The first time I witnessed a ‘missing man formation’ was at the funeral of my grandfather, who flew the B-25 Mitchell during World War II. After his service in the Army Air Corps, he became a commercial pilot for TWA and then ventured into private flight. He died in an airplane crash at the age of 74 and my family gathered with his aviation community at Santa Paula Airport for his memorial.
At the ceremony, we looked to the sky as a group of planes from the Condor Squadron flew overhead. One of the planes banked away, leaving an empty space in the formation.
The symbolism was not lost on me.
Four F-15E Strike Eagles assigned to the 4th Fighter Wing conduct a missing man formation flyover during the POW/MIA ceremony at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, Sept. 19, 2014.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aaron Jenne)
It’s a powerful visual, and a traditional salute to military aviators.
The “missing man formation” has evolved throughout history, but today, there are two main variations.
The first is the one held at my grandfather’s memorial: a group of planes roars low overhead, then one pulls up spectacularly from the rest, leaving his or her space in the formation empty to represent the fallen pilot.
The “missing man formation” has always held a special place in my heart, perhaps because flight, for me, feels synonymous with freedom. The notion that a pilot might slip “the surly bonds of earth” for the final time is one that brings me comfort, and therefore saying goodbye to those who love the “vastness of the sky” in this way is a bittersweet moment.
Watch the video below to see a “missing man formation” in action:
The program honors those who served in the trenches and on the home front. It also celebrates a nation forever changed by the sacrifices they made. The ceremony will feature remarks from present and past military officials and government leaders as well as entertainment celebrity appearances.
The event will also include a performance of “God Bless the U.S.A” by Lee Greenwood, featuring acapella group Home Free and members of the Air Force Band. Also featured are highlights from the film “A Soldier’s Journey,” which tells the story of the design and importance of the World War I Memorial. Additionally, First Colors will include:
Music from the United States Army Band Pershing’s Own. The bugler will use the bugle owned by Gen. John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War I.
A performance by the 396th Regiment “Hellfighters Band.” This all-Black unit in World War l’s segregated Army helped bring jazz to Europe.
A song from the musical “Hello Girls, The Musical” that portrays the first women to actively serve in the Army as heroic World War l telephone operators.
The live flag-raising ceremony will include a flyover by the 94th Fighter Squadron, formerly the 94th Aero Squadron. They started its prestigious history as the most victorious air warfare unit of World War I on March 6, 1918. The unit was the first American-trained pursuit squadron to reach the front and see combat service. Pilots of the 94th developed an insignia to commemorate their being the first unit. They also painted Uncle Sam’s Hat on the side of their Nieuport 28 planes before their first flight. The squadron included Ace pilots James Meissner and Douglas Campbell and Medal of Honor recipient Eddie Rickenbacker, also known as the “Hat in the Ring Gang.”
“As our nation’s flag is raised for the first time over this hallowed ground that honors those who served in the Great War, we can take pride in the legacy of service and sacrifice by those who wear the uniform of our great country,” said Terry Hamby, Chairman of the World War I Centennial Commission. “We invite Americans across the country to view this momentous occasion and reflect on this significant generation’s place in our country’s history.”
About the flag
The inaugural flag flew over the U.S. Capitol, where it signaled the nation’s commitment to fight. The American Battle Monuments Commission then flew the flag at nine World War I cemeteries in Europe. Those sites include Lafayette Escadrille Memorial Cemetery, the burial site for American aviators who volunteered even before America declared war. Another site was Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, on the legendary battlefield of Belleau Wood. This site was one of the hardest-fought American victories in the war. Finally, representing the coming home of nearly 2 million soldiers who returned from Europe, the flag returned to the United States to fly at the World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri.
First Colors is presented by the World War l Centennial Commission in cooperation with the Doughboy Foundation, the National Park Service, and the American Battle Monuments Commission. For more information, visit www.ww1cc.org/firstcolors.
Army National Guard 2nd Lt. Corey Read said conservation and military service share common values. The Marine veteran and farmer is part of a new initiative to reduce pollution in Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams by planting 10 million trees across the state by 2025.
The Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership, coordinated by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, brings together a variety of nonprofit organizations, individuals, and agencies to address polluted water. The goal is to stabilize stream banks, improve soil quality, reduce flooding, and provide habitat for wildlife.
“You go overseas and serve in a combat zone and then you come home and see there are other ways to serve your country and community,” Read said.
