Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans

Fox News anchor of The Story is committed to veterans issues and their stories being put at the forefront of news. For Martha MacCallum, it’s personal. 

Growing up, MacCallum often heard the stories of her cousin, Harry Gray. A Marine who’d enlisted during World War II, his letters home were treasured among the family. She’d spend hours in her grandparents’ basement, pouring over those letters and the weathered newspaper clippings from the war. He lost his life during the final days of the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945, fighting alongside his brothers in the 3rd Marine Division.  

The legacy of his heroism and sacrifice would not only lead her to traveling to Iwo Jima but writing Unknown Valor, a book dedicated to sharing the lives of Marines like her uncle who gave all in the name of American freedom. “I was always really moved by his letters and ever since I wrote the book, which his letters were such a big part of, I keep receiving similar letters from families all across the country. I am just so moved by them,” MacCallum explained. “The humility and dedication to something bigger than themselves is a quality that’s scarce these days. I think that the military is one of the places where it exists in a real way.”

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans
Photo provided courtesy of Fox News

After going deep into the lives of those Marines, MacCallum found herself forever changed from the experience. “I admire them greatly and they have courage that I could have never had. It really comes from that story,” she explained. 

It led to a commitment to tell the stories of veterans of all wars, she said. Since then, she has championed a number of veteran issues and highlighted them on her show. Well-known for her dedication to journalism, MacCallum has received the American Women in Radio and Television award twice for her reporting and journalistic approach. 

Recently, she interviewed Jon Stewart. Currently advocating for veterans impacted by the toxic burn pits and fighting for the recognition of the devastating harm they caused, he implored the Department of Defense and Congress to act. MacCallum said she was moved by it. 

The Department of Veterans affairs has estimated that around 3.5 million service members have been exposed to the fumes from toxic burn pits. President Biden has said that he believes it was those pits and the fumes that caused his own son to develop brain cancer and eventually lose his life. 

MacCallum shared that essentially the service members who return home after being around all of those toxic fumes become defendants in a trial for their own healthcare. “I had read about it all and was aware of it but became more aware of it because of his [Jon Stewart] work,” she explained. “That’s really sad. That’s not where we want to be as a country. We have to respect the sacrifice of these individuals. I just hated seeing them fighting for benefits for medical impact that clearly they would never have if they hadn’t gone to war.”

“We can’t forget the sacrifices they’ve made whether it’s World War II or Afghanistan…It is incumbent upon us that we recognize their sacrifices and their struggles,” MacCallum implored. She went on to explain that in the generation of World War II, everyone knew someone who was serving and it was a war that was deeply felt by most. As America approaches 20 years at war against terrorism, it’s vital that civilians know the cost of their freedom. 

7,036. That’s how many lives have been lost to combat against the enemy. Almost 1 million service members have suffered from injuries, both visible and invisible, due to the War on Terror. The number of troops who’ve sacrificed their lives in training accidents or lost their internal battles to suicide has surpassed combat deaths. 

MacCallum encourages the public to dig in and research their own ancestors and uncover the lives of the veterans in their own families. “Once you start digging and you find those people who have served, it gives you a connection in your own life and I think it makes you respectful of those who are still doing it today,” she explained. 

It was this approach of researching her own family that led her to writing about World War II and the Battle of Iwo Jima for Unknown Valor. “It was really the most rewarding experience of my professional life. I spent three years studying this period. When I began I couldn’t have found Iwo Jima on a map,” MacCallum said. “It was a real eye opener for me in understanding what pacific island fighting was like…how incredibly difficult it was and how incredibly brave they were.”

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans
Photo provided courtesy of Fox News

“Through the course of writing the book I was astonished that I actually found two living World War II veterans who were with my cousin when he was killed,” MacCallum said. She called one of those veterans, George, one day. When she explained who she was, he was stunned and told MacCallum that he thought of her cousin every day. “It gave me a window into that depth of brotherhood and friendship that I never understood before.”

As citizens of a country where only 1% of the population wears the uniform of service, we owe it to them to find those windows of empathy and understanding. To truly thank someone for serving, it starts with knowing what raising their right hand means and the cost of stepping forward, so you don’t have to. 

To find out more about Martha MacCallum’s book, Unknown Valor, click here

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans
MIGHTY CULTURE

The Battle of Iwo Jima and the unbreakable Navajo Code

Peter MacDonald is one of the last remaining Navajo Code Talkers. The former chairman of the Navajo Nation recently sat down with VAntage Point staff to explain what made the “unbreakable” code so effective, and how it helped save lives and secure victory in the Pacific.


“Without Navajo, Marines would never have taken the island of Iwo Jima,” he said. “That’s how critical Navajo Code was to the war in the Pacific.”

The Unbreakable Code

Code Talkers used native languages to send military messages before World War II. Choctaw, for example, was used during World War I. The Marine Corps, however, needed an “unbreakable” code for its island-hopping campaign in the Pacific. Navajo, which was unwritten and known by few outside the tribe, seemed to fit the Corps’ requirements.

Twenty-nine Navajos were recruited to develop the code in 1942. They took their language and developed a “Type One Code” that assigned a Navajo word to each English letter. They also created special words for planes, ships and weapons.

Understanding Navajo didn’t mean a person could understand the code. While a person fluent in the language would hear a message that translated into a list of words that seemingly had no connection to each other, a code talker would hear a very clear message.

