Veteran Stories

The Fighting Angels Behind Bars


In the month of International Women’s Day, I would like to mention the three female air force cadets Nagihan Yavuz, Nimet Ecem Gönüllü, and Şuheda Sena Öğütalan. They were in their early twenties when they were arrested along with other military cadets on the night of the failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016. 

In May 2018, they were sentenced to life in prison on charges of attempting to overthrow the Turkish government by use of force. They said they were not aware of the coup attempt and were only acting on orders from their superior officers, who told them there was a terrorist attack. Their lawyer, Kemal Ucar, who believes in their innocence, calls them “The Fighting Angels” on his social media accounts. 

Below is from the three female imprisoned cadets’ letter to Euronews Turkey: 

“Like many, we were left in an unknown darkness with the night of July 15, where we were dragged against our will and which was not revealed.”

“However, although our indictment, which could be prepared 11 months later, is full of pages, not a single page mentions us. Our trial process, which started at the Heavy Penal Courts in the 16th month, ended in the 22nd month. 6 months is a very short time for some of us to receive life sentences and some of us to receive aggravated life sentences. During these 6 months, nothing has been done by the authorities to shed light on the incident we have fallen into. For example, although there are camera footage of the crime scene, it was not watched. All requests made in this context were denied. By extrajudicial executions, our lives were plunged into darkness just like that night. While all this was going on, we were not supported by any high-ranking commanders, who knew that the military cadets did not have the authority to intervene in anything, and who continued their duties at the time.”

“Despite everything, we are trying to keep our hope alive even though it gets harder as time goes on.” 

The July 15 coup attempt turned the lives of millions upside down. According to the Interior Ministry of Turkey, more than half a million people have been detained and more than 70 thousand people have been arrested since the failed coup for their role in the coup attempt. Opposition and human rights organizations say these trials have turned into a witch hunt with the allegations that thousands of people are on trial with insufficient and unlawful evidence. More than 125 thousand public servants including doctors, teachers, judges, prosecutors, policemen and military officers have been dismissed from duties by governmental decrees due to their alleged direct or indirect links to the failed coup. While the July 15 coup attempt left many questions unanswered behind, many believe that the failed July 15 coup was staged by Erdogan to consolidate his power and convert democracy to an authoritarian regime. According to Sweden-based Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance 2021 report, Turkey turned from a backsliding democracy to a hybrid regime, which is a combination of democratic and autocratic features in the same polity. Similarly, The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) categorized Turkey as a “hybrid regime” based on its 2022 data. 

Sources: Euronews Turkey, Deutsche Welle Turkey, International IDEA, Economist Intelligence Unit


Canadian Navy veteran Captain Judy Harper: Blazing trails all her life

Canadian Navy veteran Captain Judy

Canadian Navy veteran Captain Judy Harper followed her parents’ footsteps into the Navy, but at the same time, she blazed new trails. It’s something she continues to do, even in retirement.

Throughout her military career, Judy Harper had always been the first woman in her role, either as an operational commander or in senior positions in National Defence Headquarters.

“As a child, I never knew how limited options were for women,” she says—in the military or in general. Perhaps that is why she led the way for many women to advance to senior roles in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).

Both of Judy’s parents served in the Royal Canadian Navy during and after the Second World War. “My mom joined in 1942, right after the Navy opened to women,” she says. Mrs. Harper, who had had a career in banking, served as a pay clerk through the war.

Her father served as an engineering officer from 1939 to 1968. “When I was a girl, he used to take me onto his ship from time to time,” Judy recalls.

Making History

Canadian veteran Judy joined the Navy Reserve in 1970. After training in Shearwater, Nova Scotia, she was posted to Halifax in the helicopter squadron. She served as a Quartermaster, Duty Officer and in other important roles. “There were a lot of lateral moves in the Navy,” she remembers.

Due to the unification of the three Canadian armed services into a single command, Judy Harper gained the rank of Captain. Her commanding officer saw the barriers and obstacles to women at the time and arranged for her to be posted as an assistant to the Assistant Deputy Minister of Defence in 1975 to gain more experience.