Read and his wife, Esther, are the owners of Shupp Hill Farms, a 100-acre cattle farm located in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania. Since taking over the family business in 2019, Read continues to explore innovative solutions to keep his family’s third-generation farm successful.
One of those solutions is conservation. His approach is to bring farming “back to the basics” through regenerative agriculture and sustainable farming methods.
“As part of our approach, we wanted to do the right thing on our farm, such as fencing off trees and waterways that are part of the Chesapeake,” Read said.
The Chesapeake Bay watershed spans more than 64,000 square miles. It encompasses parts of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia, and contains more than 100,000 streams and waterways and impacts 18 million people.
The program is a great fit for members of the state’s Veteran Farming Project, says Director Mimi Thomas-Brooker. The organization is a grassroots network made up of veterans, military members, and spouses who farm and operate agribusinesses.
“Veterans and military members who farm in Pennsylvania strive to be good stewards of their land. They respect soil health, clean air, and clean water — this effort will provide a resource to them to conserve the natural resources on their farms.”
“A lot of our farms want to plant more trees . . . because it’s the right thing to do but there is a cost factor there. That’s why this is a great match,” Thomas-Brooker said.
According to Read, farming is something that veterans like and sustainability appeals to this new generation of veteran-farmers.
“It’s a very close community; there’s a huge support network there and you kind of feel like you have a purpose. And I think, serving overseas you have a purpose. Farming gives you that community purpose again,” Read said.
There are many reasons to plant 10 million trees but Thomas-Brooker says the top goal is to provide healthy soil and clean water for everyone.
“Trees are instrumental in an urban setting for cooling things off . . . They help clean the air but their root systems, especially near streams are super important to keeping drinking water clean and keeping sediment out of the stream,” she said.
According to the project’s founders, planting 10 million trees will reduce 4.6 million pounds of nitrogen, 22.2 million pounds of sediment, and 43,000 pounds of phosphorus across the state. These changes will help boost recreational activities, increase farm activity, and make the region healthier.
Back on Read’s farm, these initiatives will come to fruition in the spring once the ground thaws. He’s currently working with a consultant to determine the best tree species for his property. In the meantime, he’s taken land out of use, including wetland areas, ponds, and a stream traditionally used to water animals.
Working with the 10 Million Trees Project, a 35-50 foot buffer will be created with what he is calling a “natural park setting along the water.” The trees will be a natural filtration system that will prevent the animals from polluting the waterways with waste. Taking this land out of use comes at a cost to the farm, but Read believes it is worth it in the long run for the farm’s sustainability, the health of the region, and the watershed.
“When I was going through officer training with the Guard, they asked me, ‘Where did you get your values from?’ I always go back to farming. I’ve always been drawn to the hard work aspect of it.
“There’s no more central tie to the community than farms,” he said. “Farms are such an integral part; they are the life force of a community. I want to continue to give back and I think the way to continue to do that is through the farm,” Read concluded.
Army Veteran Kathleen Cashaw will celebrate her 62nd birthday this summer. She is also celebrating this summer for another reason – earning her college degree. With the support from Butler VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation Program, Cashaw has achieved her goal of completing her Associates of Arts Degree as a medical assistant at Butler Community College.
“The Vocational Rehabilitation staff at Butler VA always gave me encouragement. I had doubts about completing the degree, but the VA staff always directed me to the positive of completing the program rather than the negative thoughts that I was having. Like being too old. I knew I had potential. I knew that it was in myself.”
Vocational Rehabilitation at Butler VA assists Veterans to prepare for, find, and maintain suitable jobs. Employment services such as job training, employment-seeking skills, resume development, and other work-readiness assistance is available for Veterans to achieve their employment goals.
“I cannot thank the staff in Vocational Rehabilitation enough. They were instrumental in my success and I have been given confidence to continue my education for a Bachelor of Science degree, my ultimate ‘Bucket List.”
“Messed” up but moved on
Middle child of a hard-working illiterate father and a strict mother who instilled the importance of education, Cashaw did what neither her parents nor her two siblings ever did: Enroll in college. But her degree pursuits at Tuskegee University and Howard University began and ended within a year.
“I messed up in college.”
She enlisted in the Army and in 1986 joined the Mississippi National Guard. She also took jobs in customer service and in making ice cream machines in one factory and automotive parts in another.