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans

Here is an example:

Navajo Code: DIBEH, AH-NAH, A-SHIN, BE, AH-DEEL-TAHI, D-AH, NA-AS-TSO-SI, THAN-ZIE, TLO-CHIN
Translation: SHEEP, EYES, NOSE, DEER, BLOW UP, TEA, MOUSE, TURKEY, ONION
Deciphered Code: SEND DEMOLITION TEAM TO …

In addition to being unbreakable, the new code also reduced the amount of time it took to transmit and receive secret messages. Because all 17 pages of the Navajo code were memorized, there was no need to encrypt and decipher messages with the aid of coding machines. So, instead of taking several minutes to send and receive one message, Navajo code talkers could send several messages within seconds. This made the Navajo code talker an important part of any Marine unit.

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

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.

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans

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.

Articles

Iraq Army veteran continues the fight, this time for his Vietnam veteran brothers and sisters

Over 58,000 Americans gave their lives in service during the Vietnam War and over 150,000 were wounded. When troops returned home, it wasn’t to fanfare. Instead, they were labeled baby killers and spit on. It’s a stain on history one modern veteran refuses to let go. 

Steve Downey was a combat medic in the Army who deployed to Iraq at the height of the conflict. When he looks back at how Vietnam veterans were treated and his own time in service, it leaves him both disgusted at the world and proud of how the troops handled it. “They were spit at and ridiculed. But what do soldiers do? They don’t lay down, they say here’s my new fight, let’s go,” he said. 

When Vietnam War troops returned home, there were almost none of the promised GI benefits of today. The government had left them behind. Following the war and through the decades of tireless efforts of surviving Vietnam War veterans, Congress was forced to make changes to honor those veterans and the ones who would come after. 

It wouldn’t be until the first Gulf War when American attitudes would shift. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 would increase patriotism and appreciation for troops tenfold. 

“We veterans who came after Vietnam Veterans owe them a debt of gratitude for our increased quality of life, care and veteran benefits,” Downey explained. “Every iconic image of war or the military is either modern day troops or World War II veterans. Vietnam and Korean War veterans are being skipped and it seems like we don’t care. It’s insulting when you really get into it.”

Downey came back from his Iraq deployment and began working at Walter Reed in the organ transplant department. After separating from the Army, he’d also leave medicine and discover a passion for technology which led him to opening his own business. In 2020, he’d join the marketing part of the team at Berry Law, headquartered in Nebraska. 

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans
John Stevens Berry Sr., the founder of Berry Law firm, receiving his Bronze Star (Wikimedia Commons)

Founded in 1965 by Vietnam War Veteran and Bronze Star recipient John Stevens Berry Sr., The military law division serves veterans in all 50 states and is tirelessly dedicated to the military community. In 2020, the team began to talk about ways to honor Vietnam Veterans. Operation Triumphus, an initiative under Berry Law Firm, was established, with Downey at the helm of the project. 

“The idea here is to allow Vietnam Veterans the opportunity to preserve their stories, their legacy and then we can provide their triumphant return home they deserve. It’s a deserved celebration led by every veteran that came after them,” Downey explained.

The website for the initiative states “Our objectives are to provide an interactive museum which helps share the stories of Vietnam Veterans; to help connect our lost brothers and sisters in arms; and to inspire ongoing gratitude for a generation of Veterans who were spat upon and ridiculed when they came home. We cannot replace the feelings of betrayal and loss that some Veterans felt on their return, but we can correct the course of sentiment to make sure that future generations understand and honor their legacy. The Vietnam generation said ‘Never Again!’ and fought hard to get better treatment for Veterans. Their actions helped future service members and Veterans get better treatment, and we feel it is our duty to repay them for their sacrifices and vigilance.”

After building the site from scratch, he’s got his eyes on engaging the military community next. “One of the biggest target audiences for me right now is not just the Vietnam veterans but their spouses and families,” Downey said. 

With the experiences most Vietnam War veterans faced, many are hard pressed to share their stories openly. He’s hoping by engaging with spouses and other family members about this project, it’ll be a healing experience for the veterans. It’s long overdue for these heroes and their families. 

This statement featured on the organization’s website truly drives home the mission of Downey’s passion project for the firm: “We are Veterans of wars in Vietnam and the Middle East. We are sons paying tribute to fathers. We are a grateful nation determined to provide an eternal Triumphal Procession these Vietnam Veterans deserve.”

To learn more about Operation Triumphus or to share your Vietnam War story or your loved one’s, click here.

Articles

4 Asian-American heroes you should know about

From battling the enemy on the front lines to steering massive naval ships, Asian-Americans have proudly served in our country’s military since the War of 1812.


Although they’ve been a vital part of our growing military culture, we don’t often hear the stories about how they positively impacted our history.

These under-appreciated brave men did just that.

Related: This is how the first Asian-American Marine officer saved 8,000 men

1. José B. Nísperos

A private in the Army’s 34th Company of the Philippine Scouts, he became severely wounded while fighting off rebel forces in the Philippine Islands in 1911. With only one hand, he fought the enemy until they retreated, saving the many lives of those with whom he served.

Nísperos was the first Filipino to receive the Medal of Honor for his heroics in battle.

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans
Pvt. Jose B. Nisperos. (Source: VFW Post 9876)

2. Telesforo Trinidad

In January 1915, a boiler exploded aboard the USS San Diego, violently knocking Trinidad backward and forcing him to abandon the ship. He gathered himself and returned to save two of his fellow men, despite suffering from his own burns.

