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Author: TriSec    Date: 05/29/2018 09:49:13

Good Morning.

We'll continue on with the Memorial Day theme from yesterday. It's easy to think of the dead as primarily Infantry, shooting it out with the enemy in battle. Of course, many served in many ways and still never came home.

Starting far overseas, a B-24 Liberator that went down in flames on 11 May 1944 has been found off the shores of New Guinea.

Hammered by Japanese anti-aircraft fire off the shores of New Guinea, the B-24 Liberator bomber became engulfed in flames, breaking apart in midair. The co-pilot gave one final salute before the plane plunged toward the waters of the South Pacific on March 11, 1944, as others watched in anguish from a nearby aircraft.

That was the last contact anyone had with the aircraft nicknamed "Heaven Can Wait" -- until now.

Researchers announced this week that with a combination of underwater electronic gadgetry and old-school detective work, they had found the wreckage of the aircraft more than a mile out to sea.

Among the 11 servicemen who went down with the plane was 2nd Lieutenant Donald W. Sheppick of Roscoe, Pa., an hour south of Pittsburgh in Washington County.

"I was awestruck," said nephew Rich Sheppick, of Charleroi, Pa., after learning of the find. "This all was like a revelation."

The discovery was made in October by Project Recover, a partnership among researchers at the University of Delaware's College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment; the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego; and the nonprofit BentProp Project. The group then communicated its findings to the Pentagon agency that tracks missing servicemen.

Project Recover does not disclose whether any servicemen's remains have been recovered, deferring to the Pentagon. The team also generally is not cleared to contact family members, but in this case they were recently permitted to notify the family of 2nd Lieutenant Thomas V. Kelly Jr., which had contributed years of research that helped guide the quest for the plane.

The Kelly family researchers included Scott Althaus, a University of Illinois political scientist whose mother was Kelly's first cousin.

The family's 33-page dossier of findings, gleaned from diaries, archival records, maps, and emails with military buffs around the world, helped narrow down the plane's possible location, said Eric Terrill, a Scripps oceanographer and co-founder of Project Recover.

Like the oceanographers, Althaus was at first elated by the find. But then he was struck with emotion for a family member he never knew.

"We were grieving," Althaus said. "We had become invested in Tom Kelly's story. He's a member of the family now that he wasn't at the start of this journey, for me."

Althaus, whose research at Illinois includes studying public opinion of war, said he and his relatives have since notified the relatives of seven other crew members.

Project Recover was loosely established in 2012 with support from the Office of Naval Research, then formalized in 2016 with funds from Dan Friedkin, chairman and chief executive officer of the Friedkin Group, a consortium of automotive, hospitality, and entertainment companies.

To date, the team has identified 30 U.S. aircraft associated with 113 servicemen listed as missing in action in the Pacific and European theatres, Terrill said. In some cases that means verifying wreck sites that already were known to nearby inhabitants, while in others, such as the B-24 bomber, it means finding aircraft that have been lost since the war.

When we think of submarines, it's easy to picture those WWII movies with red lights, klaxons, and the ominous ping of sonar. But since the war, submarines have increasingly become quieter, stealthier, and harder to find. So when something goes wrong, those men could remain "on patrol" forever with their wartime compatriots that also never came back.

NORFOLK, Va. -- For years, Russ Fennick was wracked with guilt when people would apologize to him for the loss of a father he never knew.

Fennick was just 3 months old when Navy Seaman William R. Fennick left Norfolk on a routine deployment to the Mediterranean. He has seen his father only in photos since.

The elder Fennick was a fire control technician on board the Skipjack-class nuclear submarine USS Scorpion (SSN 589). Russ Fennick was 6 months old on May 27, 1968, when his mother, Eileen Bentle, held him on a pier at Naval Station Norfolk and waited, along with a couple of dozen other families, in driving rain for their sailor to return. Hours passed. Families were sent home.

News broke on television that night: The Scorpion was missing.

No one truly knows what happened, but the families of the crew are acutely aware of the outcome: 99 members of the Navy's silent service never returned. A massive search along the sub's projected course in the eastern Atlantic ensued. On Oct. 31, 1968, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Thomas Moorer announced that the Scorpion had been found more than 400 miles southwest of the Azores in more than 10,000 feet of water.

In a private memorial Saturday at Naval Station Norfolk, families marked the anniversary of the submarine's disappearance. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson served as the keynote speaker. His father, Capt. William Richardson, who served in the Scorpion from 1962 through 1965, also attended.

This much is certain: The Scorpion was heard from on May 21, 1968, when Cmdr. Frances Slattery, the sub's skipper, sent a message indicating the boat's position south of the Azores and giving an anticipated return time of around 1 p.m. six days later. The Scorpion had been sent on a classified mission around the same time, according to news reports.

A seven-panel naval board of inquiry was convened to investigate. It pored over thousands of photos looking for clues, but could not come up with a definitive answer.

"The certain cause of the loss of the Scorpion cannot be ascertained," the court's final report read, according to a Feb. 1, 1969, story in The Virginian-Pilot.

Finally today - we'll check in with a living veteran, who has had enough and is begging what passes for leaders in this country for help supporting veterans. We all know who he is talking to, so I can already tell what the result will be. But compelling reading, nonetheless.

Memorial Day is always tough for me. I served four years in the Marines, followed by eight years in the North Carolina Army National Guard. This day is not about barbeques and retail sales, but about friends lost, about names, moments, valor and remembrance.

Many years ago, while I was in the Marines, I bought a bottle of wine while on a trip to the Azores. I forgot about it until 2010, when I found it stored away in my parent’s house. I made the decision at that moment that I would only open it after a full year of losing no friends to war or suicide. I still have the bottle.

This past year, Gunnery Sgt. Brendan Johnson was added to the list of fallen friends after he was killed when his KC-130 crashed in Mississippi on July 10, 2017. He was with me those many years ago in the Azores when I bought the wine.

This year, I’ll be leaving the bottle at Brendan’s grave and issuing a challenge to every American: Let’s honor the fallen by saving those living with post-traumatic stress disorder.

I challenge the president to lead the way in showing his love of veterans by creating a White House task force on veteran suicide prevention. One of President Trump’s first executive orders was to direct federal agencies — DHS, DOD, and VA — to explore the issue.

This isn’t enough. We need the help of representatives from all branches of government, doctors, psychiatrists and psychotherapists. Veterans, especially those who have survived a suicide attempt, also bring a unique perspective that can help significantly.

I challenge Attorney General Jeff Sessions to finally approve — or deny with just cause — the production of medical marijuana for federal research. This will finally allow DEA- and FDA-approved Phase 3 clinical trials on a drug that 92 percent of veterans support researching, 82 percent support prescribing and 40 percent already use.

Many veterans with PTSD report medical marijuana has been helpful in reducing symptoms, though no official studies have been completed.

There is currently one federally approved Phase 2 clinical trial underway for four different kinds of cannabis in 76 veterans with chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD. Results are expected in the summer of 2019.

We are losing 20 veterans each day to suicide — more than 9,460 since the attorney general took his oath of office. How many more will lose their lives by their own hand while Sessions stonewalls research?

Memorial Day for most of us is a day on the calendar. For those that have given loved ones in service to the country...it is every day.


21 comments (Latest Comment: 05/29/2018 21:10:28 by Raine)
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