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.”

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.”

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

Veterans

How the US military gave Five Finger Death Punch a huge boost

Metal fans have die-hard opinions on bands they love — and bands they hate. Regardless of which side of the line Five Finger Death Punch falls on for you, there’s one group they connect with like no other: troops of the United States Military.


Maybe it’s their firmly anti-communist point of view (Five Finger Death Punch founder Zoltan Bathory was born in Soviet-dominated Hungary and appreciates American democracy on another level). Or maybe it’s because they never forget the troops or law enforcement (Bathory even assisted a cop on the freeway one time). It might also be because of all the songs they write specifically for soldiers.

 

According to Stereogum, if Billboard’s Top 200 was still based purely on album sales, Five Finger Death Punch would have had the #1 album in 2016. When adjusted for streaming sales, they were still a close second. The band debuted at #2 with their three previous albums and at #3 with their 2011 album, American Capitalist.

 

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans
Pfc. John Dothage meets Five Finger Death Punch after they performed for U.S. troops at Camp Stryker, Baghdad, March 3, 2010

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Yarnall)

Look at their album titles: A Decade of Destruction, Got Your Six, War Is The Answer, Way of the Fist, Pre-Emptive Strike. It’s clear that the fighting men and women of the United States are never far from their minds — or their work. That might have something to do with all of the USO shows where they’ve performed for troops in combat zones like Iraq.

Ivan Moody, the band’s frontman told Stereogum:

“When we were over in Iraq playing our USO tour, I had one soldier come up to me, and he laid a burnt iPod down on the table. He didn’t ask me to sign it. He wanted me to keep it. I looked at him a bit funny at first. He told me one of his closest friends went out on a mission and didn’t make it back. Let’s leave it at that. When they found him and his things, his iPod was stuck on ‘The Bleeding.’ The last thing he was listening to before he went was one of our songs. I literally teared up.”

Including war imagery in songs and playing for the troops is nothing new, but Five Finger Death Punch takes it a step further by employing a slew of veterans in their shows, tours, and other material.

They raise money for PTSD awareness through a merchandise site, which also offers links to get help. They even help U.S. combat vets fight poachers in Africa. Their affection for veterans earned them the Soldier Appreciation Award from the Association of the United States Army and dog tags donated from their military-veteran fans to adorn their “Wall of Heroes” and soaring album sales from the troops who love them.

Beyond writing songs for troops and performing in USO tours, Five Finger Death Punch is there for veterans long after they get out of the military.

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.

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans
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.

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans
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.

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans
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.

Articles

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

Recent investigations show that the Department of Defense has issued thousands of other-than-honorable discharges to veterans with mental health and behavioral health diagnoses.


U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal and seven other senators introduced legislation to change that.

On April 3, Murphy, veterans, and advocates for veterans held a press conference in Connecticut and called upon Congress to take action.

“I can’t stand the idea of a veteran risking her or his life for this country, suffering the wounds of battle, and then being kicked to the curb as a result of those wounds,” Murphy said. “But that is exactly what has happened to tens of thousands of men and women who have fought and bled for our country.”

“This is common sense,” Murphy added. “We are breaking our promise to those who served.”

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans
In 2014, 6 of the 20 veterans per day committing suicide were users of VA services.

Murphy said there is also a stigma that comes with an other-than-honorable discharge that is a heavy burden for veterans to live with. “A lot of these so-called offenses are very minor,” Murphy said.

The legislation Murphy helped introduce would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide mental health and behavioral health services to diagnosed former combat veterans who have been other-than-honorably discharged. The bill would also ensure that veterans receive a decision in a timely manner and requires the VA to justify to Congress any denial of benefits that they issue to a veteran.

Up until recently, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Murphy said, denied it had the legal authority to provide any care to former combat veterans who received OTH or Bad Paper discharges.

The VA has reversed course on the matter, Murphy said, adding that now it’s time for Congress to act to ensure mental health and behavioral health services are provided to these veterans.