The Navy awarded Trinidad the Medal of Honor and a $100 gratuity.

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3. Kurt Chew-Een Lee

Lt. Lee was the first Asian-American Marine Officer in American military history and a freaking hero.

On the night of Nov. 2, 1950, Lee saved thousands of men during an attack while serving in the Korean War. He ventured out on a single man reconnaissance mission to locate the enemy and eventually confused them using a weapon none of his other Marines possessed — the ability to speak Mandarin.

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans
Lt. Chew-Een Lee was in charge of a machine-gun platoon.

Also Read: This American admiral planned the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1932

4. Joe Hayashi

Born in Salinas, California, Hayashi joined the Army and volunteered for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

In April 1945, Hayashi exposed himself so he could direct mortar fire onto an enemy position and single-handedly destroyed three machine gun posts. Sadly, he was killed soon after.

Hayashi was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton.

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(Source: Home of heroes)

Articles

Apollo 11 astronaut and Air Force General Michael Collins passes away at 90

American hero Michael Collins passed away on April 28, 2021 at the age of 90 after a battle with cancer. Along with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Collins was one of the Apollo 11 astronauts who made the legendary trip to the moon in 1969. He also served as an Air Force test pilot and reached the rank of Major General in the Air Force Reserves.

Collins was born on October 31, 1930 in Rome, Italy. He was the son of a U.S. Army officer serving as the U.S. military attaché. As a military child, Collins spent his youth in a number of locations including New York, Texas and Puerto Rico. It was in Puerto Rico that Collins first flew a plane. During a flight aboard a Grumman Widgeon, the pilot allowed Collins to take the controls. Though this ignited Collins’ passion for flight, the start of WWII prevented him from pursuing it.

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West Point Cadet Michael Collins (U.S. Army)

When the U.S. entered WWII, Collins’ family moved to Washington, D.C. where he attended St. Albans School and graduated in 1948. He decided to follow his father and older brother into the service and received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. His father and brother were also West Point graduates. Collins graduated in 1952. In his graduating class was fellow future astronaut Ed White who tragically perished in the Apollo 1 disaster.

Collins’ family was famous in the Army. His older brother was already a Colonel, his father had reached the rank of Major General, and his uncle was the Chief of Staff of the Army. To avoid accusations of nepotism, he opted to commission into the newly formed Air Force instead.

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Michael Collins as an Air Force pilot (U.S. Air Force)

Collins received flight training in Mississippi and Texas and learned to fly jets. He was a natural pilot with little fear of failure. After earning his wings in 1953, he was selected for day-fighter training at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada where he learned to fly the F-86 Sabre. Although 11 pilots were killed in accidents during the 22-week course, Collins was unfazed.

After training, Collins was stationed at George Air Force Base, California until 1954. He moved to Chambley-Bussières Air Base in France where he won first place in a 1956 gunnery competition. He met his future wife, Patricia Mary Finnegan, in an officer’s club. A trained social worker, Finnegan joined the Air Force service club to see more of the world. Their wedding was delayed by Collins’ redeployment to West Germany during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. However, they were married the next year in 1957. Their first daughter, future All My Children actress Kate Collins, was born in 1959. The Collins’ had a second daughter, Ann, in 1961 and a son, Michael, in 1963.

In 1957, Collins returned to the states to attend the aircraft maintenance officer course at Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois. In his autobiography, Collins described the course as “dismal” and boring. He preferred to fly planes rather than maintain them. Afterward, he commanded a Mobile Training Detachment and a Field Training Detachment training mechanics on servicing new aircraft and teaching students to fly them.

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ARPS Class III graduates (L-R) Front row: Ed Givens, Tommie Benefield, Charlie Bassett, Greg Neubeck & Mike Collins. Back row: Al Atwell, Neil Garland, Jim Roman, Al Uhalt and Joe Engle. Missing: Ernst Volgenau (U.S. Air Force)

Eager to get back into the cockpit, Collins applied to the Air Force Experimental Flight Test Pilot School. He was accepted to Class 60C in 1960. His classmates included fellow future Apollo astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Irwinn and Tom Stafford. The test pilot school put Collins at the controls of the T-28 Trojan, F-86 Sabre, B-57 Canberra, T-33 Shooting Star and F-104 Starfighter. Notably, Collins quit smoking in 1962 after a suffering bad hangover. The next day, he flew four hours as the co-pilot of a B-52 Stratofortess. Going through the initial stages of nicotine withdrawal, Collins described the flight as the worst four hours of his life.

Following the historic Mercury Atlas 6 flight of John Glenn in 1962, Collins was inspired to become an astronaut. However, NASA rejected his first application. Undeterred, Collins flew for the Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School. He later applied and was accepted to the Air Force’s postgraduate course on the basics of spaceflight. He was joined by future astronauts Charles Bassett, Edward Givens, and Joe Engle.

In June 1963, Collins applied to the astronaut program again and was accepted. After basic training, Collins received his first choice in specialization: pressure suits and extravehicular activities. In June 1965, he was received his first crew assignment as the backup pilot on Gemini 7. Following the system of NASA crew rotation, this slated Collins as the primary pilot for Gemini 10.