“My father didn’t think I would ever go back to college,” Cashaw said. A disabled Veteran, she volunteered at Butler VA while making the dean’s list and the president’s list at Butler Community College. “For my age, I completed it. Finally.”
Vocational Rehabilitation: “If you want to succeed, you will.”
Kathleen encourages other Veterans to reach out to Vocational Rehabilitation for support and assistance. Her other advice: “You are never too old to pursue your dreams. If you really want to succeed you will. It takes hard work, but never succumb to the negative, look for the positive.”
Her education has changed her life. “It has made me more confident. “Now, there are things that I can do.”
Google has long been on the forefront of new advancements in technology and products. Now, they are using their massive platform to support veterans in need.
With America quickly approaching 20 years at war, the needs of her veterans continue to rise. With the added stress of the pandemic, things are at a critical point. Post-traumatic stress diagnosis’ are rising and veteran suicides continue to dominate headlines. Google wanted to do something to combat those numbers and give back to those who served. The company began working with veteran employees as well as outside stakeholders and nonprofits to create a site dedicated to veteran resources.
“Men and women who served should be able to find help when they need it. We hope this website will provide helpful, authoritative information on mental health for veterans and their families,” Jose Castaneda, Google Spokesperson, said. It is with this in mind that the “Serving Veterans” initiative was created.
The site itself will be specifically geared toward veterans and their families. With minimal clicks, the search engine will bring them to the resources that they so desperately need. Google also formatted the site to include personal stories and videos from a broad and diverse group of veterans, which include well-known military leaders. The aim is to demonstrate that seeking help shouldn’t cause hesitation and that recovery through support can happen.
Code of Support Foundation CEO Kristina Kaufmann was thrilled with the program Google created. “The Code of Support Foundation is thrilled to see a global leader in technology like Google prioritize the needs of our nation’s veterans, their caregivers and their families with the launch of the Google for Veterans program,” she said.
The Wounded Warrior Project recently released a survey reporting that COVID-19 has significantly impacted veterans specifically, causing 52 percent to report that their mental health is even worse with the pandemic. The military itself has also stated that suicides have risen by 20 percent in 2020, which can most likely be attributed to the pandemic. All of this was fuel for Google to quickly assemble support for America’s veterans.
Recently, The Bob Woodruff Foundation shared that, “The COVID-19 pandemic creates at least three conditions: emergent trauma, loneliness due to social isolation and unplanned job or wage loss that could culminate in a “perfect storm,” threatening the mental health of many veterans.”
“We are proud partners in this effect to reach and serve more of those who served our country. This launch represents a shared commitment by Google and Code of Support to ensure veterans and their families can easily find and connect with local community-based resources for mental health, addiction, and suicide prevention at a time when these numbers are rising tragically,” Kaufmann said.
Google has put much of their focus in recent years in serving the military community with tools for transitioning and employment. This appears to be one more way for them to continue its commitment to give back to the 1 percent of America’s population that swears to defend and protect us all. By creating an easily accessible site to help veterans and their families find the support they continue to honor that commitment. One veteran at a time.
If you love working with dogs and like service opportunities, consider supporting and volunteering with Veterans Moving Forward!
Veterans Moving Forward provides service and emotional support dogs to veterans dealing with mental and/or physical challenges at no cost.
VMF relies entirely on donations, grants and fund raising for funding our operations and programs. Your financial support is greatly appreciated! TEXT dogs4vets to 707070 or visit vetsfwd.org!
We need and seek volunteers who are committed, compassionate and want to make a difference in the lives of veterans.
Apply for a Veterans Moving Forward Service Dog by completing and submitting (per instructions on the application form) our Service Dog Application.
Ashley is named after Army 1LT Ashley White.
1st Lt. Ashley White was killed during combat operations in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan on October 22, 2011 when the assault force she was supporting triggered an improvised explosive device. Ashley was assigned to the 230th Brigade Support Battalion, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, North Carolina National Guard, Goldsboro, NC and served as a member of a Cultural Support Team attached to a Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan. As a Cultural Support Team Member on her first deployment to Afghanistan, White selflessly served. Ashley’s actions exemplify the highest commitment to duty, honor, and country. In every instance she served with distinction in support of the Task Force and our great nation.
Michael Whittaker joined the military in July 1982 through the delayed entry program. He served in the U.S. Navy for 24 years, including 16 active and eight years in the Ready Reserve. Today, he lives with Multiple Sclerosis.