Thus began Judy’s blazing of a new path for women in the CAF. “There were no other female senior officers in headquarters” in 1975, she says. By 1980, there were six. (continue reading)

Post-9/11 Veterans can apply to become wildland firefighter

veteran fire corps for post-9-11 veterans

Post-9/11 Veterans looking for a career as a wildland firefighter can apply to the Southeast Conservation Corps Veterans Fire Corps program.

Squads work on fire mitigation and fuels reduction projects on public lands, giving back to the surrounding communities. Veterans must be flexible, adaptable and able to work in a fluid, changing work environment.

The program is open to Veterans aged 18-35 who can meet a host of qualifications. Veterans must also pass a three-mile hike with 45 pounds in 45 minutes. Training locations are in LaFayette, Georgia, and Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Georgia program runs Jan. 10 to Sept. 30; the 14-week Tennessee program runs Jan. 10 to April 15.

Southeast Conservation Corps is currently accepting applications, which are open until December or until positions are filled.

Veteran goes from front lines of Syria to front lines of fire

Army Veteran Aaron Conner is a post-9/11 Veteran who took advantage of the program. He served as a field artillery forward observer in the North Carolina National Guard. He was on a deployment to Syria in 2020 when a friend suggested he look into the program.

“I had known a little bit about the job to intrigue me,” Conner said. “The appeal of adventure, danger, hard work and on-the-road lifestyle appealed to me. I knew I would be lost without a purpose once I got out.”

Conner started out in Georgia in the classroom setting, then traveled to different states in the Southeast for prescribed burns. Soon, he found himself in Colorado, Idaho and Oregon for two weeks in each state. He immediately started putting training into action.

“I was initial attack on an engine in Oregon on the Umpqua National Forest,” he said. “There were a lot of lightning starts which grew to become the Devils Knob Complex. We were running and gunning going direct, hiking and sawing interior for hours. It was a good time.”(continue reading)

US veteran takes flight, sets adaptive paragliding record at 103

US veteran takes flight

US veteran takes flight: It would be US Air Force veteran’s first experience flying, seated in a wheeled cart with a paraglider behind him. It would also be the record-setter for the oldest adaptive paraglider to fly in America.

Fred Miles doesn’t speak much, but he can hum his way around a melody. And the one coming out of his mouth this past summer as he looked down from the top of the Bridger Gondola at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort was “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” by John Denver.

But Miles, 103, wasn’t going home via a car or a road just yet. First, he was going tandem adaptive paragliding.

It would be his first experience flying, seated in a wheeled cart with a paraglider behind him. It would also be the record-setter for the oldest adaptive paraglider to fly in America.

But as his son, Greg Miles, reminded his father just before the flight, it would be far from his first time navigating the skies, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reports.

“Part of the reason you’re not going to have a problem is because of your flying experience,” Greg, a former town councilor, told his father.

“You’ve seen a lot of crazy things over the years, I’m sure,” Greg said, “so hopefully this will be enjoyable.”

The Air Force veteran Miles first piloted a plane 81 years ago after joining the United States Army Air Corps. This unit which eventually became the Air Force. He joined the force after graduating from Syracuse University with an engineering degree. He flew in WWII, again in the Korean War and afterward for some time, for a total of 30 years.

During his time in the military, Miles once nose-dived his plane into the Bodega Bay in northern California — where he was stationed and where he met his wife — when its engine caught fire. He survived only because a fishing boat picked him up and laid him against the boat’s engine for warmth.

But that was about a half-century ago and a few things have changed.US veteran takes flight… (continue reading)

Canadian WWII veteran celebrates 102nd birthday in Ontario

Canadian WWII veteran turns 102

Grahame Clapp smiled from ear to ear as he watched a convoy of vehicles – including military vehicles and police – drive past his Oshawa, Ont home to wish the Canadian WWII veteran a happy 102nd birthday.

“I’m feeling really good, I appreciate all the attention I’m getting,” said Canadian WWII veteran Clapp, who officially turns 102 on Monday.