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Gemini 10 prime crew portrait (NASA)

Along with John Young, Collins lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 0520 on July 18, 1966. Gemini 10 took them to a new altitude record of 475 miles above the Earth. Collins later said that he felt like a Roman god riding the skies in his chariot. On Gemini 10, Collins also became the first person to perform two spacewalks on the same mission. At 0406 on July 21, Young and Collins splashed into the Atlantic and were safely recovered by the USS Guadalcanal.

After Gemini 10, Collins was reassigned to the Apollo program. He was slated as the backup pilot on Apollo 2 along with Frank Borman and Tom Stafford. However, Collins’ future in Apollo was put on hold when he began experiencing leg problems in 1968. He was diagnosed with cervical disc herniation and had to have two vertebrae surgically fused. Originally slotted as the primary pilot for Apollo 9, Collins was replaced by Jim Lovell while he recovered.

Following the success of Apollo 8, Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins were announced as the crew of Apollo 11. While training for the mission, Collins compiled a book of different scenarios and schemes during the lunar module rendezvous. The book ended up being 117 pages.

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Collins goes through the checklist in the command module simulator (NASA)

Collins also created the mission patch for Apollo 11. Backup commander Jim Lovell mentioned the idea of eagles which inspired Collins. He found a painting in a National Geographic book, traced it, and added the lunar surface and the Earth. The idea of the olive branch was pitched by a computer expert at the simulators.

At 0932 on July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 lifted off. Collins docked the Command Module Columbia with the Lunar Module Eagle without issue and the combined spacecraft continued on to the Moon. Apollo 11 orbited the Moon thirty times before Aldrin and Armstrong entered the Eagle and prepared for their descent to the lunar surface. At 1744 UTC, Eagle separated from Columbia, leaving Collins alone in the command module.

While Aldrin and Armstrong performed their mission on the Moon, Collins orbited solo. During each orbit, he was out of radio contact with the Earth for 48 minutes. During that time, he became the most solitary human being alive. Despite that, Collins did not feel scared or alone. He later recalled that he felt, “awareness, anticipation, satisfaction, confidence, almost exultation.”

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The Apollo 11 mission patch designed by Collins (NASA)

Collins orbited the Moon a further 30 times in the command module. After spending so much time in the spacecraft, he decided to leave his mark in the lower equipment bay. There, he wrote, “Spacecraft 107 – alias Apollo 11 – alias Columbia. The best ship to come down the line. God Bless Her. Michael Collins, CMP.”

At 1754 UTC on July 21, Eagle lifted off from the Moon and rejoined Columbia for the trip back to Earth. Columbia splashed into the Pacific at 1650 UTC on July 24. The crew was safely recovered by USS Hornet. As the first humans to go to the Moon, Collins, Aldrin, and Armstrong became worldwide celebrities. They embarked on a 38-day world tour of 22 foreign countries.

Satisfied with his legendary space flight, Collins retired from NASA after Apollo 11. He was urged by President Nixon to serve as the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. However, the Vietnam War, the invasion of Cambodia, and the Kent State shootings, sent waves of protests and unrest across the country. Collins did not enjoy the job and requested to become the Director of the National Air and Space Museum. Nixon approved and Collins changed jobs in 1971.

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The Apollo 11 crew (L-R) Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin (NASA)

Along with Senator and former Air Force Major General Barry Goldwater, Collins lobbied Congress to fund the building of the National Air and Space Museum. In 1972, Congress approved a budget of $40 million. With a smaller budget than what Collins had hoped for, he also had a short suspense to meet. The museum was scheduled to open on July 4, 1976 for the country’s bicentennial. Not one to back away from a challenge, Collins got to work hiring staff, overseeing the creation of exhibits, and monitoring construction. Not only was the museum completed under budget, but it opened three days ahead of schedule on July 1, 1976.

Still a member of the Air Force Reserve, Collins reached the rank of Major General in 1976 and retired in 1982. He served as the museum’s director until 1978 when he became undersecretary of the Smithsonian Institution. In 1985, he started his own consulting firm. He has also wrote books on spaceflight, including a children’s book on his experiences. Collins enjoyed painting watercolors of the Florida Evergreens or aircraft that he flew. He lived with his wife in Marco Island, Florida and Avon, North Carolina until her death in April 2014.

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Collins’ Command Module Columbia at the National Air and Space Museum (Smithsonian Institute)

Following Collins’ passing, NASA released a statement. “NASA mourns the loss of this accomplished pilot and astronaut, a friend of all who seek to push the envelope of human potential,” the release said. “Whether his work was behind the scenes or on full view, his legacy will always be as one of the leaders who took America’s first steps into the cosmos. And his spirit will go with us as we venture toward farther horizons.” Michael Collins will forever be remembered as an American hero and a champion for humanity on its quest into space.

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans
Collins meets with President Trump in 2019 for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing (The White House)
MIGHTY HISTORY

Veterans are writing eulogies to ‘the buddy they’ll never forget’

Few things in this world are stronger than the bonds forged by troops who fought together in combat. Those who survive life-threatening ordeals on the battlefield become closer in ways that others may never understand. When one of them loses their closest friend, it’s a tragedy that hurts forever.

What could be a more fitting for the coming Memorial Day than to write about what that friend means to you?


