How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you - We Are The Mighty
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How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you

This weekend, comic book fans all over the world were saddened by the terrible news that the father of superheroes had passed — and veterans lost a brother-in-arms who dedicated his life to the arts. This week, the Army Signal Corps says farewell to its most prominent member.

Stan Lee, WWII veteran, comic-book author, and editor-in-chief at Marvel Comics, passed away on the morning of November 12, 2018. As painful as this news is to his family, friends, and fans around the world, we can all appreciate the fact that his life was a very accomplished one. The only way to truly honor a man so great is by reflecting on his storied life and “rise ever upward.” Or, as he’d put it, in it’s Latin form, “excelsior!


How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you
Captain America Comics #3 (1941)
(Marvel Comics)

Stan Lee, born Stanley Martin Lieber, began his career in the comic book world in 1939 when he took on a position as an assistant at Timely Comics under Joe Simon. It wasn’t an easy job, but it needed doing. He’d get people lunch, make sure everyone’s inkwells were full, and even do some proofreading — these weren’t glamorous duties, but they kept the wheels turning. When he finally touched the comic book world directly, he changed it forever — he was given a small amount of creative control over Captain America #3, and he used it to give Cap his signature shield ricochet.

How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you
Many years later, and troops doodling things to pass the time hasn’t changed one bit.
(U.S. Army)

 

What was nothing more than a small writer’s credit at the time gave rise to immense goals. From that moment forward, Lee set out to create the next “Great American Novel.” As we all know, this ambition eventually morphed and developed into the greater Marvel Universe, a web of fictions that has today touched the lives of millions across the globe. But this lofty goal wasn’t outside of the scope of reality for a 19-year old Stan Lee — he believed in himself.

By then, World War II was heating up and Lee found himself enlisted in the Army by early 1942. Soon after that, he was at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, learning to string and repair communication lines. In his downtime, he’d continue to draw and write to help pass the time.

It wasn’t long until the Army realized that they needed to create training films to onboard the massive influx of new troops. Because of the highly-sensitive nature of the process, they couldn’t trust just anyone to create them — they needed soldiers. The Army began its Signal Corps Photographic Center at Fort Monmouth, which, coincidentally, was where Lee was stationed.

Lee’s superior officers recognized his creative talents from his hobbies and his earlier work with Timely Comics. So, they more or less hey-you’d him into using his talents for the Army. This was exactly the break he needed. He was laterally transferred to the Fort Monmouth Film Production Laboratory and worked side by side with some of the other greatest artistic visionaries of the U.S. Army.

He stood in formation with Frank Capra, the three-time Academy-Award-winning director for films like It’s a Wonderful Life, cartoonist Charles Addams of The Addams Family fame, and Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. Lee was one of nine soldiers to ever earn the position of “playwright” for the U.S. Army.

Lee didn’t have any notoriety before then, unlike many of his famous fellow soldiers. He was, simply, that guy who wrote for comic books, but that didn’t phase him one bit. He kept giving the Army his all — and it showed. He was so good and so fast at what he did, in fact, that he was asked to slow down many times because it made everyone else look bad.

How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you
This scene in Avengers 2 will always bring joy to my heart.
(Walt Disney Studios)

 

Lee’s service concluded in 1945 and he went back to Timely Comics. No longer was he just some kid grabbing coffee; he was a war hero. The skills he developed while quickly chugging out quality content for the Army was exactly the type of tempo needed in the comic world.

Lee used his Army experiences to perfect comic book making. He turned the process into a creative assembly line. Lee would write the captions in the bubbles, another artist would pencil in the scene, another would color it, and another would finalize the lettering. This style became known as the “Marvel Method.” It distributed the workload evenly and it gave everyone equal creative input.

Stan Lee may not have written the next Moby Dick as he planned while a bright-eyed 19-year-old, but there’s no denying that his life’s work — the Marvel Universe — stands tall as the most enduring, relevant collection of fiction of his era.

Rest easy, Mr. Lee. You made True Believers out of all of us.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Military families call for the right to withhold rent in privatized housing disputes

Army Col. Scott Gerber said he had to pay out-of-pocket for an independent inspector to verify mold infestation and water damage in his home in an effort to get the attention of the private company running base housing at Fort Meade, Maryland.


Military spouse Linda Gherdovich said she had similar problems with mold at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C.

“The only reason we knew [it was there] was because our kids were getting sick,” she said.

Gherdovich said she had to pay ,700 to an outside inspector to verify her claims, and she’s still fighting to get reimbursement.

In testimony Tuesday before a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, Gerber and Gherdovich echoed the demands of other military families for an expansion of the recently approved Tenant Bill of Rights to let them withhold rent in disputes over repairs and maintenance of privatized military housing.

How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you

And in a following panel the same day, representatives from four military housing companies said that they supported giving that right to military families.

They also expressed varying levels of regret for the military housing problems that have been detailed in numerous reports and hearings, including mold and pest infestation, poor performance on fulfilling work orders, and negligence in responding to tenants’ complaints.

In his prepared statement, Richard Taylor, president of Balfour Beatty Communities, said, “I would like to begin by saying that we sincerely apologize for having fallen short of the high standards our nation’s military families deserve.