Since January 2009, the Army has “separated” at least 22,000 soldiers for misconduct after they came back from Iraq and Afghanistan, said Murphy.

“These soldiers who fought for our country suffered serious mental health problems or traumatic brain injury as a cost of their service. And we turned our back on them,” Murphy said, adding that they also return home from combat with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

But instead of being directed to the care and treatment they need, they’re being given other-than-honorable discharges or so-called “bad paper discharges,” disqualifying them from VA care, especially the mental and behavioral health services many of them desperately need, said the senator.

Murphy’s strong support for the bill was echoed by Blumenthal, who is a sponsor but was not at Monday’s press conference.

“This bill will make crystal clear that all combat veterans should have access to the full array of mental and behavioral health care they need and deserve,” Blumenthal said. “We cannot wait for a crisis to provide essential mental health to veterans suffering from the terrible invisible wounds of war.”

He said 20 veterans per day are lost to suicide.

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans
Chiefs and chief selects do pushups for the 22Kill Challenge aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). 22Kill is a veterans’ advocacy group that brings awareness to the daily veterans’ suicide rate. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Tristan Lotz/Released)

One of those in attendance at the press conference Monday was Conley Monk, a Vietnam veteran from New Haven who developed PTSD as a result of his military service.

In 2014, Monk and four other plaintiffs brought a class action lawsuit because they were issued OTH discharges. They won the suit, which was brought on their behalf by the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School and the Pentagon agreed to upgrade their discharges to honorable.

Another veteran to speak Monday was was Tom Burke, president of the Yale Student Veterans Council and a U.S. Marine corps veteran.

In 2009, Burke was a Marine infantryman in Afghanistan.

It was when he was in the Helmand Province that he witnessed deaths of many young children who were killed by an unexploded rocket-propelled grenade. One of Burke’s responsibilities was to cart away the dismembered bodies.

“I began smoking hash,” Burke said, adding that in a matter of weeks he was charged for misconduct for his drug use and was told he would be kicked out of the Marines.

Burke said he “tried to commit suicide a few times.”

He said he was later locked in a psychiatric hospital and subsequently given an OTH discharge later in 2009.

In 2014, Burke said he applied for an honorable discharge, but was denied.

Burke tells his story often, these days, not to elicit empathy for his own case, but to try and draw attention to the bigger issue of the thousands like him who are being denied benefits.

“Veterans are dying,” Burke said. “These aren’t men and women who are trying to take advantage of the system.”

Margaret Middleton, executive director of the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, said veterans need relief.

Under the current system, a veteran trying to get an honorable discharge often “requires the expertise and cost of an attorney and lengthy research,” something that veterans returning from combat shouldn’t be forced to endure, she said.

Murphy concluded: “Our veterans made a commitment to our country when they signed up. I introduced this legislation to make sure that the VA keeps its commitment to help veterans with mental and behavioral health issues. I won’t stop fighting until they get the care and benefits they deserve.”

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This pilot landed her shot-up A-10 by pulling cables

On April 7, 2003, three weeks into the Invasion of Iraq and day four of the nine-day Battle of Baghdad, twenty-eight year-old Captain Kim Campbell (callsign “Killer Chick”) of the 75th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron was on her way in from Kuwait on a close air support mission when she got a call for immediate assistance from the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division.


The 3rd Infantry was attempting to take the North Baghdad Bridge, which was an essential maneuver for capturing the city and cutting off reinforcements, when they found themselves in a desperate Rebel Guard situation.

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans
Killer Chick and her hog. (Staff Sgt. Jason Haag, United States Air Force)

Upon receiving the call, Campbell and her A-10 Warthog (no need for “Thunderbolt II” pleasantries here) re-routed and readied the BRRRRT.

“We were originally tasked to target some Iraqi tanks and vehicles in the city that were acting as a command post, but on the way to the target area we received a call from the ground forward air controller or FAC, saying they were taking fire and needed immediate assistance,” she told Women’s History Month Luncheon guests.