This memorial day, AARP is collecting stories about the friendships forged in war. Close friendships forged on the front lines of Vietnam and in the Nazi POW camps of World War II all the way to the remote combat outposts of Iraq. Veterans are writing stories of the best friends they met during these trying times. Two crewman stationed aboard the ill-fated USS Indianapolis, Marines fighting in the frozen wastes around the Chosin Reservoir, a young lieutenant and his radioman in the jungles of Vietnam.

Some survived the war. Many did not. What they have in common is that they’ll never be forgotten. Corporal Charles Thomas was that buddy for Lt. Karl Marlantes.

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Marlantes in Vietnam after an eye injury.
(Courtesy of Karl Marlantes)

If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Marlantes is the author of two books, What It Is Like to Go to War and the critically-acclaimed Matterhorn.

Marlantes was a newly-christened Marine in Vietnam when Thomas was assigned to be his radioman. Like any good young officer, Marlantes listened to his more experienced corporal when he made suggestions. The young man even saved his lieutenant’s life on a mission in the mountains near the DMZ. Marlantes told AARP The Magazine:

“In early December 1968, we were on a long mission, high in the mountains, and it was monsoon time. We couldn’t get resupplied and were without food for three or four days. It was also cold, but we had no extra clothes, just the stuff rotting on us. One night I got hypothermic, really hypothermic. I couldn’t think and started shivering. Everybody knew hypothermia kills you. And Thomas just laid me on the ground and wrapped a quilted poncho liner around us and hugged me. And then his body heat got me back. Saved my life.”

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Marlantes receiving the Navy Cross.
(Courtesy of Karl Marlantes)

Corporal Thomas was an outstanding Marine in combat and a talented radioman. Sadly, during an assault on an NVA position in 1969, Marlantes had to send Cpl. Thomas around the hill to set up an ambush. Following his orders, Thomas left the safety of his cover and made a dash for the objective with his squad. That’s when three rocket-propelled grenades struck, killing him and one other. Marlantes, now 73, recalled the moments afterward for AARP:

“I had to go through all the guys’ bodies to pull out, if you can believe this, anything like pictures of naked girls, so their parents wouldn’t be upset — it’s bad enough that their kid comes home in a body bag. And I pulled a letter out of Thomas’ pocket from his mother and remember it said, “Don’t you worry, Butch.” We knew each other only by last names and nicknames. I never knew he was Butch, that his mother called him that. “Don’t you worry, Butch, you’ll be home in just 11 more days.”

Watch Karl Marlantes look back and tell the story of Cpl. Charles Thomas.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The VA is running out of money for Veterans Choice health care program — again

Weeks after a veterans’ health initiative received $2.1 billion in emergency funding, the Trump administration says the private-sector Veterans Choice health care program may need additional money as early as December to avoid a disruption of care for hundreds of thousands of veterans.


The Department of Veterans Affairs said in a statement Sept. 26 that it hoped to move quickly on a proposed long-term legislative fix that would give veterans even wider access to private doctors. The proposal, under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget, would seek money to keep Choice running for much of next year as VA implements wider changes.

On Capitol Hill, the House Veterans Affairs Committee was already anticipating that the emergency funding approved in August may not last the full six months, according to spokespeople for both Republican and Democratic members on the panel. They cited the VA’s past problems in estimating Choice program cost. That committee and the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee said they were closely monitoring the situation.

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Photo courtesy of VA.

“It’s disheartening,” said Carlos Fuentes, legislative director of Veterans of Foreign Wars, citing his group’s continuing conversations with VA about Choice funding. “Imagine if a veteran has to cease chemotherapy treatment during Christmas.”

Garry Augustine, executive director of Disabled American Veterans’ Washington headquarters, said recent discussions with VA also gave him little confidence.

Related: Now the VA will let you schedule an appointment with your smartphone

“It’s always a concern,” Augustine said. “Legislative action needs to be done sooner rather than later.”

In its statement to The Associated Press, VA said it could not say for certain when Choice funds would be depleted, but acknowledged that it could be as early as December or as late as March. Earlier this year, the VA began limiting referrals to outside doctors as money began to run low and veterans reported delays in care.

The VA proposal for a long-term fix is expected to be released in the coming weeks.

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VA Secretary David Shulkin. Photo by Robert Turtil, Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We have a long agenda, a lot more to do,” VA Secretary David Shulkin told veterans last week at an event near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “This fall, our major legislative focus is getting the Choice program working right.”

The latest funding woes come amid political disagreement over the future direction of VA and its troubled Choice program, which was passed by Congress in 2014 in response to a wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center that spread nationwide. Some veterans died while waiting months for appointments as VA employees manipulated records to hide delays. The controversy spurred Congress to establish Choice as a pilot program designed to relieve pressure at VA hospitals.

Choice currently allows veterans to receive outside care if they must wait 30 days or more for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility. But the program has encountered long delays of its own.

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Marines, veterans, and care providers watch as the American flag is walked to the flagpole at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ. Photo by Sgt. Justin Boling

In a sign of a political divide, the left-leaning VoteVets ran a $400,000 ad campaign earlier this month in 13 states that warned viewers, “Don’t let Trump privatize my VA.” The American Federation of Government Employees has been staging rallies to bring attention to VA job vacancies left unfilled.

The VA said it remains committed to filling agency positions even as it finalizes plans to revamp Choice. VA said it had about 34,000 vacancies, which officials attributed in part to a shortage of health professionals.