The following was written by Whitaker:
I remember a moment where an enemy was in sight during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and my fingers became numb. It felt like I had frostbite. I reported what happened to the physician, but he couldn’t find anything wrong. When I returned to the US, I had a series of tests and they figured it out. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 2006.
When I was diagnosed with MS, I knew nothing about the disease. While I was extremely active before I had MS, my activities diminished as MS started to change my body. Before MS, I felt there were no barriers to what I could do.
Getting Diagnosed with MS
With MS, I found myself having a pity party and I stopped participating in the things I loved. It didn’t help that I pushed my family and friends away following my diagnosis. Everyone seemed to have a suggestion on what I should or shouldn’t be doing. I didn’t want to hear people’s home remedies, that they “understood” what I was going through, or that I could still do so much even though I had MS. It wasn’t until I became affiliated with VA’s spinal cord injury program that my outlook started to improve.
I joined an MS support group where I could talk about what I was feeling and experiencing. MS symptoms are different for everyone, but members of the group understand and can relate to how I feel. They understood not just about living with MS, but about serving in the military and dealing with the PTSD I was diagnosed with. Talking with others helped me to look at things as achievable.
I found that I didn’t have excuses not to do things, I just had to do them differently. I discovered adaptive sports through VA: riding a bike, golfing, air gun shooting and sailing were now things that I could do again. I even took some cooking classes at my local VA. In September 2019, I attended the National Disabled Veterans Tee Tournament in Iowa City, Iowa, with about 400 other Veterans. It was amazing to see so many Veterans together, competing in sports and making the most out of life.
While my diagnosis of MS was difficult to accept, I’ve now educated myself about the disease and feel prepared to take on anything that comes my way. Whenever I tell my providers that I can’t do something, they don’t accept the excuses. They help me to break down barriers that MS has caused, or that I’ve created myself. Everyone is dealing with changes and difficulties in life, and I’ve learned that adapting is the best way to move forward.
Accepting the Challenges and Changes
I’ve also learned the importance of communicating, not just with family, friends and my healthcare team, but with others going through the same thing. MS has changed me. There are days that I miss my military lifestyle, but I’ve learned that I’m not that guy anymore and that’s okay. Life changes us. I feel I can lift my head high now because of all the amazing staff, nurses and doctors at the Long Beach, CA VA medical facility who have helped me.
Visit VA’s website https://www.va.gov/ms/ for information on Multiple Sclerosis (MS), VA services, benefits and MS resources.
In a moved that shook the federal workforce, President Trump ordered a freeze in the hiring process of all executive branch departments, effective at noon on January 22, 2017.
A report from the Office of Personnel Management estimates that veterans made up about 44 percent of new hires in the executive branch during fiscal year 2015. The total number of veterans employed was 623,755, or roughly 31 percent of the entire executive branch.
So what does this mean for veterans now in the process of seeking employment with the government? Unfortunately, even federal employees currently working in the executive branch aren’t sure.
We Are the Mighty consulted with a Division Director at one of the federal departments, who asked to remain anonymous due to the department being ordered to cease all public communications.
“We just don’t have many answers,” the source told WATM. “This is a very different political environment and we don’t know what to expect.”
We Are the Mighty obtained the “Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies,” signed by acting director of Office of Management and Budget Mark Sandy.
Sent to the heads of the departments, the memorandum read, in part, “An individual who has received a job offer/appointment prior to January 22, 2017, and who has received documentation from the agency that specifies a confirmed start date on or before February 22, 2017, should report to work on that start date.”
Individuals who were offered a position before Jan. 22 but do not have a start date (or a date after February 22) may find that employment offer rescinded. According to the Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, those positions offered will be under review.
Agencies will be tasked with considering “merit system principles, essential mission priorities, and current agency resources and funding levels” when it comes to determining whether job offers should be rescinded.
At this time, the hiring freeze applies to every executive department except for the Department of Defense, and even then, it only allows for recruiting into active duty.
The leadership in any given executive department may grant an exemption to the freeze if he or she believes it to be in the best interest of national security or public safety, according to the press release from the White House.
This public safety exemption rule could be what helps the Department of Veterans Affairs continue to attempt to fill what it might deem necessary positions among the 3,473 jobs listed on its website — though it is unclear exactly how many of those positions could be considered in the interest of national security or public safety.
That same argument can be made for a large number of positions available at the Department of Defense. As DoD employees are directly related to national security, the department seems to have wide latitude over how it will respond to the hiring freeze.