With only seconds to identify the enemy location and — friendly troops — in a blazing war zone, she unleashed bullets on the enemy from the 19-foot long GAU-8 Avenger Gatling gun strapped to the nose of her A-10, followed by 2.75-inch high-explosive rockets.

She immediately became a target for Iraqi anti-aircraft weapons and she took heavy fire.

Also read: This Warthog pilot will receive the Silver Star 14 years after saving troops in battle

The Warthog’s tail was struck by a missile, impairing both hydraulic systems and sending it spiraling towards the city of Baghdad. Campbell had to react quickly.

She switched the jet into manual reversion (which basically looks like one of those old “Flying Machine” Da Vinci sketches – just a bunch of hand-cranking cables and wires rigged to the flaps and rudders of the aircraft).

She manually wrangled her mighty steed and mechanically regained control like some sort of god d*mn puppet master.

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans
Yeah. She flew this thing. (Staff Sgt. Jason Haag, United States Air Force)

Heading back to her base in Kuwait, Campbell had the option of ejecting from the aircraft but decided to manually land the A-10 instead, hoping to keep the rig in one piece.

Only twice before this had manual landings like this been attempted: the first time ended with the pilot crashing to his demise, and the second time the pilot had to be rescued by fire crews after the plane broke in half and caught fire…

Related: 6 awesome photos that show A-10 Warthogs landing in Putin’s backyard

Crash recovery teams surrounded the base as Campbell made her descent, but against all odds, she landed her battered up beast.

“I was impressed,” said Lt. Col. Mike Millen, chief of the 355th Fighter Wing Commander’s Action Group and a fellow A-10 pilot. “Kim landed that jet with no hydraulics better than I land the A-10 every day with all systems operational.”

Despite this near fatal mission, the very next day Campbell was up and running on another rescue mission over Baghdad, completely unfazed by the events that had only just transpired.

“I never really had time to think about the fact that I was going back to Baghdad where just the day before I had escaped a possible shoot down,” she shared. “In my mind, the only thing that I could think about was that I had a job to do. I knew that the search and rescue alert crews were there for me the day before and I was going to do the same for this pilot.”

In honor of her heroic feat, Campbell was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross — a medal awarded in support of operations by “heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

Military movies can show PTSD battles

Military movies can often remind Veterans of their service. They can also bring up painful memories of the past.


Air Force Veteran and Silver Star recipient John Pighini is someone who knows both sides of this issue. He recently worked as a technical adviser on a major motion picture that showcased the bravery of service members, but also brought up a painful past. These movies can sometimes show Veterans dealing with their own struggles: anger, paranoia, edginess, regret and survivor’s guilt.

Pighini saw those struggles on the big screen after working on the movie. “It feels like they take post-traumatic stress and they set it right in your lap,” he said. “Don’t go to this movie and not take a handkerchief or tissues with you. You will not make it through.”

PTSD in Veterans

These are the feelings Pighini knows all too well. He served as a pararescueman during Vietnam, which led to his role on the movie as a technical adviser. As members of Air Force Special Warfare, pararescue specialists rescue and medically treat downed military personnel all over the world. These highly trained experts take part in every aspect of the mission and are skilled parachutists, scuba divers and rock climbers, and they are even arctic-trained in order to access any environment to save a life when called.

Dr. Paula Schnurr, executive director for National Center for PTSD in VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, started studying PTSD in 1984. She said Vietnam Veterans are still dealing with effects because the lack of support when they returned from deployment.

“Vietnam Veterans, like Veterans of earlier wars, were expected to come home and get on with their lives,” she said. Schnurr added the publicly opposed war made Vietnam Veterans’ transition hard to come home.

The National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study, completed in 1988 by the Research Triangle Institute, was pivotal for Veterans and the medical community. At the time, it was the most rigorous and comprehensive study on PTSD and other psychological problems for Vietnam Veterans readjusting to civilian life.

