Everyone raised in my hometown learned to recite In Flanders Fields in school. Every year, as November 11th, Remembrance Day, drew near, we were taught about the First World War. We made poppies. We prepared for a concert to honor our veterans. Elderly men with often vacant, watery eyes would visit our classrooms and talk to us about their time overseas. Sometimes they cried. Other times, they laughed as they talked about long absent friends and their lost youth. As I grew older, I marched in my town's annual Remembrance Day parade: first as an cadet and later in a different uniform. Each year as we gathered at the armory after the parade had ended, there were fewer survivors of the First and Second World War there to greet us. Decades have passed since those days. The men and women who served their fellows and the future generations that would become of them have largely passed on.
No matter where I am in the world, I take pause on November 11th, as many others do, to remember those that gave up their lives in the name of democracy and decency. I try to hold the millions that died from hate, xenophobia and greed. I give thanks that I am now too old and too broken to fight. I fear for those in uniform today that will see things that will never leave them and for those who deployed who will never come home.Amidst these meditations, I wonder over who will carry the torch of remembrance of wars and atrocities past, once those who survived them are no more. Read the rest
At 111 years old (the video is a few years old,) Richard Overton is the oldest living World War II veteran. He still drinks whiskey, smoke stogies and has lived in the same house, which he bought after coming home from war, since 1945. In this short film, Overton talks about his long life and along the way, extols a few important life lessons.
My take away: for a long life, eat a shit-ton of soup and butter pecan ice cream. Read the rest
We don't hear as much about ISIS as we used to, but the fight against their particular brand on evil is still being waged.
In Syria, for example, a Kurdish militia group called YPG is still waging war on the terrorist group. The YPG is composed of volunteers, drawn largely from areas around and in Syria, but also from countries as far away as the United States. As the militia is currently backed by the United States, it's not a crime for American citizens to find their way to groups like the YPG, get trained up and then deploy to the front lines. Caleb Stevens, a 23 year old from Illinois, felt that he wanted to make a direct impact in the world by standing against those who would do harm to unarmed civilians. After talking to YPG representatives online, he made his way overseas and boned up on the use of Soviet-era small arms before heading to the front lines with his unit in Syria. Caleb took the fight to ISIS, fending them off from civilians for months before he was shot in the calf, bringing his war, at least for the time being, to an end.
In the wake of being wounded, he sought out treatment, first at hospitals in Syria, Baghdad and Jordan, before walking into a hospital emergency room in Chicago to be properly patched up.
It's one hell of a story, it's covered, in detail, over at the Chicago Tribune.
Image: Nûçe Ciwan - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5jA7EiXQsc, CC BY 3.0, Link Read the rest
This is the sweet story of married military veterans, John Banvard (100) and Jerry Nadeau (72). John served in World War II and Jerry served in Vietnam. What makes their May-December love story extra special is that when they met in 1993, neither had ever been in a serious relationship with a man (as Jerry says, they were "sort of in the closet"). At that time, John -- a widower of 10 years -- was 75 and Jerry was 47.
At first, the two seemed worlds apart. John was a lover of art and theater, while Jerry was an outdoorsman. But they hit it off and soon became inseparable.
It's never too late, folks. Read the rest
Everyone behaves badly in this one—snotty youngsters v. violent veterans—but that older guy throwing punches and threatening a pregnant woman should be in jail. Come for the Pokemon rage, stay for the expert demolition of a portable gazebo.
A story at the Winona Daily News appears to concern the same park; it looks like there's a concerted effort afoot to ban more or less any unapproved "gatherings" there, and it's all about the Pokemon Go phenomenon.
The ordinance would cover a wide array of activities, not all related to increased traffic from Pokémon players, and some which is already prohibited. ... recent crowds that suddenly began gathering at all hours earlier this month when the game was released include prohibitions on hammocks and tents, sleeping and sunbathing, recreational activities and games (electronic or not), having pets in the area and playing music.
