the next Star Wars film; the long-dead Emperor Palpatine is back, too!

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

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Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

Whether you love them or hate them, it’s hard to deny that Vikings are insanely cool. The Viking era lasted from about 793  – 1066 AD, and the lore surrounding these ancient people is fascinating. Not all of the stereotypes about Vikings are accurate, however. Keep reading to find out which Viking myths are real, and which are pop culture embellishments. 

Myth #1: Vikings wore those goofy horned helmets.

Fact or Fiction: Fiction

viking helmet
Replica Viking helmet, “The Vikings Begin” exhibit, Nordic Museum, Seattle, Washington, U.S. Photo by Joe Mabel

No one is entirely sure how this rumor became so securely cemented in our portrayal of vikings, but the classic horned Viking helmet wasn’t actually a thing. While earlier Norsemen did wear horned helmets for cultural ceremonies, the Viking era was decidedly horned-hat-free. They did have helmets for combat, just not with horns. 

Myth #2: They were basically pirates.

Fact or Fiction: Fiction…mostly

Technically speaking word Viking is derived from a Scandinavian term, “viking”, which does mean pirate. The meaning behind it, however, is totally different from the modern definition of piracy. Then, it meant a person who explored the high seas. Going “a Viking” was more a verb than a title, and it meant far more than mindless theft and violence. 

Myth #3: Vikings were uncivilized brutes.

Fact or Fiction: Total fiction

Yet again, pop culture did Vikings dirty- literally. Modern representations often portray Vikings as filthy, ruthless war machines. While they were remarkable warriors, they were actually among the more civilized peoples of their era. They were shockingly focused on personal hygiene. A number of items like combs, razors, and tweezers have been found at Viking sites. They also bathed weekly or more, which was exceptional compared to most Europeans at the time. 

They were ahead of the equality curve, too. While girls did get married at a disturbingly young age, they had considerably more freedom than women from other cultures. Aside from thralls, or slaves, Viking women had the right to request divorces, reclaim their dowries, and inherit property. 

Myth #4: They wrote using ancient runes.

Fact or Fiction: Fact

Vikings had their very own alphabet. If you’ve ever watched “The Lord of the Rings” movie series, the runes from the movie are surprisingly similar to real Viking runes. The Vikings recorded historical events into large rocks, which later became known as rune stones. These stones helped tell modern historians much of what we now know about ancient Scandinavian culture.

Myth #5: They were ruthless warriors.

Fact or Fiction: A little of both

Vikings weren’t peaceful, but they weren’t senseless killers either. Their reputation to be killing machines began after a raid on the monks of Lindisfarne. The monks there were killed or captured, the church pillaged, and the library burned. This was the start of the Viking migration from Scandinavia, and it gave them a harsh reputation of being a crude people with no respect for religion or knowledge.

They didn’t do much to dispel that assumption. They conducted raids on countless cities, monasteries and coastal villages. Still, there were two plausible reasons for their plundering habits. 

Firstly, they were NOT devoid of culture or religion; they just weren’t Christian, and they were frequently persecuted for it. Forced baptism and other unfortunate practices led to tension between pagan Vikings and their Christian neighbors. Secondly, the harsh winter conditions of their homeland made it difficult for them to survive without the “help” of towns with more plentiful resources. 

They didn’t always destroy towns, however. After initial raids, Vikings often imposed a tax called Danegeld on their victims. Towns could avoid further attacks by paying up, providing a slightly less dark means of survival for the Vikings.

Myth #6: Vikings were a formal group.

Fact or Fiction: Fiction

Vikings weren’t actually a formal nation. The term Viking covers all the Scandinavian peoples who engaged in overseas exploration and warfare. Vikings were composed of tribes from what is now Sweden, Denmark and Norway. The tribes didn’t live in harmony, either. When they weren’t fighting other nations, they were fighting each other.

Myth #7: Vikings were all about war. 

Fact or Fiction: Fiction

This really comes down to your definition of Viking, honestly. If you mean Viking explorers then sure, they spent a lot of time in battle. If you’re just talking about ancient Scandinavians during the Viking era, then you’d be dead wrong. Most of the people of the era were farmers, not fighters. While their aggressive counterparts razed villages, they raised livestock and grew oats and barley for the winter months. 

They also liked to have fun. They developed early skis, similar to those invented in Russia at a similar time. It became an efficient way to get around their icy homeland, and they enjoyed it so much that they worshipped a skiing god named Ullr.

Myth #8: Viking ships were next-level.

Viking ship
A Viking ship at a museum in Oslo, Norway. Image by Larry Lamsa

Fact or Fiction: Definitely fact

As much as Vikings were known for destruction, they had a great deal to contribute as well. For over 1000 years, the Norse honed the craft of ship-building. They made a wide range of vessels, and they’re responsible for inventing the keel. The keel made boats faster and more stable, which allowed the Vikings to travel longer, faster, and farther across the Atlantic than any before them.

Their most famous ships featured a series of oars and a large, red, woolen sail. They were also strikingly beautiful. Ship-crafting was an art to the Vikings. Their vessels boasted finely carved dragon heads for good luck. 

Myth #9: People were born into the Viking life.

Fact or Fiction: Fiction

Referring back to number six and seven, being a Viking was less a nationality than a career choice. Young Scandinavians could choose to become farmers, or they could choose to become Vikings. The only reason you hear more about Norse Vikings than Norse farmers is pretty simple; decapitating people is way more thrilling to read about than herding sheep. 

Myth #10: They buried their dead at sea.

Fact or Fiction: Mostly fiction.

While the visual of sending a lost loved one out to sea, shooting a flaming arrow into the ship, and watching it burn into a final sunset, is dramatic as hell, it’s not very realistic. Most Viking burials were much less elaborate. Norsemen were often buried in large burial mounds with their prized possessions or cremated in ceremonial pyres. Some of the mounds were made in the shape of a ship, however, to represent their safe journey to the afterlife. 

Can’t get enough of Viking lore? Read about one of the most feared Vikings of all time here.

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