The study findings indicated about 30% of all male and 27% of female Vietnam theater Veterans had PTSD at some point during their lives. At the time, that equated to more than 970,000 Veterans. Additionally, about one half of the men and one third of the women who ever had PTSD still had it.

A 2013 National Vietnam Veterans Longitudinal Study showed that 40 or more years after wartime service, 7% of females and 11% of males still had PTSD.

PTSD symptoms may increase with age after retiring from work, or from medical problems and lack of coping mechanisms.

Having a mission

Having a mission can help Veterans deal with PTSD. While working on a recent movie, Pighini recalled the struggles he still deals with–50 years after his Vietnam service.

“The early days, we didn’t know what we had,” he said. “As we get older, we become more melancholy. We’re not busy and we’re not out there on the firing line.”

While filmed in Thailand, Pighini said the smells from Southeast Asia raised the hairs on the back of his neck. Despite the flashbacks, Pighini said he hopes viewers realize the importance of putting a spotlight on PTSD. He added movies also depict the courageousness of military members. In the movie he worked on, the movie told the story of an Air Force pararescuemen who lived by their motto, “That others may live.”

“That means you lay it out,” Pighini said. “You do whatever you need to do to save a life. It’s the ethos we have. It’s what we live by. If you have to lay down your life or one of your limbs or whatever it is, you do it. It means everything.”

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

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This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

Intense humidity, leeches, and snakes were just a few of the dangers our Vietnam Veterans faced while in the jungle — besides getting shot by bad guys. In all, 2.7 million Americans suited up for The Nam, and the average age of an infantryman was just 19-years-old.


And every single one of them at one time or another claimed the title of “f*cking new guy,” or “FNG.”

Patton, Schwarzkopf, and Mattis didn’t start out on day one of their military careers by making all the right decisions, they had to learn from their mistakes time and time again, adapting to them before ultimately succeeding.

Like every story, every man whose served has a beginning — a seed.

“I didn’t know squat, I wasn’t prepared for this,” Larry “Doc” Speed, a Combat Medic from 173rd Delta Company, explains in an interview about his first few days in the bush.

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans
Doc Speed takes a moment for a photo op during his time in Vietnam. (Source: Mark Joyner/YouTube/ Screenshot)

Entering the grunt world as an “FNG” is a stressful time in every new infantryman’s life.

Having to prove your worth from the moment you step onto the battlefield was just as difficult as shaking off those first dramatic moments of being pinned down by accurate enemy gunfire. Until you prove yourself, you’re just another blood bag with a name stenciled on a uniform.

“It’s a different world when you’re brand new, you’re just scared,” Jesse Salcedo, an M60 machine gunner admits. “It took three or four firefights before I could function before I could see the enemy.”

Also Read: That time American POWs refused a CIA rescue mission in Vietnam

Watch Mark Joyner‘s video below to hear the direct words from Vietnam Veterans about their first days in “The Nam.”

(Mark Joyner, YouTube)

Veterans

Dad’s military service a key to son’s NBA success

For a birthday present for his son years ago, Charles Smith bought a basketball arcade-style game where the hoop moves forward and backward, increasing the degree of difficulty. Every game ended the same way — with Jalen Smith losing, then crying — a fact riddled with irony now that Jalen was a first-round draft pick for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. 

When his father, a retired chief petty officer in the Navy, received a phone call informing him that Jalen was boarding a plane en route to starting his professional career, Jalen didn’t shed a tear.

The same could not be said for Charles.

“I know all the hard work he put into it,’’ the elder Smith said.

The Phoenix Suns drafted Jalen, a 6-foot-10, 215-pound forward, with the 10th overall pick in November. He played two seasons at the University of Maryland and won’t turn 21 until March. Jalen (3.0 points, 2.0 rebounds per game) has appeared in four of the Suns’ 16 games at the time of reporting.