“We fully accept that we must make improvements, and we are determined to regain the trust and confidence of our residents and our military partners,” he added.

On Feb. 25, the Pentagon announced that Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the secretaries of the service branches had signed the Military Housing Privatization Initiative Tenant Bill of Rights, which was included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

There were 15 provisions in the bill, including “the right to a written lease with clearly defined rental terms” and “the right to reside in a housing unit and a community that meets applicable health and environmental standards.”

The Pentagon’s announcement acknowledged that three rights were missing from the list — access for tenants to a maintenance history of their units, a detailed process for dispute resolution, and the withholding of rent until disputes are resolved.

The military will work with the private companies and Congress to get those three provisions added to the list, the Pentagon said at the time.

At the hearing, Gerber said the right to withhold rent is vital to leveling the playing field with the private companies.

He said he and his wife, Sandy, “lived through two mold-infested homes,” adding “our situation wasn’t unique.”

Military families need “the ability to hold that contractor accountable. We need an easy mechanism to stop that [Basic Allowance for Housing]” from going to the private companies during disputes, Gerber said.

How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you

In a separate panel at the hearing, representatives of four companies managing private housing on military bases said they are in favor of adding the ability to withhold rent and the other two missing provisions to the Tenant Bill of Rights.

Denis Hickey, chief executive officer of Lendlease Americas, said under questioning, “We realize we can and must do more” to improve conditions.

“Obviously, some of our families feel our company has come up short,” said Jeff Guild, vice president of Lincoln Military Housing. The company is resolved to “repairing a culture of trust with our residents,” he added.

Heath Burleson, a senior vice president at Corvias Group, said the company had gotten away in the past from the “basic blocking and tackling” needed to keep homes in good repair. “I believe we’re on the right path, but we’re not done,” he said.

After listening to the company representatives, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, the subcommittee’s chair, said, “all of your testimony is very nice now, [but] the system was set up as a gravy train for your companies.” There’s no accountability to military families, she added.

“It is outrageous,” she said.

The military contributed to the failures of the system through inattention and poor oversight of the performance of the private companies involved in military housing, said Pete Potochney, the acting assistant secretary of defense for sustainment.

“The fact that we’re having this hearing and others like it is saddening,” Potchney said. “We simply took our eye off the ball” over the years in oversight of military housing.

“We sure as hell didn’t do a great job,” he added.

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

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These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft

The Thrush 710P aircraft is a perfectly capable — and kind of hum drum — agriculture crop duster. It carries a large load of chemicals and is easy to maintain and fly in rural conditions.


Which makes it a great plane.

But some mad engineers looked at crop dusters and wondered what would happen if the payload was changed from pesticides and fertilizers to bombs and missiles.

That’s how the Iomax Archangel was made. It’s a lightweight, cheap to maintain, easy to fly, deadly strike aircraft currently in service with the United Arab Emirates and the Philippines.

Iomax buys the crop dusters from the Thrush aircraft factory in Albany, Georgia, and upgrades them to military specifications in a North Carolina facility.

Once fully upgraded to the Archangel configuration, the planes are pretty awesome. A two-person crew can keep the plane in the air for 10.5 hours and can carry intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance pods or weapons on each of seven external hardpoints.

The Archangel can carry 12 Hellfire missiles, 10 GBU-58 Mk-81 bombs, six GBU-12 Mk-82 bombs, 48 laser-guided rockets, 12 UMTAS laser-guided missiles, or a mix of the above.

How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you
(Photo: Courtesy Iomax)

Basically, it can put a lot of hurt on a lot of people before the crew comes down for a quick lunch break.

And because of the Archangel’s crop duster roots, the plane can be landed and parked nearly anywhere, even grassy fields.

The company even offers upgraded armor for the cockpit and engine compartment, self-sealing fuel tanks, and an electronic warfare system for the plane.

Of course, the U.S. military isn’t looking for a low-end strike or close-air support platform, but some of its allies are. America has bought a few combat Cessnas to bolster allied air forces against ground threats, but the Cessnas can only carry two Hellfires, a far cry from the Archangel’s dozen.

How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you
(Photo: Courtesy Iomax)

The UAE military has doubled down on the Archangel, purchasing a batch of them in 2014. The UAE had previously purchased 24 Archangels in 2009 that had been modified from Air Tractor 802 aircraft, but Air Tractor refused to make requested changes to the basic aircraft and Iomax started using the Thrush 710P instead of the AT-802.

The Philippines also bought Archangels modified from the 710P as replacements for its aging OV-10 Bronco fleet.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain

The Battle of Britain was a turning point for the allied forces during WWII. After their evacuation at Dunkirk, the British Army was in a poor state, having abandoned much of its warfighting equipment and machinery in France. The Home Guard, the armed citizen militia that supported the British Army, was mobilized in anticipation of a German invasion of the British Isles. As Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, the British people prepared to fight the Germans on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields and in the streets, and in the hills. Ferrying an army across the English Channel is no easy task though, and the Germans needed to secure air superiority before their invasion.

