Clips

THE READS

MHdragon_bigger_NewDistress Signal | A year later, the Navy’s oldest helicopter flies on, Jan. 8, 2015 — Wes Van Dorn committed himself to exposing problems with the Navy’s most unreliable helicopter, even if it meant long hours away from his wife and kids. He didn’t get to finish the job. (Published in partnership with NBC and the Investigative Reporting Program. RELATED: Sea Dragon Down)

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caryThe Lucky Few | Last return to NormandyJune 1-7, 2014 — Memories dull with age, but certain moments stick with them: The feel of cool sand against the face; the cries of grown men struggling for air; the smell of exploded gunpowder and burned flesh. The tales they tell sound improbable and, with few living witnesses, some details are elusive. But these men were there; this is how they remember it. (RELATED: 70 years later, Virginia Beach vet rekindles a WWII romance)

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tedsquareThe war next door | Can a veteran with PTSD come home?
Dec. 16, 2013 — This dead-end suburban street is where the former Navy Seabee discovered his passion for cycling after being medically discharged from the military. It’s where he battled post-traumatic stress disorder, kicked his addiction to pain meds and overcame depression. It’s where he met his best friends and fell in love. Ted Olsen had planned to spend the rest of his life in this neighborhood. Now the voices were telling him to burn it to the ground. (2013 Livingston Awards Finalist)

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mawyerJet crash gave him a shot at redemption, April 29, 2012 — An apartment maintenance man was thrust into an unlikely role after a malfunctioning fighter jet slammed into his complex. Top officials would later declare him a hero. It’s a safe bet those words wouldn’t have been spoken a decade ago. Not by dignitaries. Not about this man. (2012 Livingston Awards Finalist) (RELATED: Navy jet slams into Va. Beach apartments; The anatomy of a miracle; Navy jet crash hero to make a fresh start; Oceana chief the right man at right time for jet crashRecordings offer fresh perspective on jet crash)

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marraigeGay couples find affirmation in antiquated Delaware town, Sept. 8, 2013 — Following the Supreme Court’s decision invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act, gay couples have flocked by the hundreds to a small Delaware town in search of affirmation. John Brady is eager to oblige. (Brady’s reaction: “I know my own story, but even I was surprised by the ending. I had to go back and read it three times to catch all of the nuance … Your writing helped me better understand myself.”)

THE INVESTIGATIONS

Internal Navy email: safety of helicopters in questionFeb. 6, 2015 — More than a year after a deadly helicopter crash, internal military emails show that the Marine Corps and Navy failed to adequately address the safety hazard in the remaining Sea Dragons and CH-53E Super Stallions. The top general in charge of Marine Corps aviation later said he learned of the lingering safety hazard from reading the story online, soon after it was published. Afterward, he “had a small meltdown,” he said. Then he temporarily grounded his fleet of more than 150 Super Stallions and called for the most comprehensive one-time inspection and repair process in the helicopter program’s history. (RELATED: Missteps led to fatal helicopter crashSilent threat: Are sea mines the Navy’s Achilles’ heel?; Super Stallion helicopters worn out after years of war, internal military report concludes)

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Former SEAL Brandon Webb accused of embellishing combat stories and friendships with the fallen, May 31, 2015 — Former SEAL Brandon Webb has spun his military career into a small media empire. As Webb has acknowledged in numerous interviews, he’s made some people angry during his rise. Now, among a special operations community often unwilling to air its dirty laundry in public, some are starting to speak out. (RELATEDYears later, money raised for “American Sniper” Chris Kyle hasn’t reached familyFantomWorks nonprofit has yet to deliver vehicles to wounded vets)

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Man’s suicide note leads his mother on a mission, Aug. 11, 2014 — Jamel Glover had a handwritten letter in his back pocket the day police found his body dangling from a telephone pole. The note was folded and stuffed in an envelope, tucked in between a lottery ticket and a tattered bus schedule. The 181 words he scribbled on that sheet of notebook paper set his mother on a desperate mission to confront the demons that drove her son to his death – and to expose the people she believes allowed it to happen. (RELATED: The story behind a viral video: Portsmouth widow fights to prevent PTSD-related suicide)

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The Ray Mulkey mysteryOct. 24, 2010 — He was memorialized as an astute businessman who used his riches to entertain friends, impress young women and care for his family. But on the day an associate found Ray Mulkey Jr. slumped over a steering wheel in North Myrtle Beach, he was broke and alone. In place of his image as a respected businessman, he left behind at least $42 million in debts. (PDF clipping)

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Bragg families want answers in infant deathsSept. 2, 2010 — Jay’Vair Pollard was a little more than 2 months old when he quit breathing April 15, 2009. Three months later, his cousin, 7-month-old Ka’Mya Frey, died while taking a nap in the same Fort Bragg home. They are among 10 infants in three years who died suddenly and without warning inside military housing units at the Army base. (RELATEDBragg officials declare homes safe, federal investigators unsure; Observer analysis: Rate of baby deaths rises in military towns)

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THE DAILIES

After 15 years, black pines tower over Cole memorial in NorfolkOct. 13, 2015 — Trees grow, but the pain never seems to fade.