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans

His father’s military service rubbed off on Jalen.

“[It made me] more responsible for myself, more accountable and made sure that I respect elders and I am living the life that he raised me to live,’’ Jalen said.

Charles, 47, entered the Navy out of high school.

He has fond memories of watching Army-Navy football games with his uncle, Arthur Lee Smith, a master chief petty officer in the Navy, as a child. Charles was captivated about the stories that his uncle told about his service.

Charles served 23 years, and as he moved from station to station, his wife, Orletha, and two children remained on the East Coast. 

“There’s no point in doing something if you’re not going to give your maximum effort,’’ Jalen said of the biggest lesson that he learned from his father. “That’s something I kept with me my whole life.’’

When the elder Smith was away, Jalen helped around the house. He made sure the doors were locked. He did not go to bed until his mother and younger sister were tucked away for the night.

Even when his father returned home, Jalen took his duties seriously.

“I was like, ‘No, daddy’s home now so you can go back to being Jalen the little kid,’’’ said Charles, now an engineering inspector. “He took on big responsibilities at a very young age.’’

One way the Smiths bonded was through basketball.

Charles, who is 6 feet tall, was a huge fan of former Maryland standouts Len Bias and Keith Gatlin. He played a little in high school but mainly was a rec-league player. Once they graduated from pop-a-shot games, the Smiths took their one-on-one battles to the court. 

“I could beat him eight, nine times, and he’d still want to play again,’’ Charles said. “His will to win and finally to beat me, there was no telling him he wasn’t eventually going to do that.’’

Jalen finally prevailed when he was a sophomore in high school. 

They split four games that day. Charles recalled that Jalen should have won them all, except he coaxed his son to shoot outside more instead of working the ball closer to the hoop, where Jalen’s height was a distinct advantage.

“After that, I played him one more time,’’ Charles said.

On that occasion, Charles’ wife bet him $100 that he couldn’t score a point off their son. A point? Charles managed that but never received the money.

Now he has a lot more as he sees Jalen happy and living out a lifetime goal.

“It’s been a new adventure,’’ Jalen said. “It was my first time being on the West Coast, getting accustomed to a whole new area and a whole new team that I never met before. It’s a very interesting thing, and I know it’s going to take time to get fully accustomed to everything.

“It’s been a lot of fun so far.’’

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Thieves drained the bank account of the US’ oldest living veteran

Richard Overton just celebrated his 112th birthday in his hometown of Austin, Texas. Unbeknownst to him, identity thieves were using his compromised bank account to purchase savings bonds through TreasuryDirect. Despite his well-known affinity for whiskey and cigars, the supercentenarian and World War II vet still requires round-the-clock care that costs up to $15,000 per month.

The elderly veteran”s cousin Volma first discovered the theft after noticing a discrepancy in his accounts while trying to make a deposit, according to NBC Austin affiliate KXAN reporter Kate Winkle.

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans
Richard Overton with Volma Overton, Jr., who first noticed the discepancy in the elderly veteran’s bank account.
(Richard Overton’s Go Fund Me)

Volma checked the balance of the account after making the deposit and noticed that the balance reflected only the deposit made. He then noticed a large number of debits he couldn’t understand.


Related: America’s oldest veteran gives you the secrets to life at 112

“What the hell are these debits?” Volma recalled thinking. Overton’s bank and TreasuryDirect are aware of the transactions are are taking appropriate measures.

Overton is a staple of the Austin community, a well-known personality who receives well-wishers from around the city on his birthday every year. He is featured on one of the city’s murals depicting influential African-American and Latino personalities. On his latest birthday, he received a visit Austin mayor, Steve Adler.

The 112-year-old is reasonably famous, especially among locals and much of his personal information is available online — though not his bank account and social security numbers. The drained account is separate from a GoFundMe account the family uses to raise money for Overton’s care.