Also read: New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

Legislative proposals to fix VA have run the gamut, including one backed by the conservative Concerned Veterans for America that would give veterans almost complete freedom to see an outside doctor. Another plan could create a presidential commission to review closing some VA medical centers.

“Congress can either double-down on the failed VA policies of the past or they can go in a different direction and empower veterans with more choice over their health care,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director of Concerned Veterans for America.

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nolan Kahn

During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly pledged to fix the VA by bringing accountability and expanding access to private doctors, criticizing the department as “the most corrupt.” At an Ohio event in July, Trump promised to triple the number of veterans “seeing the doctor of their choice.”

More than 30 percent of VA appointments are made in the private sector.

Carrie Farmer, senior policy researcher for the RAND Corp., said the Choice debate raises broader questions about the role of government-run health care in treating veterans. To many former troops, the VA health system is a “medical home” where patients feel more understood by doctors specially trained to treat battlefield injury, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Significantly expanding Choice could upend that government role as caretaker, she said.

“The big question is ultimately who will be responsible for our veterans’ care?” Farmer said.

Veterans

Army Veteran turned Documentarian continues to deploy to conflict zones

Violence escalating between Israel and terrorist organizations like Hamas is, unfortunately, all too common. But the fighting over Israel’s holiest sites dates back much, much further than Hamas or even modern Israel. Jerusalem, Israel’s capital city is home to the holiest sites of three major religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

Jerusalem remains the focal point for much of the conflict that rages between Israel and the Palestinians today – because those holy sites are all within the same square mile. 

In his latest Fox Nation special, “Battle in the Holy City,” Fox News correspondent Pete Hegseth takes viewers closer to the powder keg than they’ve ever been. Hegseth is uniquely qualified for the job. He’s been in combat before with the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Most weekends, Pete Hegseth is in the Fox News studio as a co-host of Fox & Friends Weekend. Not too long ago, however, he was Maj. Pete Hegseth of the Army National Guard. He joined the guard after graduating from Princeton in 2003, serving as an officer with the 101st Airborne Division in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 

Not long after returning from Cuba, he volunteered to serve in Iraq as a civil affairs operations officer. It was in Iraq where he not only earned a Combat Infantryman Badge, he was also awarded the Bronze Star. 

That experience would serve him well when he volunteered for a tour in Afghanistan with the Minnesota National Guard, this time as a counterinsurgency instructor. Two years after returning from the war, Hegseth joined Fox News. 

Since then Hegseth has produced a number of thought-provoking specials and reports under his belt. He has interviewed American military veterans from all walks of life on the Fox Nation show “Modern Warriors.” During the Coronavirus pandemic, Hegseth hosted “America Together,” a “living room concert” that raised more than $8 million to support pandemic relief efforts. 

Today, his latest special report is one that has suddenly become more important than ever. As the tensions and clashes between Israel and Hamas increase, Hegseth’s “Battle in the Holy City” shows us why so many people are fighting and dying for this small strip of land in the Middle East. 

Jerusalem is a much bigger city than the carved stone streets of the old city. The old city is little bigger than a third of a square mile. Between the old city walls, however, the streets and houses are packed with religious and secular people from all walks of life. Jewish and Palestinian muslim familes, Orthodox Christian monks, and even Lutheran bishops are all packed in this small space.

Also inside this space is the Western Wall, the last remnant of the second temple, believed by the Jewish people to be the one place where heaven and earth come together. It is situated next to the Temple Mount, where the golden Dome of the Rock sits. 

To muslims, the area overlooking the Western Wall is where the prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven with the angel Gabriel, to pray with Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. It is the third holiest site in the Islamic faith, after Mecca and Medina. 

Just a short walk away from the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a large church built around the two holiest sites for Christians of all denominations. The first is Calvary, where Christ was crucified and the second is his empty tomb, where he was buried and resurrected. 

The Old City of Jerusalem can be a powder keg of tension. When fighting erupts, the results can be catastrophic. On Fox Nation’s “Battle in the Holy Land,” viewers can get glimpses of the holy sites and relics, a closer view than going in person, as Hegseth guides them through the start of the conflict and the reasons it continues to this day.

If you’re in the military or a veteran, you can check out Pete Hegseth and other awesome veterans for a year for free on Fox Nation. Check out the Fox Nation website for more details!

MIGHTY BRANDED

What Comcast does for veterans and the military will surprise you

Everyone loves a good deal, and military veterans are no different. Plus, cable is expensive these days. So for veterans and the military, Comcast offers a $100 prepaid card back to its vet customers, along with a $25 Xfinity coupon. For a lot of companies, the discount would be as far as it needed to go. But the love Comcast has for vets is real – after all, the company was founded by a World War II-era Navy veteran.


Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans

Navy veteran and Comcast founder Ralph J. Roberts.

In the early 1960s, Navy vet Ralph J. Roberts purchased a Mississippi-based 1,200-subscriber cable company with his two business partners. The World War II veteran had come a long way from selling golf clubs and suspenders. He first became interested in the proliferation of TV broadcasting after using the proceeds of his suspenders business to buy over-the-air TV antennas which broadcast television to rural areas. Roberts eventually grew what started as a half-million-dollar investment into America’s largest cable company, Comcast.

These days, Comcast still remembers its founder’s Navy roots. The company is actively working to provide internet access to low-income veterans, hire a record number of veterans and their spouses in all areas of its operations, and support veteran-related initiatives in many, many areas.