In July 1940, Germany began an air and sea blockade of Britain with the goal of compelling her government to negotiate a peace settlement. Initially targeting coastal-shipping convoys, ports, and shipping centers, the German Luftwaffe was redirected to incapacitate RAF Fighter Command on August 1. They targeted airfields and infrastructure in an attempt to defeat the RAF on the ground. It was the job of the RAF’s fighter pilots to repel these attacks by the much larger German Luftwaffe. In the words of Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding, “Our young men will have to shoot down their young men at the rate of five to one.”


How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you

Supermarine Spitfires during the Battle of Britain (Photo from the Imperial War Museum)

When people think about the Battle of Britain, they often envision elegant Supermarine Spitfires with their large, elliptical wings, locked in a deadly aerial ballet with German Messerschmitt Bf 109s. Or perhaps a mental image is conjured of those same beautiful Spitfires cutting swathes through formations of Luftwaffe Ju 87 Stuka dive-bombers or Heinkel He 111 level bombers. Either way, the hero aircraft of the Battle of Britain that most people remember is the Supermarine Spitfire. However, the truth of the matter is that the Hawker Hurricane shot down more German aircraft than all other air and ground defenses combined during the Battle of Britain.

Although it was not nearly as pretty as the Spitfire, looking rather like a sad Basset Hound, the Hurricane was a more stable gun platform with its thicker wings. They allowed its eight .303 Browning machine guns to be mounted closer together in the wings and closer to the center of the aircraft, producing more accurate fire. Though the Spitfire was armed with the exact same guns, its thinner wings forced them to be mounted further out from the fuselage which caused the plane to become unbalanced when they were fired.

How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you

Hawker Hurricanes during the Battle of Britain (Photo from the Imperial War Museum)

The Hurricane, with its wood and fabric construction, was also easier for ground crews to repair and conduct maintenance on. Conversely, the Spitfire’s metal construction meant that skilled metal workers were needed to conduct repairs. This difference in design also meant that the Hurricane could be produced quicker and in larger numbers than the Spitfire. During the Battle of Britain, 32 RAF fighter squadrons flew the Hurricane whereas only 19 squadrons flew Spitfires.

How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you

RAF pilots scramble to their Hurricanes (Royal Canadian Air Force photo)

This is not to say that the Spitfire was inferior to the Hurricane; in fact, it was arguably the better dogfighter. Although both planes were powered by the same Rolls-Royce 27-litre liquid-cooled V-12 Merlin engine, the Spitfire could climb faster and turn tighter thanks to its wing design. As a result, Spitfires were generally directed to intercept the Luftwaffe escort fighters while Hurricanes attacked the enemy bomber formations.

In short, neither the Spitfire nor the Hurricane could have won the Battle of Britain alone. The two planes complemented each other in the sky and worked together to repel the onslaught of German air attacks. In the end, the RAF reported 1,542 aircrew killed and 1,744 aircraft destroyed while the Luftwaffe reported 2,585 aircrew killed or missing, 925 captured, and 1,634 aircraft destroyed in combat. Failing to establish air superiority over Britain, Hitler was forced to postpone his invasion indefinitely. Shooting down a majority portion of enemy aircraft, the Hurricane deserves its fair share of fame alongside the Spitfire in staving off the Nazi threat.


MIGHTY CULTURE

This charity paid the mortgage for a fallen Coastie’s family

The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation may not be as recognizable as the Wounded Warrior Project or have a famous person attached to them, but the effect it can have on a family is just as powerful – and just as immediate. Just ask the family of recently deceased Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Michael Kozloski, who no longer have to worry about their house payment every month.


How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you

Michael Kozloski and his family.

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation is named for Stephen Siller, a New York City Firefighter who was killed at Ground Zero during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center. To honor Siller and his sacrifice, the Tunnel to Towers Foundation uses its 5 million endowment to pay off the mortgages of families related to military personnel and first responders who are killed in the line of duty. Sadly, that’s how Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Michael Kozloski died.

Kozloski was killed in a crane accident in Homer, Alaska, in early 2019. The Upstate New York native joined the Coast Guard at age 18 and was 35 when he was killed. His wife and four children would be forever without his love and guidance, unsure of how they would be able to stay in their Port St. Lucie, Fla. home. That’s where the Tunnel to Towers Foundation stepped in.

How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you

Stephen Siller, an FDNY firefighter killed on 9/11, who’s memory is changing lives nationwide.

“I was left wondering how I was going to provide for our four kids and give them the life they deserve,” Brienne Kozloski, Michael’s wife, said in a statement. “The outpouring of support we received from the Coast Guard, family, friends, and many organizations that help Gold Star families was amazing. When I heard from Frank Siller that Tunnel to Towers was going to pay the mortgage on our new home, I was overwhelmed… I will forever be grateful for this.”

Kozloski’s home is the 15th home the Tunnel to Towers Foundation has purchased this season alone. From Massachusetts to Iowa and beyond the Stephen Siller Tunnels to Tower Foundation has an incredible record of supporting military, veteran, and first responder families when a loved one is killed in the line of duty. Even victims of the Parkland, Fla. School Shootings were recognized by the foundation – teachers killed while protecting their students. Chief Warrant Officer Kozloski is one more in a line of brave, hardworking public servants who lost it all while doing their every day jobs.