His GoFundMe account keeps Overton in his home and away from having to live in a nursing home. Born in 1906, he has outlived all his closest relatives and requires $480 a day for his constant care.

Articles

Photographer Michael Stokes brings sexy vets back with ‘Invictus’ photo book

The photographer behind the ultra-sexy “Always Loyal” coffee table book has created a sequel project featuring wounded and amputee veterans, and it’s even steamier than the original.


Michael Stokes’ newest work, “Invictus,” showcases 15 recent veterans baring (almost) all — flaunting prosthetics and rock-hard abs in a bold celebration of their post-war bodies.

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The photo book includes five British veterans and American vet-turned-comedian Bobby Henline, who was severely burned during a tour in Iraq.

Stokes said he chose to include Henline alongside amputee vets in response to Facebook comments he received about his earlier work, “Always Loyal.”

“One comment I got was ‘Hey, you’re hand-picking these gorgeous men [for the photos], why don’t you feature someone who’s burned?’ ” Stokes said. “Bobby and I had already been talking for six months at that point, so I thought it was a great opportunity to follow up and … do something a bit different.”

Check out Henline’s pose below:

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“Bobby is very popular and is able to stand alongside any of these guys and pull off the photo shoot,” Stokes said. “He pulls off sexy. He looks great.”

Stokes said that the goal of projects like “Invictus” is to give veterans a platform that could jumpstart modeling careers and lead to mainstream campaigns. 

This dream came true for double-amputee veteran and “Always Loyal” alum Chris Van Etten, who recently landed a Jockey underwear campaign after a Stokes photo shoot.

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“When the Jockey campaign launched, I had all of these people tagging me on Facebook saying ‘You made this possible, you led the way on this, you broke the ice on this.,’ ” Stokes said. “And all of these people were giving me credit for making it not taboo for a corporation to do a campaign and photo shoots like this.”

“This is evidence that people are happy that these guys are getting exposure and getting mainstream gigs,” he added.

Despite enthusiasm from both within and outside of the military community, Stokes said there are still those who are uncomfortable with his “cheeky” shots of wounded vets.

“When you have a photo that goes viral, that’s when you hear negative comments,” Stokes said. “Some people have said things like ‘This is not respectful to the uniform; this is not dignified.’ … [But] they’re definitely the minority voice.”

Stokes said he doesn’t focus on his critics, but on the experience of his models in front of the camera.

The photo shoot “is different with each model,” Stokes said.

“One of the models is a double amputee — and way high up. And during the shoot he said ‘I didn’t know I looked like that from behind,’ ” Stokes explained. “He’s missing part of his hip … and he didn’t know he had such a nice butt.”

Stokes hopes “Invictus” will continue to change public perceptions and normalize glamour shots of amputee models.

MIGHTY TRENDING

1 in 10 homeless adults are veterans – here’s how to help during polar vortex

The polar vortex that’s brought blistering temperatures to many parts of the US, especially states in the Midwest, has already claimed at least 11 lives.

This weather event is life-threatening, especially to folks without proper shelter.

There are a little less than 553,000 homeless people in the US, according to a December 2018 report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and roughly 224 million people nationwide have been hit with below-freezing temperatures.


Chicago, Illinois, alone has a homeless population of roughly 80,000. Temperatures in Chicago dipped to 21 degrees below zero on Jan. 31, 2019.

Veterans account for a disproportionate number of adult homeless people in the US. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, roughly 11 percent of the adult homeless population are veterans.

Deadly polar vortex delivers third day of sub-zero cold

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As much of the nation struggles to keep warm during the polar vortex, here’s how you can help populations that are most at risk.

Call 311 to connect with homeless outreach teams

Many major US cities, including including New York, Chicago, Boston, and Washington, DC, have hotlines under the number 311 you can call if you see someone on the street who might need help. The number can help connect you with homeless outreach teams.