Clapp was born in Treharris South Wales in 1919 and immigrated to Canada with his family in 1926. He served with the Canadian military from 1941 to 1946. Clapp joined the First Special Service Force – an elite unit of Canadians and Americans – as a Radio operator. “He was one of the original members of the special services force. They became what we call the first commandos,” said his nephew Lynn Clapp.

“I was a private when I went in there, there was a difference in the pay and they made all us Canadians sergeant – we did alright in that respect,” Clapp chuckled as he reminisced.

Clapp’s worked at General Motors in Oshawa for nearly forty years after the war. He never married and had no children, but has a large extended family. His nieces and nephews organized the special birthday drive-by with the help of a local historian. Word quickly spread on social media. Many people including veterans and active members of the Canadian Armed Forces were on the site.

“It just means the world to me, he has been like a second father to me, he’s a gracious, humble person,” niece Corrine Wells said. Some veterans rolling up on motorcycles and saluting Clapp. (continue reading)

China’s Forgotten WWII KMT Veterans

WWII KMT Veterans

WWII KMT Veterans, On September 3 of each year, China commemorates the anniversary of Japan’s surrender and the end of World War II. Back then, the Chinese forces were composed of a tense alliance between the ruling Kuomintang Nationalists (KMT) and members of Mao Zedong’s Communist Party of China (CPC), who had been fighting a civil war since 1927.

KMT soldiers suffered the lion’s share of casualties, with deaths and injuries counted in the millions. Shortly after the end of WWII, China’s civil war flared up again, continuing until Mao established the People’s Republic of China in 1949. As a result most KMT veterans fled, relocating to the island of Taiwan. KMT soldiers and loyalists who remained in mainland China were subjected to mass trials, forced labor, and execution.

The few veterans of the war who survived these campaigns are now in their 90s, most living in poverty. And the government has long downplayed or denied their role in World War II. Their service has gone unrecognized for decades—many have only been eligible for pensions since 2013, and some have yet to collect. Only in the past few years have Chinese officials even grudgingly acknowledged the presence of WWII KMT Veterans, let alone their contributions to the country they call home.

Soul-shattering Stories

Here is the story Chinese veteran Sun Yibai, then 97. This was recorded during an interview at his home in Beijing on July 20, 2015. Sun once served as a translator with the storied Flying Tigers aviation brigade. But after the war he found himself on the wrong side of the Communist historical narrative. Along with thousands of others who fought for the Nationalists, he was part of enemy. Under Communist rule, their service led to imprisonment, persecution, and often death in the years after the 1949 revolution. Sun doesn’t have much time for the Communist Party’s claim to have led China to victory against Japan in WWII. “The Communist Party didn’t fight Japan,” he said. “They made up a whole bunch of stories afterward, but it was all fabricated.” That view challenges a basic premise underpinning this week’s lavish celebrations in Beijing of the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat: that Mao Zedong’s Communists were the saviors of the nation, battling against Japanese forces that began occupying parts of China in 1931 before launching a full-blown invasion in 1937. WWII KMT Veterans (continue reading)

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US Navy veteran with rare medical condition to compete in pageant

Arlena Johnson Navy veteran

Practicing her walk has a whole different meaning for Arlena Johnson. Just two years ago, she couldn’t put weight on her feet, let alone move them. And she only had use of one of her hands.

Now she’s headed for the runway and vying for the Ms. Veteran America 2021 crown. The pageant will be live-streamed online on Oct. 10 at

When the 30-year-old Louisville native was diagnosed with Neuromyelitis Opticain November 2017, doctors told Johnson she only had six months to live and a 1% chance of ever walking again. The central nervous system disorder often attacks optic nerves, spinal cord and sometimes the brain, and can cause an array of issues with the bladder and bowels.

But against all odds, she’s remastered walking and ahead of the pageant, she’s even retrained herself to balance in high heels. Today, holding her posture means moving gracefully with the metal rods that run through her back.