Why would you bother asking the Pokemon company not to use that location as a gym when it's so much easier to pass sweeping teen-menace legislation? Read the rest
My photographer friend Clayton Cubitt, whom I met here in the Boing Boing comments a decade ago, did an amazing project to support the campaign of U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
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In wintry Omaha, Nebraska, a local veteran is using his modded wheelchair to help neighbors with snow plowing.
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"It took all the skin off your hands," says former Army soldier Rollins Edwards. "Your hands just rotted."
The Tampa Bay Times has done some excellent investigative reporting on the 50 worst charities in America — organizations that took in more than $1 billion over the past 10 years, and gave almost all of that money to their own staffs and professional solicitors. The series explains how charities like this operate and skirt the regulatory system. But if you're feeling TLDR, there's also a PDF that can help you quickly figure out if you're donating to one of these scams. A large portion of the 50 worst is made up of charities devoted to cancer and veterans' issues. Read the rest
In 2010, The New York Times uncovered systemic abuse within units meant to help wounded Army soldiers transition through months-and-years-long treatment and rehabilitation. Today, The Colorado Springs Gazette has a profile about one of the soldiers who stood up for Warrior Transition Units back then. The abuses exposed by the Times weren't fixed and Jerrald Jensen ended up becoming a victim himself. After questioning the mistreatment in the system, he was nearly given a less-than-honorable discharge, which would have cost him long-term Veteran's benefits — a pattern that the Gazette has found happening over and over among the most-vulnerable wounded Army men and women who need the most care in order to rehabilitate from their service injuries. The treatment described here is disgusting, all the more so when you compare it to Jensen's service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Exposing this kind of crap is why journalism exists. Read the rest
Snip from a report by USA Today's Gregg Zoroya: "According to Pentagon data, there were 17 confirmed or suspected suicides this year among commandos or support personnel through Dec. 2, compared with nine suicides each of the past two years. That's a suicide rate among these troops of about 25 per 100,000, comparable to a record rate this year in the Army and higher than a demographically adjusted civilian suicide rate." Read the rest
Video from The Guardian: "Protester and three-tour American veteran Kayvan Sabehgi was beaten by Oakland police during the Occupy protest's general strike on 2 November. Sabehgi, who was 'completely peaceful', according to witnesses, was left with a lacerated spleen." Read the rest
Susannah Breslin's "The War Project," a series of interviews with veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has a new feature up: the story of Staff Sgt. Jason Deckman. The 38-year-old veteran has been in the Army for 16 years. "I dream about my weapon," he tells Susannah.
Deckman is a combat engineer who has deployed five times--to Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, and Iraq twice. He has served with the 3rd Infantry Division, 1st Armored Division, 1st Cavalry Division, 54th Engineer Battalion in Bamberg, Germany, and 420th Engineer Brigade. In early 2007, he transferred to the Army Reserves and is currently assigned to the 980th Engineer Battalion at Camp Mabry in Austin. Later this year, he will deploy to Afghanistan. He lives in Killeen, Texas.
From Deckman's story:
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One of the things that I got was I had nightmares for a while. I've been having a few more lately. It's a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. It's not normal to think you're going to be killed in the very next second. It does weird things to your brain.
I dream about my weapon. I can point it at the enemy, and I can see him coming at me, and I pull that trigger, and it feels like someone jammed gum inside there, and I can pull it, and pull it, and pull it, and it only budges a little bit at a time.
I didn't dream about IEDs while I was in Iraq. It wasn't until after I'd come back.
Steve sez, "Brain-injured vets are curating a huge, neglected archeological collection from Army Corps of Engineers:"
The collection dates to the 1930s, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started building dozens of locks, dams and reservoirs, and the ground beneath them was excavated for archaeological treasures.
Prehistoric and historic pottery, stone tools, arrowheads, Indian beads, necklaces, earrings and ear spools, and ceremonial artifacts, even human remains, were collected. The items then sat in boxes and paper bags in university museums as well as private basements, garages and tool sheds.
In recent weeks, U.S. veterans - many with traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder - have begun processing, cataloguing, digitizing and archiving the collection as part of a one-year $3.5 million project, funded with federal stimulus money.
US military vets working on archaeological project
(Image: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Photo by David Knoerlein) Read the rest