To learn more about the Stephen Siller Tunnels to Towers Foundation, see who the foundation has helped with its Fallen First Responders Home Program, or to donate, visit the Tunnels to Towers website.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What happened to most of Saddam’s blinged-out weapons

It’s no surprise that psychotic despots and drug lords who came to power through violence and intimidation would be fascinated with gold-plated and diamond-encrusted weapons. The most well-known collector was Saddam Hussein.


After his fall, his weapons seemed to be scattered in every direction. Exactly how many weapons were in Saddam’s arsenal is not public knowledge, so it’s unclear how many have just “fallen off the books” throughout the years. The ones that have been accounted for, however, are often placed in museums and presidential libraries around the world as historical artifacts.

 

One of his most famous golden weapons was the golden Tabuk, an Iraqi variant of the AK-47. Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division discovered it near Kirkuk, in northern Iraq. The weapon was given as an official “thank you” to the Australian troops that helped them in the area. The weapon traded hands a few times before Australia’s Deputy Chief of Army, Major General John Cantwell, accepted it and placed it in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra in 2007.

How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you
(Australian War Memorial)

 

You might wonder why more weapons weren’t taken as trophies by troops in Iraq. Well, having weapons that are not cleared and are without their paperwork properly done breaks countless UCMJ, Interpol, UN, and Geneva Convention laws. Getting the proper rights to take home war trophies may be a headache, but it’s not impossible. This hasn’t stopped idiots from becoming war criminals in pursuit of riches, though.

In 2014, two men from New Jersey were caught in a sting by the FBI trying to sell over $1 million worth of Hussein-family weapons. Later that same year, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Joel Miller had his conviction overturned after being framed and sentenced for smuggling home a chrome-plated AK variant in 2005. As it turns out, another Marine had planted the weapon on him after Miller threatened to expose his affair. Nonetheless, he was still given a bad conduct discharge after serving 20 years in the Marine Corps.

 

How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you
As much hell as this AK variant caused this Marine, it’s whereabouts are still unknown after it was seized by the Hemet, CA Police Department. (Hemet Police Department)

But at least two of Saddam’s weapons have been known to make their way to auction legally. The M77 rifle that Saddam held during a 2000 military parade was given to an unnamed agent after 29 years of service to the CIA. Although it wasn’t flashy like the rest of Saddam’s armory, it still put up and sold at auction for $48,875.

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 foreign films where the US military are definitely the bad guys

When America has a national enemy, the U.S. media is pretty good at falling in line (no matter what anyone tells you – just look at the buildup to the Iraq War). So whether the enemy is the Germans, the Japanese, the Germans again, Communists, or Terrorists, you can be sure there will be a whole slew of TV shows and movies about America’s inevitable triumph over evil.


How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you

Unless you want the villain to be China.

But other countries make movies and other countries need a bad guy. While most of the world is just fine with the United States, there are some countries that are very much not okay with America. So America is the bad guy, and the U.S. military is very much the bad guy.

1. Momotaro’s Sea Eagles

In March 1943, Japan finished its first feature-length animated film, Momotarō no Umiwashi, or Motomaro’s Sea Eagles. If that year sounds familiar and seems important but you can’t quite place it, that’s right during the middle of World War II in the Pacific. The U.S. had just routed the attempted Japanese invasion of New Guinea at the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, but the war was far from over. This children’s animation retells the story of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor from the Japanese perspective.

American sailors (sometimes Bluto from Popeye) are depicted as cowardly and drinking on the job as they slide to their deaths at the bottom of the harbor.

How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you

2. Silver Powder

No one did propaganda like the Soviet Union. This is another example of outright propaganda filmmaking that sets out to make Americans look like greedy industrialists who will kill anyone if it makes their bank accounts bigger. The main character’s last name is Steal, and he discovers the ultimate radioactive superweapon that quickly starts a fight between gangster defense firms who want to possess it. A corrupt capitalist shoots Steal and takes his weapon to sell himself.

3. The Detached Mission

The Detached Mission was the Soviet answer to American anti-USSR action movies like Red Dawn, Rocky IV, and Rambo II. A group of Russian Marines have to stop a crazed American military officer from starting World War III by launching the U.S. nuclear arsenal. This Army officer is a Vietnam vet who suffers from intense flashbacks and is hell-bent on avenging himself on the USSR. As the CIA tries to stop an arms limitation summit at the behest of defense contractors, the Soviet Union has to neutralize a U.S. nuclear launch site.

4. The Host

After a U.S. military officer in South Korea orders the disposal of a lot of formaldehyde by pouring it into a sink, those chemicals find their way into the nearby Han River. The result is that a river monster of epic proportions gets really pissed and starts rampaging. The United States starts to fight the monster using a substance called “Agent Yellow” (get it?). This was a movie so unintentionally anti-American that North Korea praised its depiction of the U.S. military.