Dialing 211 can also help link people with community services. This service is available to roughly 270 million people, or about 90% of the US population, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

Donate clothing and other supplies to emergency shelters

Many homeless people turn up to shelters without proper clothing during a time where a proper coat can make all the difference. If you’re able to, donating warm clothing to local shelters and organizations can be a major help amid extreme weather events and low temperatures.

Click here for help finding donation centers in your area. Many of these organizations are willing to pick up donations from your residence, which you can often schedule online.

Putting together care packages and keeping them in your vehicle to hand out can also be extremely helpful. Warm items like gloves, socks, hats, scarves, and blankets are especially useful, as well as shelf-safe food, Nancy Powers with the Salvation Army’s Chicago Freedom Center told CNN.

A homeless veteran in New York.

There are specific resources for veterans you can direct people to

Veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness can call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans, which is available 24/7 and is run by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans can also help you locate local services for veterans. Click here to find an organization in your area.

Donate money to a charity

If you’re able to donate money to a charity for the homeless, a little can go a long way.

Below are over a dozen organizations that were given four out of four stars by Charity Navigator, an independent nonprofit that rates charities based on their financial management and accountability.

Here are links to their websites:

Avenues for Homeless Youth

Coalition for the Homeless

Healthcare for the Homeless

Homeless Connections

Homeless Empowerment Program

Homeless Prenatal Program

Homeless Solutions, Inc.

Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless

The Homeless Families Foundation

Transitions Homeless Recovery Center

Tulsa Day Center for the Homeless

Union Station Homeless Services

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

Veterans

Road to Victory – Maternal Bond

Commitment and a nurturing character help build strong families and businesses.

Before Flossie Hall co-founded and became the Chief Operating Officer of the Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs, she had one of the hardest jobs in the world: being a mother of four and an active duty Navy spouse. As a military wife, Hall has lived at 10 addresses over the last 14 years. For much of that time, she also had to be a solo parent.

“Plan something and the military laughs,” Hall quipped. She continued, “Business is the same way.”

After successfully navigating the financial challenges that come with new deployments, new homes and newborns (remember, she and her husband have four children), Hall has dedicated herself to the business of helping other military families.

AMSE is an entrepreneurship program built by military spouses, exclusively for military spouses. It is a digital organization that teaches military spouses around the world how to start their own businesses.

Military spouses are perfectly suited to be entrepreneurs because, according to Hall, “Entrepreneurs have to curve and swerve every single day.”

Like many entrepreneurs, Hall was the first person in her family to attain academic success. She was the first in her family to graduate from high school. And then, the first to attend and graduate from college.

Hall started at a community college and had to navigate financial aid on her own. She recalls signing paperwork as she learned about the cost of a college education. She accumulated a significant amount of debt to finance her education.

Today, Hall has a child in college whose education expenses weren’t budgeted for because she and her husband were very young parents. As a result, they learned the value of proper financial planning.

The Halls’ three younger children will also likely attend college. This time around, Hall and her husband are prepared. They opened college savings accounts that will help their kids pay for college.

Specifically, they started 529 accounts to help finance the children’s college educations. The special savings accounts have allowed the Halls to save long term for this specific financial planning objective. A 529 college savings plan is a great option to save for college because it is a tax-advantaged savings vehicle designed to fund specific education expenses.

The specific tax advantages are that earnings in a 529 plan account are allowed to grow over time free from federally income taxes. Then, when money is ultimately taken out of the account to pay qualified education expenses, there is no income tax on withdrawals.

Qualified education expenses include outlays such as tuition, books and potentially room and board. While a 529 plan account offers income tax breaks, contributions are not deductible.

There are many different 529 plans from which to choose. They are offered by each of the states and many educational institutions. And neither the account holder nor the beneficiary are required to reside in the state offering the plan. However, some plans may offer specific advantages to in-state residents.

