Mark Edward Allen (U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida photo)
TAMPA, Fla. — Apart from his furrowed brow and brooding eyes, Mark Edward Allen was nearly unrecognizable as he shuffled through a federal courtroom Friday morning.
Gone was the bearded, long-haired man from Allen's mugshot, taken inside the Pinellas County Jail after the U.S. Army veteran was arrested for attaching a homemade explosive to the padlock of an entrance gate at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare Systems campus.
Shane Reynolds, UCF Research Associate demonstrates an AR/VR system to train soldiers and Marines on how to improve their ability to detect improvised explosive devices. (Orlando Sentinel/Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda)
As UCF research associate Shane Reynolds guides his avatar over a virtual minefield using his iPad, small beeps and whistles reveal the location of the scourge of the modern war zone: Improvised Explosive Devices, or IEDs. He must take his time to sweep every last inch of the playing field to make sure his character doesn't miss any of the often-deadly bombs.
Despite his slow pace, Reynolds makes a small misstep and with a kaboom! a bomb blows up his player, graphically scattering body parts.
Editor’s note: May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the West Point history department last week asked veterans on Twitter for their advice on how to “positively add to the discussion about PTSD.” One vet who responded with a personal story was The Warax, the anonymous, Seuss-inspired former Marine whose cantankerous takes on post-military life and politics have earned him a big social media following. “The first time I thought about killing myself the idea was easy to dismiss,” The Warax’s story began. What followed was a gripping but very recognizable lesson on how depression and suicidal tendencies can set in as a veteran’s career sunsets through no fault of his own. We asked the Warax to share his story here in an essay, and he agreed.
Marine veteran Bill DeRoche had been encouraged for years to enter an art competition at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Injured in a 2004 bomb blast that struck his convoy in Iraq, it would be a way, he was told, to publicly address the trauma that continues to affect him.
A resurgent Taliban force has taken control of Sangin in Afghanistan's Helmand Province, bringing denials from the country's fledgling government and bad memories for Marines who fought and bled to make the district safe.