5. Mr. Freedom

This one hurts. No one could have lampooned America and its pro-American culture better than an American expatriate. It might be the most anti-American movie ever made. It even makes fun of how the U.S. stereotypes its enemies by depicting them as one-dimensional jokes (the Chinese character is an inflatable dragon). The basic gist is that an American superhero tries to destroy the country of France to keep it from becoming a Communist country. At the end of the ridiculous movie, he destroys himself. As ridiculous as this movie sounds, it’s actually really good.

6. Valley of the Wolves: Iraq

Valley of the Wolves: Iraq might also be the most anti-American movie ever made. It was made in 2006 at the height of the Iraq War, and was one of the most expensive Turkish movies ever made. The film highlights pretty much every mistake the U.S. made during the occupation of Iraq, especially the Abu Ghraib Prison Scandal. The film is an action movie about a group of Turkish commandos going into Iraq to take down a U.S. military officer who was in charge of what Turks call the “Hood Event.” In 2003, American troops captured a group of Turkish troops, covered their heads with hoods, and interrogated them. Spoiler alert: they kill him.

Bonus: the film features Gary Busey as a Jewish doctor who harvests organs for the ultra-rich people in New York and Tel Aviv.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This vet crash-landed a 767 on a race track on family day

Air Canada Flight 143 was supposed to be routine. The crew took possession of their airplane from the departing crew, reloaded on fuel, grabbed the passengers, and headed out of Montreal bound for Edmonton at 41,000 feet.

But then they got a fuel pressure warning. “No big deal,” they may have thought. Pumps fail all the time and gravity can feed these engines, “turn off the alarm.” But then a second one went off. What they would later learn was that the ground crew had entered their fuel measurement using formulas for pounds — but the systems had been converted to work with kilograms.

Shortly after dinner service, the plane ran out of gas.


How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you

The “Gimli Glider” was crash-landed on a race track as families watched in horror and fascination after it ran out of gas thousands of feet in the air.

(Aero Icarus, CC BY-SA 2.0)

The crew heard a long warning noise that none of the members had ever heard before, even in the simulators. The warning signaled a total loss of both engines. The plane had ran out of gas. This is an even bigger problem than it would be in your Chevy since the plane needs engine power to run a host of systems, including the hydraulics

Suddenly, the crew was piloting a massive glider with nearly no power, no hydraulics, and limited instruments — and they were still over 1,000 miles from their destination. To make matters worse, air traffic control suddenly had their own issues guiding the flight since the plane’s radio transponders were powered by, you guessed it, the engines.

Luckily, the pilot often flew and towed gliders for fun, and the first officer, a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, was intimately familiar with the airspace and landing strips nearby from his time in the service. The two men tapped into their respective skill banks to save the flight and get all 69 people on the plane down safely, eventually netting them awards for their flying in what would later be known as the “Gimli Glider” incident.

This video from Today I Found Out shows how it all went down:

www.youtube.com

An earlier version of this story referred to the race track as a “go-kart track.” The track was being used by small sports cars on the day of the landing, not go-karts.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Washington DC VA hospital is in a disgusting critical situation

The persistence of serious problems endangering America’s veterans at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, DC has employees begging Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie for assistance.

“We ask you, our respected leaders, to stop this coverup and incompetence, to really care and live up to America’s promise to its Heroes,” the employees wrote to Wilkie and other senior Department of Veterans Affairs officials in correspondence obtained by USA Today.


“Enough is enough,” they added in the letter, which called attention to soaring infection rates and plummeting patient and employee satisfaction.

The response from the employees comes after reports of horrific conditions at the facility, which serves tens of thousands of veterans in Washington. Deemed high risk in January 2018 and designated “critical” in a leaked memo written in July 2018 and obtained by Stars and Stripes on Aug. 1, 2018, the hospital is presently under investigation. VA staffers, however, are not optimistic, even with the prospect of leadership changes following administrative review.

How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you

Robert Wilkie, acting United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

A scathing report from April 2017 revealed that not only did the hospital lack essential equipment and fail to meet necessary cleanliness standards, but senior leaders were aware of the problems and had not properly addressed them. The VA removed the hospital director, and sent teams of experts to the medical facility to improve the situation. It didn’t help.

Internal reports in November 2017 highlighted the findings of VA sterilization specialists, who discovered rusty medical instruments and bacteria in the water intended to sterilize the equipment. With limited sterilization supplies on hand, the hospital was reportedly borrowing them from a neighboring private hospital. The facility in DC is one of 15 VA hospitals with a one-star rating, despite it being a flagship medical care center for the VA.

Other alarming reports noted consistent cleanliness failings and incidents in which the hospital was forced to borrow bone marrow for surgeries.

In March 2018, a report from the VA Office of Inspector General revealed that a “culture of complacency” had allowed problems to persist for years, putting the lives of US veterans in danger and wasting taxpayer dollars. The report concluded that officials at every level of the Department of Veterans Affairs — local, regional, and national — were aware of the serious shortfalls at the hospital in DC, but those officials were either unwilling or incapable of fixing the problems.

President Donald Trump previously described the VA, which has an annual budget of 0 billion and runs the nation’s largest integrated health care system, as “probably the most incompetently run agency in the United States government.” The department, as well as a number of medical care facilities, have repeatedly been plagued by problems and scandal.