The President has given the Office of Management and Budget 90 days to present a “long-term plan to reduce the size of the Federal Government’s workforce through attrition.” Upon implementation of that plan, the executive order will expire.
This hiring freeze is part of one of the many campaign promises President Trump made last year to drastically shrink the federal government.
The Department of Veterans Affairs says that it is “amending its regulation” on the copays that veterans pay for medications they receive that are not for service related conditions.
Currently, veterans pay $8 and $9 for a 30-day (or less) supply of prescriptions.
The VA says that the new system will “keep outpatient medication costs low for Veterans.”
Dr. David J. Shulkin, the VA Undersecretary for Health, said “Reducing their out-of-pocket costs encourages greater adherence to priscribed outpatient medications and reduces the risk of fragmented care that results when multiple pharmacies are used.”
The new system tossed out the old way of determining costs, which was based on the Medical Consumer Price Index.
Three classes of outpatient medications have been designed to help curb the costs.
Tier 1 is for preferred generics, and will cost veterans $5 for a 30-day or less supply.
Tier 2 is for non-preferred generics, which includes over the counter medications, and will cost veterans $8 for a 30-day or less supply.
Tier 3 is for brand name medications, and will cost veterans $11 for a 30-day or less supply.
The new system will go into effect February 27th, 2017, and only apply to medications that are not for service connected issues.
Veterans who are former Prisoners of War, catastrophically disabled, or are covered by other exceptions will not have to pay copays.
Veterans who fall into Priority Groups 2-8 will have a $700 cap on copays, at which point the copays do not apply. To find out which Priority Group you fall into, check out the VA’s list of Priority Groups in their Health Benefits tab (here).
According to 38 U.S.C. 1722A(a), the VA is compelled to require veterans to pay a minimum copay of $2 for every 30-day (or less) supply of medications which are prescribed for non-service related disabilities or connections, unless there is an exemption for the veteran. 38 U.S.C. 1722A(b) gives the VA the authority to set the copay amount higher and to put caps on the amount veterans pay.
It’s never too soon to start planning an epic spring or summer vacation. For disabled veterans living stateside, 2020 could be the best year yet for outdoor recreation. This is because the National Parks Service offers disabled veterans an amazing deal on their next visit. From Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park to Dry Tortugas National Park and the Mt. Zion and the Smokey Mountains in between, they’re all at our fingertips – and it’s now totally free.
More than 330 million people visit America’s most beautiful parks every year, and the parks are about to see a huge influx from American veterans due to this partnership between the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. Disabled veterans can get free access with an Access Pass on their cars, granting free access to anyone in that vehicle. On top of access, the access pass gives holders a discount on expanded amenity fees at many National Parks sites, which can include campsite fees, swimming, boat launches, and group tours.
All a veteran has to do to be one of those who enter the parks for free is submit proper documentation of his or her service-connected disability, along with proof of identification and a processing fee. A Veterans Administration letter of service connection is enough to satisfy this requirement, and the passes can even be ordered online.
This could be you.
(Emily Ogden/National Parks Service)
On top of the disability award letter from the VA, qualified veterans can also use a VA summary of benefits, or proof of SSDI income to prove their disability status. Once proof of residency is also established, and the processing fee is paid, all the veteran has to do is wait. Their new lifetime access pass will arrive 3-5 weeks after sending the application. If online payments aren’t available to the veteran, the passes can also be acquired by paper mail or by stopping into an access pass-issuing facility. The documentation is still required, but getting the pass is a breeze.
The National Parks Service really is full of amazing natural wonders, which make this lifetime pass one of the biggest benefits of having served. The NPS is full of places you’ve always heard about, but likely have never seen: Big Bend, Arches, Denali, Sequoia, Crater Lake, Petrified Forest, Glacier Bay, Hot Springs, and so much more. Summer vacations will never be the same.
Ronald Reagan probably helped save a number of lives on the front lines — and not because he was a big hero. In fact, Reagan’s eyesight was so bad, they kept him in the United States. But despite not being fit for front-line duty, Reagan still played his role for Uncle Sam.
While Reagan’s eyesight made him next to useless for combat, he did end up being involved in doing training films, one of which involved recognizing the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. Friendly fire has long been a problem — ask Stonewall Jackson.