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Seven decades later, veterans rekindle WWII friendship, May 5, 2013 — The old man says he isn’t nervous, but his body language suggests otherwise. He leans up on his toes and bends his neck to peer down the terminal, searching for an old friend. “I think I’ll recognize him when I see him,” Joe says. “I think.”  (SFJ, 2013 Best Short Feature) (RELATEDWWII vet takes a flight over memory lane)

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Rescue swimmer to downed pilot: ‘Stay with me’, Aug. 4, 2013 — In the dark of night off the coast of Virginia, a pair of fighter jets clipped wings, forcing one pilot to bail out over the Atlantic Ocean. More than 100 miles away in Elizabeth City, a pager beeped to life. Bret Fogle had trained 13 years for this night.

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SEAL author has humble roots, Aug. 30, 2012 — There was never any indication that the guy who lived across the street was among the elite commandos who took out Osama bin Laden. Tracking down a biography on a man who made a living moving in the shadows. (RELATED: Debate swirls: Can women make cut in elite ranks?)

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The ‘Big E’ comes home for the last time, Nov. 4, 2012 — This massive ship was covered in red lead paint and sitting on a dry dock in Newport News the first time Ray Godfrey laid eyes on it. The sailor was a 21-year-old high school drop out. Now 73, Godfrey teared up Sunday while standing on the bridge of the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier as he watched a young helmsman steer the Enterprise toward its final homecoming. (RELATED: As reported from the Mediterranean Sea: Carrier Enterprise makes a sentimental journey)

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In Robeson County, revenge comes with the strike of a match, Jan. 20, 2011 — The investigator has heard this story too many times of late: A scorned ex-lover extracts revenge with a gallon of gasoline and the strike of a match. This backwoods twist on conflict resolution has become all too common in this sprawling rural county. (RELATED: Robeson County is one of most violent in N.C.)

THE OFFBEAT

Boys’ quest to shovel snow comes up empty, Jan. 20, 2014 — A pair of enterprising children grab a couple garden shovels and head out into the cold. Earning money, they’ll learn, isn’t that easy.

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A home birth decision: Risk, worry, push …Sept. 23, 2013 — Again my wife clenched my hand. “Oh, God, I can’t do this.” I watched her breathe through pain, the color fading from her face, her toes curling. I thought of all the terrible things that could go wrong. And, for one fleeting moment, I wondered whether we had made a mistake.

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Life, liberty and the pursuit of milkJan. 7, 2013 — One of the nation’s most notorious abortion protesters sold his home a decade ago and headed for the country searching for a quieter lifestyle. Not long after moving his pregnant wife and eight kids into a single-wide trailer, David Crane took the next logical step toward becoming becoming a man of rural Tidewater: He bought a milk cow. Now he finds himself at the center of another sort of culture war.

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‘Zero Dark Thirty’ from a Navy SEAL’s perspective, Jan. 13, 2012 — The theater was quiet as a stealthy helicopter carrying sweaty Navy SEALs and the body of Osama bin Laden lifted into darkness over Pakistan. One of the film SEALs let out a celebratory “Wooo!” You could sense patriotic pride swelling inside the crowded Norfolk theater. “Nah,” the steely-eyed guy sitting next to me said later, dismissing the moment of triumph. “That wouldn’t have happened.” He would know. (RELATED: In Va. Beach, tight nit SEAL community mourns the fallen)

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Seniors show it’s never too late for loveFeb. 15, 2015 — In an upscale retirement community filled with widows and widowers – and some couples who’ve spent more than a half-century together – John and Betty are among the few who’ve found a second shot at love.

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John Donovan and the Ghosts of War (BOSTON MAGAZINE), December 2015  — The former naval officer returned from Vietnam haunted by a dark secret. Now, nearly 50 years later, he is trying to make peace with his role in a war he can’t forget.

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