The DC hospital has made headlines numerous times, and after multiple inspections and leadership changes, the situation continues to deteriorate, which is why employees are now begging the new VA secretary for help. Wilkie was sworn in as the VA secretary just two days ago.

“VA appreciates the employees’ concerns and will look into them right away,” VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour reportedly said in response to the pleas of the DC hospital’s employees. “Veterans deserve only the best when it comes to their health care, and that’s why VA is focusing on improving its facilities in Washington and nationwide.”

He told the media that the VA is “taking additional measures to support the facility.”

The VA hospital in Washington was not available for comment at the time of publication.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Wojtek, the 400-pound artillery bear, will get his own movie

Wojtek endeared himself to members of a Polish army unit in 1942 when he alerted them to the presence of a spy in their camp.

The Polish soldiers, who were released by Russia after the German invasion in 1941, were passing through the Middle East on their way back to Europe. Picking up new members on such a trip wouldn’t be unusual, but Wojtek’s case was a little different, because he was a bear.


Wojtek, whose mother is thought to have been shot by hunters, was bought by Polish soldiers while they were in Iran and eventually joined what would become the Polish II Corps’ 22nd artillery supply company in 1942.

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He continued with them through Iraq and into Egypt.

To board a ship to Europe in 1943, Wojtek needed to be a soldier, so the Poles formally enlisted him as a private — with his own pay book and serial number.

Wojtek, who eventually weighed well over 400 pounds, also got double rations.

How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you

The badge of the 22nd Artillery Support Company of the 2nd Polish Corps.

“He was like a child, like a small dog. He was given milk from a bottle, like a baby. So therefore he felt that these soldiers are nearly his parents and therefore he trusted in us and was very friendly,” Wojciech Narebski, a Polish soldier who spent three years alongside Wojtek during the war, told the BBC in 2011.

They also shared a name — Wojtek is a diminutive form of the name Wojciech, which means “happy warrior.”

Now Wojtek’s story is being documented in an animation feature by Iain Harvey, an animator and the executive producer of the 1982 adaptation of Raymond Brigg’s children’s story “The Snowman,” which was nominated for an Oscar and is still shown every year at Christmas on British television.

The bear smoked, drank, and wrestled with soldiers

When he was told about Wojtek, Harvey thought the story was “pure fantasy,” he told the Times of London this week. “It’s fantastic to have a piece of magic that’s real.”

Wojtek, who eventually rose to the rank of corporal, became a mascot for his unit.

Soldiers would box and wrestle with the bear, who was also fond of smoking and drinking. “For him one bottle was nothing,” Narebski told the BBC. “He was weighing [440 pounds]. He didn’t get drunk.”

He was trained not to be a threat to people and was “very quiet, very peaceful,” Narebski said. But he didn’t get along with another bear and a monkey that were also adopted by the soldiers.

How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you

Wojtek was a source of good cheer for the unit, Narebski told the BBC. “For people who are far from families, far from their home country, from a psychological viewpoint, it was very important.”

But he was more than good company during the fighting in Italy.

A British soldier at the Battle of Monte Cassino said he was surprised to see the six-foot bear hauling artillery shells to resupply Allied forces. The company’s patch also featured Wojtek carrying a shell.

Filmmakers released a documentary about Wojtek in 2011. Harvey’s project, “A Bear Named Wojtek,” has secured funding from Poland, but he is still seeking a British partner, telling The Times that he would contact Channel 4 and the BBC as well as companies like Netflix.

Harvey’s project is being set up for release on the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day on May 8, 2020.

According to The Times, it will take 30 animators roughly a year to produce the 30-minute film, hand-drawing each scene on a tablet.

Narebski last saw Wojtek in April 1945, before the Battle of Bologna in Italy.

Once his unit was demobilized in Scotland, the bear was resettled at the Edinburgh Zoo.

How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you

A monument to Wojtek in Krakow.

Former members of his unit often visited him at the zoo, where he lived until his death in 1963 at age 21.

Narebski returned to Poland but had trouble keeping in touch with his former comrades — both human and bear — because of restrictions put in place by the Polish government.

He never forgot about Wojtek, however.

“It was very pleasant for me to think about him,” Narebski told the BBC. “I felt like he was my older brother.”

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

Articles

Beware of the 19-year-old pissed off Marine

On January 30, 1968, John Ligato and about 150 fellow Marines from Alpha Company experienced hell on Earth.


They were awakened in the middle of the night by their company commander and sent to nearby Hue City in Vietnam to help the troops of an overrun compound.

Related: 8 of the most terrifying Vietnam War booby traps

When they finally arrived, they were greeted with cheers. The troops of the MACV Compound had just repelled an enemy surge within their walls.

“They had been through hell, and they thought we were there to save the day, but little did we know the numerical numbers of NVA there,” Ligato said in the video below.

Ligato and his ill-equipped company were walking into a deathtrap against nine battalions of highly-trained North Vietamese soldiers, outnumbering each man by a few hundred.

“Most of us thought we’d never get out,” Ligato said.