During an interview at her South Louisville home, a bladder bag rested at her feet, but during the competition, it will be tucked beneath her custom-made gown. The competition aims to show the woman behind the uniform, and while her seven years of service in the U.S. Navy is admirable, there’s so much more to her. Her pageant coach, Ocielia Gibson Sprowl, says Johnson already has the intellect, drive, heart, and accomplishment to succeed. The rest is just polishing.

A dedicated Navy veteran

Today Johnson is medically retired from the U.S. Navy, but in May 2010, seven years before Neuromyelitis Optica ravaged her body, she enlisted hoping to implement more structure in her life.

Johnson found the stability she craved while stationed on the USS Wasp. But her service also fostered an overwhelming desire to help people. That’s largely why she’s participating in the Ms. Veteran America pageant. (continue reading)

Story of An Indigenous Woman in Canadian Air Force: Bertha Clark-Jones

bertha clark jones indigenous-woman-in-canadian veteran

Indigenous Woman. While some Indigenous peoples faced discrimination both during and after the war, Clark-Jones recalled in a 2003 memoir that there was an atmosphere of camaraderie in the Armed Forces: “I never once felt any discrimination in the air force; it did not seem to matter that I was young, Aboriginal or a woman.… there was no time or place for discriminatory practices.”

A veteran of the Second World War, Clark-Jones joined the Aboriginal Veterans Society. She advocated for the fair treatment of Indigenous ex-service people. She was co-founder and first president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada. Clark-Jones devoted her life to seeking equality and greater power for women in Canada.

Fiercely patriotic, Bertha Clark-Jones joined the Royal Canadian Air Force at age 18 in 1940 (see also RCAF Women’s Division). After finishing her physical training course, Clark-Jones achieved the rank of corporal. And was put in charge of a squadron as drill instructor. She travelled the country in this role, working at various military bases. However, Clark-Jones remained disappointed in never having served overseas. After the war, she used her military experience to advocate for the fair treatment of Indigenous veterans and later joined the Aboriginal Veterans Society (see Indigenous Peoples and the World Wars).

While some Indigenous peoples faced discrimination both during and after the war, Clark-Jones recalled in a 2003 memoir that there was an atmosphere of camaraderie in the Armed Forces: “I never once felt any discrimination in the air force; it did not seem to matter that I was young, Aboriginal or a Indigenous woman.… there was no time or place for discriminatory practices.”

After leaving the air force, Bertha Clark-Jones intended to live close to her family. They were in the Paddle Prairie Métis Settlement in northern Alberta. While the Canadian government provided ex-service personnel loans to buy and farm land, as per the Veterans’ Land Act, Clark-Jones could not own land on the Métis settlement because she was a Indigenous woman.

Clark-Jones was also aware that “First Nations peoples lost their Status when they left the reserves to join up, and this in turn meant that they did not have any land or houses when they returned.” This was due to  provision of the Indian Act, which specified that First Nations soldiers who were absent from their reserves for four years lost their Indian Status. Witnessing this level of discrimination launched Clark-Jones’s advocacy for human rights and Indigenous women’s rights. (continue reading)

Atlanta educator teaches fellow vets about joys of beekeeping

vets beekeeping tim doherty

After 33 years of service, Lieutenant Colonel and an assistant principal of an Fulton School Tim Doherty has shifted his focus to agriculture, beekeeping and its therapeutic benefits for vets.

As pandemic restrictions eases, longtime educator Tim Doherty of Sandy Springs, Fulton is back in the classroom. These classes are for his fellow military veterans about the joys and therapeutic value of beekeeping.

When he’s not putting in 50 hours a week as an assistant principal at Fulton County’s Riverwood International Charter School, Doherty is plotting the post-pandemic reinvigoration of his project, Doc’s Healing Hives. He started the project in 2017. His aim is to teach other vets about the sweet rewards of beekeeping that go beyond honey and money. To date, 65 veterans have gone through his one-day or weekend classes.