Still, the fact that there are no residency restrictions means that there is ample opportunity to shop around in order to find the plan that best suits the needs of the beneficiary. Here are a few things to keep in mind when comparing plans:

  1. Every state offers at least one type of plan.

Plans fall into one of two categories: Prepaid Tuition Plans or College Savings Plans. Prepaid tuition plans lock in the current tuition rate that typically must be used at the specific institution. A college savings plan can be used at any school.

  1. Some plans allow others to contribute.

Most 529 plans allow people other than the account holder to make contributions to the beneficiary’s account. This is a great option for grandparents or other family members to contribute to a child’s future education. Instead of giving a child toys, friends and family can contribute to the student’s college fund.

  1. The account holder owns and controls the account.

Named beneficiaries of 529 plans have no legal right to funds in the accounts. This is the case whether they are minor children or adults over the age of majority. It is also a way to assure the money will be used for its intended purpose. The account holder may withdraw money. The beneficiary may not. But if withdrawals are not used for qualified educational expenses, earnings will incur taxes and penalties.

  1. Gift tax exclusion may apply.

529 plan contributions fall under annual and lifetime gift tax exclusions. The annual limit is currently $15,000 per beneficiary per contributor. This also means a married couple filing jointly can contribute up to $30,000 per child per account.

  1. Consider a UGift® account.

UGift provides a way to invite family and friends to contribute to a child’s 529 account. UGift is a secure, free-to-use online service that allows others to transfer funds directly into your child’s 529 plan account. Because there are no fees, the entirety of those gifts gets deposited.

Because there are many options, there isn’t one 529 plan that satisfies every family’s unique needs. To determine the right fit, it makes sense to compare investment options, fees and other factors specific to your situation.

The best way to save for college is to start early and to add funds consistently. A 529 college savings plan account is specifically designed for educational expenses and can be a great way to finance future education expenses. For more financial tools and tips visit VCM.com/military.

Articles

These were the terrifying dangers of being a ‘Tunnel Rat’ in Vietnam

If fighting the well-defended Viet Cong on their home turf wasn’t dangerous enough, imagine having to crawl your way through a series of extremely tight and narrow underground tunnels to capture or kill them.


Armed with only a flashlight, a single pistol, or maybe just a knife, a “Tunnel Rat” didn’t have much in the way of defense.

“The most dangerous part would be psyching up to get into the tunnel,” Carl Cory says, a former 25th Infantry Div Tunnel Rat. “That was the part that was most frightening because you didn’t what you were getting into.”

Related: This video shows the ingenuity behind the Viet Cong tunnel systems

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Sgt. Ronald H. Payne, a Tunnel Rat, bravely searches a tunnel’s entrance during Vietnam War. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

In 1946, the Viet Minh were the Viet Cong resistance fighters who began digging the tunnels and bunkers to combat the French, whom they would eventually defeat.

By the time the Vietnam War broke out, the Viet Cong had over 100-miles of tunnels with which to spring deadly ambushes on American and South Vietnamese forces before vanishing.

The numerous spider holes (as the tunnel entrances were sometimes called) were conveniently located and well camouflaged — nearly impossible to detect.

Also Read: American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

It was the duty of the brave Tunnel Rat to slide alone into the tunnel’s entrance then search for the enemy and other valuable intelligence. Due to the intense and dangerous nature of the job, many Tunnel Rats became so emotionally desensitized that entering a spider hole was just another day at the office — no big deal.

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Sgt. Ronald A. Payne searches a Vietnamese tunnel armed with only a flashlight and a pistol. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

With danger lurking around every corner, the Tunnel Rat not only had to dodge the various savage booby traps set by the Viet Cong, but typically only carried 6-7 rounds of ammunition with him even though the tunnels were commonly used to house up to a few dozen enemy combatants.

With all those physical dangers to consider, the courageous troop still needed to maintain a clear and precise mental state of mind and not let the fear get the best of him.

After completing a search, many American and South Vietnamese units would rig the tunnels with C-4 explosives or bring in the always productive flamethrowers to flush out or kill any remaining hostiles.

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