In 2015, Comcast vowed to hire 21,000 members of the military-veteran community by 2021. This includes the spouses of servicemembers and veterans of all eras, not just the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their dedication extends to members of the reserve and the National Guard, who, as Comcast employees, get more benefits when activated than what the laws of the United States demand. Comcast, while acknowledging it can’t hire every veteran, also helps other companies to hire more – by teaching them how to hire more vets.

The cable provider funds the Veterans at Work Certificate Program, a certification program for human resources professionals that teaches hiring managers why veterans make better employees and instructs them on how to find vets that fit their needs, all at no cost.

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans

To further help veterans find work, Comcast has invested in bridging a digital divide by provide low-income veteran households with high-speed internet access, along with providing more than 100,000 home computers, and providing digital skills training to ensure their beneficiaries can properly utilize both. Since 2011, more than eight million people have benefitted from the generosity of Comcast’s Internet Essentials program and a further 9.5 million people have been reached through Comcast’s literacy training efforts.

But Comcast doesn’t stop there. While Comcast works in the world of digital internet and television, there are many, many areas where it doesn’t have a beachhead. To serve those areas, the company provides funding for special, military-related nonprofits to reach it for them. Since 2001, Comcast has given million in cash and in-kind donations to more than 265 veterans organizations whose missions are essential to the wellbeing and increased livelihoods of the military-veteran community.

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans

The Military Influencer Conference brings veteran-oriented organizations together.

One of those organizations is the Military Influencer Conference, an annual event that brings together important and emerging entrepreneurs, influencers, creatives, executives, and leaders who are connected to the military community. the three-day conference focuses on delivering actionable insights from the stories of others and fostering an environment where people of diverse backgrounds and skill sets are motivated to forge legitimate relationships through conversation that lead to powerful collaborations.

For more information on the Military Influencer Conference, visit MilitaryInfluencer.com. To learn more about Comcast’s initiatives for veterans, visit its corporate page.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are Britain’s most controversial World War II vets

It’s been 72 years since the end of World War II, and most vets who served have passed away, with many of them honored as being part of the “Greatest Generation.” However, a few of those still alive are fighting for the recognition they believe they are due, including the one of the last surviving aircrew who took part in one of the most famous attacks in World War II.


According to a report by the London Daily Mail, former RAF aircrewman Johnny Johnson, MBE, who took part in Operation Chastise – the attack on the Mohne, Elbe, and Sorpe dams in 1943, is among those campaigning for World War II veterans of the Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command to receive a medal. And he has some very harsh words for some historians.

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans
RAF Lancasters during a fire-bombing raid. (Wikimedia Commons)

“I have a pet hate of what I call ‘relative’ historians. I ask them two questions: ‘Were you there?’ and ‘Were you aware of the circumstances at the time?’ The answer is no, so keep your bloody mouth shut,” he said.

RAF’s Bomber Command, most famously lead by Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris, carried out numerous bombing missions against Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II. According to the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, 55,573 men who served in that command made the ultimate sacrifice.

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans
Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, who lead Bomber Command from February 1942 to September 1945. His men were given a difficult and ugly job, only to have politicians give them short shrift after the war. (Wikimedia Commons)

Bomber Command notably launched missions against German cities, most notably the 1945 bombing of Dresden, often sending over a thousand planes to carry out area-bombing missions against targets at night. The Daily Mail noted that the tactic caused heavy civilian casualties, causing the same politicians who ordered the bomber crews to carry out those difficult missions to distance themselves from the bomber offensive after World War II.

A memorial to Bomber Command’s fallen was not commissioned until 2012. A clasp was also awarded to veterans of Bomber Command, but Johnson is not satisfied.

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans
Dresden after RAF Bomber Command visited it in February, 1945. (Deutsche Fotothek)

“All I’m asking for is a Bomber Command medal,” he told the Daily Mail. He also is advocating that ground crews receive recognition for their efforts.

Articles

These 6 women earned medals for gallantry in World War I

The trenches and battlefields of World War I are some of the last places one would expect to read about women who were decorated for valor. Yet, in the “War to End All Wars,” six women received medals for valor. Three received the Citation Star, the forerunner to the Silver Star, and three others received the Distinguished Service Cross – second only to the Medal of Honor in recognizing valor in action.


All were with the Army Nurse Corps at the time, one of the very few outlets women had to serve in the military. While medical units weren’t supposed to come under fire, these six women were among the nurses who did come under fire – and would distinguish themselves.

1. 2. Beatrice MacDonald  Helen Grace McClelland

According to the Army Medical Department’s website, these two women earned the Distinguished Service Cross in the same action.

On Aug. 27, 1917, they were with British Casualty Clearing Station 61 in France when a German air raid hit the hospital.

MacDonald braved the fire to continue treating patients until a German bomb wounded her severely. McClelland then treated MacDonald’s wounds, despite continued German bombing.

MacDonald would survive, but lose her right eye. According to a 2012 release by Harvard University, she insisted on returning to duty despite the wound.

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans
Nurses treat a wounded soldier during World War I. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

3. Isabelle Stambaugh

Stambaugh was at a British Casualty Clearing Station on March 21, 1918, when it came under attack from German planes. The bombing attack wounded Stambaugh, who continued to treat patients despite the wound, according to a 1919 New York Times report.