Doherty knows first-hand the therapeutic value of keeping bees. He returned in 2016 from a one-year tour of duty in Afghanistan. He had a torn rotator cuff, an injured bicep, a mild traumatic brain injury, and some of the stresses that many veterans feel readjusting to civilian life. “I had struggled, and I’m still struggling, transitioning back off my deployment,” he said. “I started beekeeping for my own therapy.”

Disabled veteran Sue Davis of Traveler’s Rest, S.C., was in Doherty’s class in 2018 and considered it a game-changer. Above all, Doc’s Healing Hives really does help veterans heal by several ways. “These courses help giving us a purpose, something to care for, connection to other people, and peace,” said Davis. As a result Davis now owns seven hives of her own and manages two others for a nearby tiny-home community.

Unfortunately, the pandemic forced Doherty to stop holding his beekeeping workshops. Then he decided to use the downtime to create a learning center on a farm he owns in Morganton. He hopes to resume classes there this fall or no later than next spring.

Beekeeping for veterans is not a new idea

In fact, Doherty is hardly the first to see the potential benefits of beekeeping. As far back as 1919, the US government recommended that troops returning from World War I, especially those with disabilities, consider beekeeping as a profession. The Department of Veterans Affairs currently offers beekeeping classes at several of its medical centers as part of its recreational therapy programs. Some participating vets report that beekeeping has improved their social connections and helped decrease their depression and post-traumatic stress. (continue reading)

See programs helping veterans get started for beekeeping.

A Veteran Career Success Story: From Navy to Amazon

Turkish navy veteran success at Amazon

“My advice to all veterans, don’t be afraid to start over, be confident and aware of the extraordinary skills and experience you’ve gained in the military service.”

As, we want to share a recent success story from a Turkish Navy veteran, who challenged himself on the bumpy road of transition from military to business and joined the thousands of veterans in Amazon US:

“My name is Mehmet Dagci. I am a proud veteran. I joined Amazon as L6 Operations Manager after twenty years of service in the Navy.

navy veteran mehmet dagci
Navy Veteran Mehmet Dagci at Amazon Military

I launched LGB3, the biggest Amazon Robotics Fulfillment Center on the West Coast, ran Outbound Operation for two years and created leadership and development program, Rising Stars for area managers.

After being promoted to Senior Operations Manager, I launched the production control department that responsible for benchmarking, process engineering and capacity planning of the site, created standard work checklist for staggered break schedule to maintain production while providing safe workplace during Covid-19. Despite an unprecedented challenge, LGB3 has made 100 million fulfillment in the first six months of the Covid-19 crisis, making it the world’s number one shipper. I continued my career with Sr. Process Engineer role at Amazon Last Mile Delivery. I led the Inbound Process Engineering team that defines design standards and optimize the process for the North American region with over 350 delivery stations. Recently, I assumed the role of Amazon Robotics Field Engineering Lead to design and launch the delivery stations with AR (Amazon Robotics) technology.

Different challenges and dynamics

When I retired as a Captain from Turkish Navy, I wanted to continue to learn, grow and most importantly contribute to people’s life and the society. The biggest challenge in my veteran life was getting rid of the fear of starting over. Although I had many achievements in my active-duty military life, I was not sure if I could be successful in my veteran career within the business world with different challenges and dynamics.

Navy veteran Dagci with Turkish veterans

But as I started to prepare my resume, I quickly realized that I had strong, transferable skills. And these were proven in real-world operations and many deployments. My career from branch officer to commanding officer of frigate has been an extraordinary experience. This journey has made me a strong leader who can lead and deliver the result under the most challenging conditions. Moreover, the numerous exercises and operations under NATO command have taught me the importance of diversity and teamwork.

My advice to all veterans, don’t be afraid to start over, be confident and aware of the extraordinary skills and experience you’ve gained in the military service. If the position you want requires new skills or training, don’t get discouraged, it’s never too late to learn something new. Similar to your first deployment, the first few months in the new role can be challenging. As Franklin Roosevelt said “Smooth Sea never made skillful sailor” Be resilient!  Above all, embrace the culture, learn about your business and process, and build real trust with your team. Finally, as we all say at Amazon “work hard, have fun and make history!”