The odds were against them, but miraculously, they pulled through. Ligato sums up the company’s success with this quote:

Americans Adapt. We Improvise. The most ferocious fighting machine the world has ever seen is a 19-year-old pissed off Marine. Because you’ll take that kid from Detroit or Mississippi and you’ll train him in Marine Corps boot camp, and you’ll put him in a situation that’s foreign to him, and he will adapt and improvise and become that situation and deal with it.

Watch John Ligato tell his harrowing experience in this 3-minute American Heroes Channel video:

American Heroes Channel, YouTube
MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are 13 military animals that outrank you

Sure, you may have been in the military for years and you may have worked hard for your rank. But it may surprise you to learn that you will always be outranked by at least one of these animals, who have earned military rank, medals, and awards. And these aren’t just cuddly mascots — some of them have seen combat action!

Here are the most impressive and high-ranking military animals of all time:


1. Nils Olav

Nils Olav, a penguin, is colonel-in-chief and official mascot of Norway’s Royal Guard. In 2008, he was knighted — yes, knighted — by King Harald V. The original penguin named Nils Olav first served in 1972, and was named in honor of two great Norwegians: Nils Egelien and King Olav V. This high-ranking mascot lives in the Edinburgh Zoo, in quarters befitting his rank.

2. King Neptune

King Neptune the pig was originally just Parker Neptune. He received a promotion to King (that’s a rank, right?) during World War II when he was sold to an Illinois Navy recruiter. Although the pig was originally intended to be served at dinner, the Navy instead made him a star by promoting him to King and sending him on tour to sell war bonds. He wore a crown and a blue Navy blanket, and would stand on stage as his parts were “auctioned off” to the highest bidders. Ultimately, King Neptune helped raise over million for the Navy!

When he died in 1950, he received a Navy funeral with full military honors.

3. Sergeant Major Fosco

Sergeant Major Fosco was one of the first military working dogs to complete an airborne jump while being held by his handler. Military working dogs are traditionally awarded one rank higher than that of their handler, as a reminder that the handler must always treat their animal with respect. Because Sgt. Major Fosco’s handler was a 1st Sgt., this dog bears the rank of someone who has already served a full, 20-year career!

Perhaps in dog years, that’s about right.

How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you

4. Staff Sergeant Reckless

Staff Sergeant Reckless was a Marine pack horse during the Korean War. She was purchased in Korea and carried supplies and ammunition for the Marines of 5/1 Recoilless Rifle Platoon. During one battle, she made 51 solo (unguided) trips to resupply the lines and bring wounded men to safety. During her time in service, she received a battlefield promotion to sergeant, two Purple Hearts, and a Good Conduct Medal. She was the first horse known to have participated in an amphibious landing. After the war, Reckless was brought back to America and promoted to staff sergeant. A metal statue in her honor was recently unveiled at Camp Pendleton.

How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you

5. Sergeant Chesty XIV

Sgt. Chesty XIV, named after the most highly-decorated Marine, Chesty Puller, is the current official mascot of the Marine Corps. He has his own dog-sized National Defense medal.

He also has sergeant responsibilities, like training the junior Marines in his charge. Private Chesty XV is the official Marine Corps mascot apprentice. I wonder if he causes as much trouble for his sergeant as the average private does on any given weekend?

6. Sergeant Major Jiggs

Sergeant Major Jiggs was the original Marine Corps bulldog mascot. His owner was the famous Maj. General Smedley Butler — one of the only Marines to earn two Medals of Honor. Jiggs began his career in 1922 as a private and advanced through the ranks to reach E-9. If you already have two medals of honor, you can probably give your dog any rank you want, right?

How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you

7. Lance Corporal Billy Windsor

Lance Corporal Billy Windsor the Goat is a salaried member of the British Army in the Royal Welsh Regiment. The position includes membership in the Corporal’s mess and the right to be saluted by subordinates. However, the goat was demoted to fusilier in 2006 after an unfortunate head-butting incident against a drummer in the 1st Battalion.

8. Sinbad, the Chief Dog

Sinbad, the Chief Dog, was an enlisted member of the U.S. Coast Guard for 11 years and saw combat during World War II. He served on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter George W. Campbell. His handler originally intended to give the dog to his girlfriend as a gift, but soon discovered she wouldn’t be able to keep him. The only way to keep him on board was to enlist him, so Sinbad’s pawprint was stamped onto his own unique set of enlistment papers, and he became an official member of the crew.

How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you

9. Master Sergeant Big Deuce VI

Master Sergeant Big Deuce VI, the Army’s official donkey mascot, retired after 20 years of service. The Army has long used the donkey as a mascot because it’s a reminder of how the beasts of burden have long moved Army supplies, such as howitzers and ammunition. The 2-2nd FA Battalion “Mule Soldiers” out of Fort Sill, OK, have had a mascot named Big Deuce since 1950. During his 20-year career, Master Sgt. Big Deuce VI received several promotions, but his handlers report that he was demoted twice and received several Article 15s for attempting to go AWOL and for assaulting a commissioned officer in his change of command.