4. Jane I. Rignel

According to Military Medical, the first woman to earn a Silver Star (known as the Citation Star in World War I), was Jane I. Rignel. At 7:30 AM on July 15, 1918, Mobile Hospital 2 came under attack. Rignel aided in the evacuation of the patients while under artillery fire – and kept going until the hospital itself was shelled by the Germans.

5. 6. Linnie E. Lecknore  Irene Robel

Military Medical reports that these two nurses received the Citation Star for their actions while part of an ad hoc unit known as Shock 134, attached to Field Hospital 127. When the hospital came under fire on July 29, 1918, they continued to treat wounded soldiers who were brought in.

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U.S. Army Reserve Nurse Linnie Lecknore with her brothers in World War I. (U.S. Army photo)

The tale of the Silver Star recipients takes an ironic turn. While the recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross got recognition at the time in publications like the Journal of Nursing, the Citation Star recipients slipped through the cracks. The Silver Stars were eventually presented to the families of Jane Rignel and Linnie Lecknore.

No relatives of Irene Robel have come forward – and her Silver Star remains unclaimed.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Workshops for Warriors trains veterans for advanced manufacturing

Workshops for Warriors started with a handful of wounded service members in a 400-sqaure foot garage. Twelve years later it’s poised to become the world’s largest training facility for advanced manufacturing.

Despite the meteoric growth, founder and CEO Hernán Luis y Prado said he’d never had an interest in manufacturing. The 15-year Navy veteran had planned a 40-year career. This changed in 2008 when he started visiting National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. There, he saw wounded warriors dealing with terrible conditions. He described service members living in tunnels while waiting for hospital rooms in facilities that weren’t designed for a sudden influx of survivors.


“These Marines that were used to jumping out of helicopters were just languishing in bed for days after days just waiting for physical therapy that came once a week,” Prado said. “And the docs that would come by every week and say ‘hey next week you’re going home.’ And that would go on for 30, 40, 50 weeks. That was just soul crushing.”

The final straw came during a trip to the local mall where Prado ran into a friend he’d served with in Iraq. Since they’d last seen each other, Prado’s friend had stepped on a landmine and lost both legs.

“Here I was — tough guy, combat vet, and my legs literally melted underneath me,” Prado said. “I grabbed my wife as I sank to the deck and I said ‘we’re going to sell everything. We’ve got to do something.’ My wife, to her eternal credit, said, ‘yes we are.’ I loved the Navy and I would’ve stayed there forever. But I had to do something. I was so tired of seeing my friends dying of suicide and just being lost. These are guys that I had served with and they were hyper-capable, hyper-competent. All the sudden they would just be hollowed–out versions of themselves that were drifting aimlessly into the shadows.”

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Prado speaks with students.

Prado started what would eventually become Workshops for Warriors by inviting service members receiving treatment in Bethesda to his home to hang out. He said they loved to tinker in his garage. This got him thinking about next steps. Most of the service members being treated in Bethesda were only there for four to six months. This ruled out apprenticeships which can take up to 10,000 hours to complete, he said, and college degrees which can take years. Professional credentials, on the other hand, are stackable and portable, he added.

Next, Prado developed partnerships with multiple U.S. manufacturers to get the equipment, supplies and instructors. As a lieutenant in the Navy he didn’t make enough to cover the costs.

“Fortunately, we got some incredible companies that donated time, tools, software and connected us with other people,” Prado said. “Little-by-little we started moving forward.”

Prado’s next move was to take his last Navy assignment in San Diego, California. He said he did this because more people leave the service there – 17,000 a year – than anywhere else in the country.

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans

Machining students.

The current Workshops for Warriors facility takes up three city blocks in San Diego and includes housing and dining facilities for students. A 8 million expansion is slated for next year.

Since 2008, 760 veterans and transitioning service members have graduated from Workshops For Warriors. Prado said 95% of the program’s graduates receive job placements with an average salary of ,000 a year.

Courses are open to honorably discharged veterans and transitioning service members who are within six months of separation. Students take four-month courses in advanced manufacturing, welding fabrication or machine repair. The ,000 tuition can be covered by the G.I. Bill. For those who don’t have access to the G.I Bill, scholarships are available, Prado said.

Each course is coupled with opportunities to gain nationally recognized credentials in welding, machining, computer aided design, computer aided manufacturing and more. Programs are accredited through the Bureau of Private and Post-Secondary Education, American Welding Society and the National Institute for Metalworking Skills.

Prado said most students have between four and eight written job offers prior to graduation. The only shortcoming he sees in his program is its capacity for students. Workshops for Warriors currently has the ability to teach 162 students per year. But the organization receives seven to ten times that many applications, according to Prado.

To deal with this, there are plans in the works for a train the trainer program and eventual expansion into other locations throughout the country.

Prado said Workshops for Warriors is almost as beneficial to manufacturers as it is to veterans and transitioning service members.

“You have no idea how desperate employers are for properly–trained machinery repair technicians,” he said.

Prado said there are 2.4 million advanced manufacturing jobs in the United States currently unfilled due to a lack of skilled labor. That number is projected to rise to 4.8 million over the next ten years.

“If you couple that with the fact that the median age of manufacturing workers today is 57 years old, in 10 years, who is going to build our ships, our aircraft, our bridges, our buildings,” Prado asked. “We cannot allow our manufacturing capability and our economic resiliency to be outsourced to China.”

Service members or honorably discharged veterans can apply for entry at https://wfw.org/.

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


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