In this training film, “Recognition of the Japanese Zero,” Reagan portrayed a young pilot who had just arrived in the Far East. The recognition angle is hammered home, and not just because of the friendly-fire problem.
Reagan’s character studies silhouettes drawn by a wounded pilot who hesitated too long — and found out he was dealing with a Zero the hard way.
Even with the study, Reagan’s character later accidentally fires at a P-40 he misidentifies, greatly angering the other American pilot. However, when he returns, he takes his lumps, but all turns out okay when the other pilots realizes there is a Zero in Reagan’s sights from the gun camera footage.
Reagan’s character explains that he stumbled across the Zero, then after a dogfight (not the proper tactic against the Zero, it should be noted), Reagan’s character shoots down the Zero.
There’s a happy ending as the earlier near-miss is forgotten and the kill is celebrated.
The film is also notable in that it revealed to American pilots that the United States had acquired a Zero that had crashed in the Aleutians. The so-called Akutan Zero was considered one of the great intelligence coups in the Pacific Theater, arguably second only to the American code-breaking effort.
So, see a future President of the United States help teach American pilots how to recognize the Zero in the video below.
Retired Navy Lieutenant Curt Kline had been suffering from the after-effects of childhood and service-related trauma for years. A revolutionary new technology is curing his worst symptoms.
Enlisting in the Navy in 1994 was an easy decision for Kline, although he really wanted to join the Marine Corps. His mother wouldn’t sign for him unless he changed his branch of service, so the Navy was it. “I was 17 and was in my senior year. It was my fourth high school and I knew I didn’t have a lot of opportunities with college,” he shared. He wasn’t a military brat, either. “We were just poor…we moved around quite a bit.”
From that young teenager emerged a dedicated sailor. Kline was eventually commissioned as an officer not long after he was made Chief. He would go on to train potential SEALs out of the Great Lakes. Later on he was sent to Japan, again. It was there he’d witness the terrible earthquake and tsunami of 2011. “You could see the flat ground moving like the ocean waves,” he said. Over 15,000 people died and he was close to retirement when he realized the event was causing deeper problems for him than he’d realized.
In 2017 he planned out how he was going to end his life. He had everything he needed and the place was decided. At the last moment, he decided to go to the hospital in a last ditch effort to get help. They saved his life.
His trauma went back further than his time in the Navy, though. When he was five years old, his mother left his father when she caught him giving marijuana to Kline. Although he’d stay away from alcohol and drugs, he soon realized he’d become anchored to something else. “My drug of choice was the Navy. It was a distraction from all the things I grew up struggling to understand and process,” he explained.
When Kline retired after 25 years of service, the pandemic hit. He was without his anchor and isolated, a combination which led to a terrible chain of events. The decline led to a deterioration in his marriage to Catalina, a Marine Corps veteran. Finally, after struggling with depression, paranoia and suicidal thoughts for over eight months, he knew he needed help.
Kline went through TRICARE and the VA for support, but it seemed as though everyone was too busy or didn’t know what to do. “I did find help with Head Strong. Their mission is to provide therapy without any barriers to treatment,” he explained. “That helped tremendously, giving me the foothold to take the next step.”
His path ahead wasn’t anything he could have imagined. Kline stumbled upon a social media post discussing a new FDA trial at Ohio State University with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) on veterans. Named Veterans Neuromodulation Operation Wellness (NOW), it was a study that was sponsored and funded by Ohio’s state senator in Bill 166. Senator Frank Hoagland is a former Navy SEAL himself and remains dedicated to serving veterans.
As soon as the trail was open to candidates, Kline made a phone call to see if he could get on the trial. Only a week later, he traveled to Ohio to begin the program. “Basically, it takes your brain waves and starts to even them out with magnetic pulses,” he explained.
The human brain is 85 percent water, allowing the TMS pulses to have an almost recharging effect on the mitochondria. This is an area of the brain that creates the energy for cells, around 90 percent of what our body’s cells need to survive. What many outside of the scientific community may not realize is that trauma itself causes our mitochondria not to function properly. Studies have found reduced mitochondria in combat veterans and those suffering from severe PTSD. By recharging the mitochondria, the TMS technology has the potential to eradicate the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The therapy begins by recording the baseline of brain activity for the patient using electroencephalogram (EEG) readings. This shows the doctor what parts of your brain are operating well and which ones aren’t. From there the CloudTMS™ machine coordinates an individualized plan for magnetic pulses into the brain.
