‘Ghost Rider’: B-52 resurrected from desert Boneyard (CNN.com)
For the first time, the U.S. Air Force has resurrected a B-52 bomber that had been in long-term storage at the Boneyard, the portion of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Arizona, where the military sends aircraft that have been retired from the fleet. The 53-year-old Stratofortress, tail number 61-1007, nicknamed the “Ghost Rider” had been in storage at the desert in the care of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) since 2008. Thousands of aircraft are stored at the Boneyard, where the dry desert environment helps preserve them. Some are scavenged to supply parts to planes still in the fleet. Others are brought back into service. Ghost Rider, after upgrades, will become the first B-52 to return to duty from the Boneyard. Though the dry desert air inhibits corrosion, the baking heat can have other adverse effects, including causing dry rot in the tires and fuel lines. The lines and fuel bladders in Ghost Rider were completely replaced, Tech. Sgt. Stephen Sorge, a fuels specialist from the 307th Maintenance Squadron, said in an Air Force report on the project. Once that work was done, the plane’s engines were tested again in January. On February 13, Ghost Rider flew again, a three-hour flight from Davis-Monthan to its new home, Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, Louisiana. The resurrection process took 70 days, according to the Air Force report “I’ve been flying the B-52s since the ’80s and it surprised me that after almost seven years … she cranked up just fine and we had no issues with the flight control systems,” Col. Keith Schultz said in the Air Force report after piloting the eight-engine jet on the 1,000-mile flight.
Veterans honor 70th anniversary of Iwo Jima battle (UPI.com)
The 70th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima was remembered in veterans’ gatherings across America over the weekend. The five-week World War II battle, formally known as “Operation Detachment” began Feb. 19, 1945, a campaign of heavy losses meant to secure the heavily-fortified island of Iwo Jima, south of Japan in the Pacific Ocean, for use by U.S. troops to invade mainland Japan. Official statistics note 6,821 U.S. troops and 18,441 Japanese troops died in the battle. It produced an iconic photograph by news photographer Joe Rosenthal of the planting of a U.S. flag atop the island’s 545-foot tall Mt. Suribachi, used as a patriotic touchstone and the model for many monuments across the U.S., including a full-size recreation in bronze at the U.S. Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, Va. Many are unaware the flag-raising, and the photograph, came early in the campaign and was not the symbol of victory with which it was later identified. A Vietnam veteran, John Henry Mashunkashey, noted that although the U.S. Marines were most prominent in the photograph, every branch of the Armed Forces was involved in the battle. “It cost a lot of lives,” he said at a ceremony Saturday at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 577 in Tulsa, Okla. “These men (gathered for the ceremony) know that, understand it, lived it, survived it, for freedom.”
Filmmakers put veterans suicide in the spotlight (USA Today)
Two filmmakers who won an Oscar for their documentary on a suicide hotline used their acceptance speech to urge troubled veterans to receive help. Dana Perry and Ellen Goosenberg Kent spent months at the Department of Veterans Affairs’ suicide hotline headquarters filming Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, which showed the dedicated efforts staffers make to prevent veterans from killing themselves. Their Oscar on Sunday night was for best documentary short subject. Perry mentioned her 15-year-old son, who had killed himself. “We should talk about suicide out loud,” Perry said. VA Secretary Robert McDonald praised the HBO documentary for highlighting “the challenges our veterans can face and the work of our dedicated Veterans Crisis Line staff.” “We are hopeful that this documentary will help raise awareness of this important issue with the American public,” McDonald said. “Our Veterans in crisis need to know that there is hope and asking for help makes them stronger.” The suicide hotline center in Canandaigua, N.Y, (800-273-8255) takes about 1,000 calls a day from veterans or servicemembers on the brink of self-destruction or family members terrified a suicide might occur.
How education helps veterans when career goals are half-baked (The New York Post)
When life handed lemons to Fontasha Brown when she was on the Coast Guard’s search and rescue team, she made lemon cakes. “I used to have nightmares after Hurricane Katrina,” says the 29-year-old Brownsville resident, who was stationed in Guam, South Carolina and New Orleans and served during Hurricane Katrina, Haiti and Japan’s earthquake. “I would wake up in the middle of the night and bake. The smell was calming — it was enjoyable to see something pretty that you baked versus the look of a body you picked up.” So after leaving the military 10 years early due to an injury, Brown channeled that stress-relieving hobby into a formal culinary education. “I wanted to learn from people, not YouTube,” she explains. “It was stressful at first, but then I remembered my 9/11 GI Bill — that’s been a blessing.” She recently completed her diploma in professional pastry arts at the International Culinary Center in Soho and aspires to own a dessert bar. Brown’s not alone. According to the Center for American Progress, approximately 646,000 veterans were enrolled in a higher education institution in 2012.
Iraq war veteran tells stories of WWII vets who joined civil rights fight (Jacksonville.com)
Bryan Higham knows first-hand how serving in the military can change a person: He joined the Army as a teenager, and did two tours in the infantry in Iraq, earning the rank of sergeant between deployments. “After 9/11 it really called to me. It was a way for me to go and do something on my own,” he said. “It was a pretty transformative and powerful experience.” So, years later, casting about for a topic for his honors thesis in history, he came across the stories of other men who’d served their country, and been changed by their experiences – only to come home and find that the system they’d fought for was still horribly unfair, for them and their families. That led to his thesis: “Jacksonville’s Greatest Generation: The Contribution of African American Veterans to the Civil Rights Movement 1945-1960.” Black Southerners who served in the segregated Armed Forces during World War II came home to a segregated society where little had changed while they were gone. The vets, though, weren’t the same. They’d seen other parts of the world, where, Higham said, they were thought of as “Americans,” not black Americans. They’d been given responsibility, learned skills. They’d served their country in a terrible fight. They were ready to make change at home, particularly since many could now go to college on the GI Bill. “You see that, especially in the context of what was going on, the things our country claimed to be fighting against – against oppression, fighting for democracy,” Higham said. “Veterans were extremely well-equipped to pick up that fight and take it to a new level.” Higham, now 29, wrote his thesis for a history degree from the University of North Florida. He’s working there as a graduate teaching assistant while getting his master’s degree.