How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you

10. Corporal Short Round V

Corporal Short Round V is the Army’s goat mascot, who accompanies their donkey mascot Big Deuce at official events. He recently retired, and was replaced by Private Short Round VI, who had her enlistment ceremony at Fort Sill in 2018.

11. Sgt. 1st Class Boe and Sgt. 1st Budge

Sgt. 1st Class Boe and Sgt. 1st Class Budge were the first trained therapy dogs to be deployed to Iraq in 2007. Budge eventually contracted cancer and passed away in 2010. A memorial service was held for him at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Boe was reassigned to Fort Benning, Georgia.

12. Master Sergeant Maverick

Master Sergeant Maverick is a trained therapy dog who works with America’s VetDogs. Since 2009, he has been assigned to the Traumatic Brain Injury clinic at Eisenhauer Army Medical Center.

13. Sergeant Stubby

Sergeant Stubby the dog was adopted by soldiers of the 102nd Infantry Regiment and smuggled to France during WWI. He was trained to raise his paw in salute, which secured his place as the regimental mascot. Stubby helped his unit in the trenches by sniffing out poison gas attacks and warning of incoming artillery. He once helped capture and imprison a German spy, for which he received a medal for heroism.

MIGHTY MOVIES

How ‘Saving Private Ryan’ could use a sequel, but not in the way Hollywood thinks

There’s no doubt about it. Steven Spielberg’s 1998 war epic, Saving Private Ryan, was a masterpiece in every aspect of filmmaking. It won five of the eleven Academy Awards for which it was nominated. The immense scale of the invasion of Normandy was expertly recreated for film in a way that hasn’t been replicated since — and likely never will be.

Despite the massive war that characterizes the film, the movie’s primary conflict wasn’t between warring nations, but rather between Tom Hanks’ character, Captain Miller, and his duty to return Pfc. Ryan (as played by Matt Damon), who refuses to leave behind the brothers with whom he’d fought so far.


The film, being the masterpiece that it is, wraps the story up nicely, leaving few loose ends, but there’s that ever-burning question in Hollywood — how do you make that special lightning strike twice? How can you create another story surrounding the incomparable D-Day and find just as much success?

The truth is, simply, that you can’t. The story has already been perfectly told by one of the finest filmmakers in Hollywood at just the right moment. But that doesn’t mean that the story has necessarily ended…

How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you

What made this scene so great wasn’t the million put into it — it was Tom Hank’s reaction to everything happening around him.

(DreamWorks Pictures)

As stated by Jack Knight of War History Online, there is serious interest in following-up Saving Private Ryan by continuing the story of the Rangers at D-Day and the mission that occurred at Pointe du Hoc. What made the beach landing scene so spectacular wasn’t the battle itself, but rather how the battle was seen — through Capt. Miller’s eyes.

The audience felt the immense gravity of war in a truly human way. In one moment, we’re listening to a guy joke on the landing craft; one second later, his blood is splattered on Miller’s face. This is the essence of what made Saving Private Ryan so great. World War II was just the backdrop to a more personal story, but the sheer, raw horrors of war were still very much present.

The audience saw the enemy in the distance, but the focus was entirely on the Capt. Miller. Any spiritual successor (or direct sequels) should keep that in mind.

How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you

It’s a grim reality, but it’s comforting in it’s own way.

(Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

Such a sequel, a movie that follows someone’s personal life after a major conflict, has been dreamt up before. One film, known as “the greatest war film never made,” that was to explore this theme was to be called The Way Back.

The 1955 film To Hell and Back was an amazing anomaly. It was the World War II experience of Audie Murphy, based on the autobiography of the same name that was written by Audie Murphy and David McClure, starring Audie Murphy himself. But this wasn’t the only film the war hero wanted to make. Everyone wanted to see his heroic stand on the back of the Sherman, but he never got the finances for the script that told the story of what happened after he was bestowed the Medal of Honor.

He struggled daily with post-traumatic stress. His family life was, to put it lightly, troubled. He turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with the pain. He even famously locked himself in a dirty motel room to kick his morphine addiction. He was lost in a world that wanted “him,” but not the real him. But he knew countless children looked up to him, so he put one foot in front of the other with a forced smile on his face.

This movie, were it ever made, would’ve been a powerful piece. Audie Murphy, arguably the greatest soldier to ever don a uniform, would’ve told everyone that not everything is fine when the war’s over. There’s a pain there that nobody can see, but many of us feel.

How Stan Lee went from Army repairman to comic legend will inspire you

It’s not like there are too many war films out there specifically made for Post 9/11 vets. The bar is set kinda low…

(Summit Entertainment)

War films are a dime a dozen in Hollywood and rarely will they have any impact on the public because they’re just action scenes after action scenes until the credits roll. If Hollywood really wanted a powerful message to send to the world, they could make a grounded story following the life of one of the Rangers after D-Day. Use Saving Private Ryan’s personal approach and make it about one soldier. They could keep the action scenes, but make them a background to the story of just surviving. Then, as Act II rolls around, shift the story to show how a returning soldier survives this world he left behind to fight in D-Day.

Hollywood could have their cake and eat it to while also sending a powerful message to the countless returning veterans of the Post-9/11 wars, telling them that they’re not alone.

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