“After about three weeks of treatment I noticed that I started to sleep more than a couple of hours a time…for me that was a huge difference. One of the things that medication never did for me with my depression was help my motivation,” Kline said. He described his depression as a fog that covered him, making it hard to move. The treatment lifted that fog and reduced the consistent feelings of anxiety he’d been battling. His wife soon joined the program as well and had similar success.
Although Kline is continuing completing his 30 sessions of treatment, the program was paused. This led to confusion on his part because the study was fully funded for two years but appeared to have been stalled due to internal issues. When Kline received the phone call on March 5, 2021 that the study had been stopped indefinitely, it didn’t sit right.
Through his own research, Kline believes it was stopped because something this impactful has the potential to shift veteran care away from pharmaceuticals. He implores the VA and veteran allies to continue to push for alternative therapies and move away from the drugs that are making many veterans unrecognizable or causing addiction.
Jacob Burns was a struggling Air Force veteran when he applied for the program after it had paused. Shortly after being denied entry, he drove his truck into a tree and killed himself. He was only 35 years old. Although Kline isn’t blaming the pause on Burns’ suicide exactly, he wonders if getting help rather than being turned away could have changed things.
Kline is now back home in Virginia and working for the first time since retiring from the Navy. He’s continuing to progress every day and is endlessly grateful to the Veterans NOW program and supporters he met along the way. It’s his hope that through continued media coverage of the veteran TMS study, the already funded veterans program will restart and continue healing veterans.
As we continue to lose more and more veterans to suicide each day, the time to act on viable solutions is now.
Technically, aeromedical evacuation has been around since World War I, bringing our wounded back home by way of aircraft. Present day, AE is still a critical component to getting injured troops back to safety.
AE crews, medics, and personnel outside the wire are expertly trained to care for combat-related injuries and conditions. With others’ lives on the line, it’s not surprising that the many-step process of evacuating a casualty of war has been refined to achieve the highest survival rate possible.
The injured are first examined by a medic, corpsman, or any medical personnel available to assess injuries. The medical personnel will continue to attend to the wounded until transportation arrives to transfer them to a higher level of care.
2. Patient movement
It is of utmost importance to quickly transport the triaged to the nearest hospital or Mobile Air Staging Facility (MASF). The only hardened hospital capable of caring for critical combat-related injuries for a longer period of time is Bagram AB, Afghanistan.
The means of transportation for moving a troop to Bagram AB is dependent on where they were injured. If the service member is injured just outside of base, then a Humvee is the obvious choice. If personnel are wounded at a Forward Operating Base, a Huey dust-off mission will be spun up to retrieve casualties.
Once patients are transferred to the hospital, they are stabilized by doctors working in the facility and their diagnosis is entered into a database, called Tra2ces. Tra2ces is relatively new and is one of the sole reasons why the wounded have been tracked so efficiently on their journey from the point of injury to back home with their families.
After patients are successfully entered into the tracking system, the next step is to continue moving back to the States. Tactical Airlift Command and Control (TACC) is responsible for scheduling all planes flying in- and out-of-country.
Depending on the injury, patients are categorized and listed in order of priority. In other words, the most critically wounded will top of the list and will typically be sent home first.
It is the responsibility of the Aeromedical Evacuation Operations Team (AEOT), specifically the admin mission controller, to assign a medical crew to take care of patients in flight. The crews have strict guidelines and must be current in all of their medical training. There is zero tolerance for sandbagging in this career field.
6. AE medical crews
The AE crew consists of three enlisted medical technicians and two flight nurses. The crews are given all patient information and medical equipment needed before mission take-off.
In the crew, each member has their own task and they work together to guarantee mission success. After all, they are caring for the most precious cargo — their fellow service members.
Before take-off, patients are moved from the hospital to the flight line. The Casualty Air Staging Facility (CASF) could be considered a tent hospital, located on the flight-line, close to the aircraft. Patients will be moved to the CASF in preparation and set up for the flight that will take them one step closer to home.
8. Mission launch
After medical and ground personnel load all patients onto the aircraft, they are flown to Ramstein AFB, Germany, where they can get more in-depth medical care for their injuries. Bagram AB simply does not have the extended-care capability to continually treat critically injured patients.
After a stay at Ramstein, patients are sent back to home base on another AE flight. All the while, AE medical crews are in the air with their patients, providing them with expert care, comfort, and, if needed, a hand to hold.