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Veteran's American flag stolen; now a heartbreaking plea to get it back

The sign says, “Please return my flag, sentimental to me. I brought it back from Iraq. The bottom four stripes have my buddy’s blood on them.” 

“This was very important to him,” said Kim Phillips, who lives in Tacoma, Washington. She said veteran Nolan Gomez, also of Tacoma, was doing some yard work when someone stole his American flag. 

The flag usually flies on the back of Gomez's truck, but he took it down while using the truck to do some work and stood the flag up in a cone.

>> See the photos here

“He went to get gas or whatever, came back, it was gone,” Phillips said. 

Only after it went missing did she learn its significance.

“That came back from the war with him and it was very important to him and that was his buddy’s blood on the bottom,” Phillips said, tearing up. 

She said her family is also military, and her brother served in the front lines during the Vietnam War. 

She decided she had to help make the sign in hopes whoever took it would see it. 

Her neighbor took a photo of that sign and posted it in a Pierce County community page, where it’s been shared hundreds of times. 

“It’s crazy, everybody is mad,” said friend Jill Thurman. 

>> Read more trending news 

Since the post, multiple families have stepped up, offering their families’ American flags to the veteran. 

“Yesterday, four boys came over, they folded it up and said this is our uncle’s flag, and we want to give it to you to replace the one you lost,” Phillips said. 

They say it’s something incredible that came out of something heartbreaking, but they’re still hoping to help that veteran get his flag back.

“That’s defending us, all of us, our freedom. And he was injured in the war. So it’s another reason to get it back to him. If anyone knows where to look,” Phillips said.

Fort Hunter Liggett tent collapse: 22 injured at California military base, officials say

More than 20 people were injured late Wednesday when a tent collapsed at Fort Hunter Liggett in California, officials said.

Here is the latest information:

Update 9:50 a.m. EDT July 19: Base officials said Thursday morning in a Facebook post that the 22 soldiers reported injured at Fort Hunter Liggett had been released to their units.

Update 2:26 a.m. EDT July 19: According to the military base’s official Twitter account, 22 soldiers were hurt when “a U.S. Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter landing’s rotor wash blew over a tent structure” in a “remote training area.” Officials said four soldiers were taken to area hospitals for treatment.

Contrary to earlier media reports, nobody was killed in the incident, officials said.

“This incident occurred during an annual U.S. Army Reserve exercise, Combat Support Training Exercise (CSTX) that trains Army Reserve and Army National Guard Soldiers,” the base tweeted.

>> Read more trending news 

83-year-old Florida man posed as Marine Corps vet, collected $220K in benefits

An 83-year-old Pensacola man pleaded guilty to charges of theft of government funds and filing false and fraudulent benefit claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to a news release by the United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Florida.

Richard Kohl claimed to have served with the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean war, and he forged government documents, so he could collect $220,000 in benefits, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida.

>> Read more trending news 

“By defrauding the federal government for personal gain, Kohl stole resources needed to help real veterans,” U.S. Attorney Christopher P. Canova said. “These benefits are meant for the brave men and women who have served our country.”

Kohl claimed he received a Purple Heart after being shot. He first filed for benefits in 1996, but the Department of Veterans Affairs denied it, saying it couldn't find his medical records.

In 2005, Kohl submitted a request for disability pension benefits and was accepted. They said he received more than $110,000 in pension benefits, plus costly medical care.

“Kohl never served in any branch of the United States military. Kohl used the false Form DD-214 as proof of his military service to obtain veterans’ benefits he was not entitled to receive,” the release said.

Kohl faces a maximum of 10 years in prison. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for Sept. 19, 2018.

Rookie firefighter saves man suffering from heart attack on flight

A 25-year-old rookie firefighter from Massachusetts saved a man's life – while 30,000 feet up in the air.

>> Watch the news report here

Joe Manganaro is a Stoughton firefighter and paramedic who was recently promoted to sergeant in the Marine Corps Reserves. 

Manganaro was on his way to California to conduct training with the Marines last month when his life-saving skills came in handy.

>> Starbucks employee helps deliver baby outside store

While aboard an American Airlines flight, a man began complaining of chest pains and showed signs that he was suffering a heart attack.

After no one spoke up when the captain asked if there were any doctors on board, Manganaro stepped up.

"I was looking around. I'm like, 'Seriously, there's no doctor here? There's like 200 people and no doctor. Alright, here we go,'" Manganaro said. "[The man] was really pale, sweating through his shirt. He was wearing a white shirt; he was drenched in sweat, out of it – he wasn't feeling well."

Manganaro evaluated the passenger's symptoms and was patched through to a doctor on the ground.

"[I] talked to him on phone, told him, 'Gotta take the bird down; he needs to go to a hospital,'" Manganaro said.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

The pilot made an emergency landing in Washington, D.C. so the passenger could be rushed to a hospital.

Veteran firefighters say that, despite Manganaro only being with the department for a short time, they couldn't be prouder of one of their rookies.

"He was a little out of his element, you know we go in as a team here," said Stoughton Fire Department Deputy Chief Scott Breen. "He was by himself on a plane, thrown into a position he was probably a little bit uncomfortable with, but he stepped up."

>> Read more trending news 

Manganaro truly did step up and in a big way, saving a man's life.

"He [the passenger] sent me a message saying he's doing well, everything good on his end so it's really nice to hear he was very thankful and appreciative," Manganaro said.

Thieves steal identity, drain bank account of America's oldest WWII vet

America’s oldest living World War II veteran was robbed by thieves who drained his personal bank account through identity theft, CNN reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Richard Overton is 112 years old and lives in Austin, Texas. His cousin, Volma Overton Jr., discovered Thursday that a thief had robbed the bank by accessing Richard Overton’s Social Security and bank account numbers, CNN reported. 

“He’s a quite visible and well-known person, so if it can happen to him it can happen to anyone,” said Volma Overton, who did not reveal the amount taken.

Volma Overton did not disclose the amount that had been stolen from the personal bank account, but said it was “considerable” and that the account has been depleted for “a couple of months.” He discovered the theft when he made a deposit, checked the balance and realized the account only contained the money just deposited, according to Newsweek.

“We don’t know who did it,” Volma Overton told CNN. "It's a shock, it hurts, it hurts tremendously," he said. 

The bank account that was drained is separate from a GoFundMe account the family uses to pay Richard Overton’s 24-hour care, which costs $480 per day, according to Dallas Morning News.

Overton celebrated his 112th birthday on May 6, according to ancestry.com. He registered for the draft on Oct. 16, 1940, in Austin and enlisted in the Army on Sept. 3, 1942, according to military records.

He became a member of the Army's 188th Aviation Engineer Battalion, an all-black unit that served in the Pacific theater, CNN reported.

In 2013, he was honored by President Barack Obama in a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Ceremony.

According to the Gerontology Research Group, Overton is the oldest man in America.

US Navy drops live bombs in Florida national forest

Residents in southern Marion, northern Lake or west Volusia counties should not be alarmed if they hear loud booms near their neighborhoods.

The US Navy began bomb training exercises this week at the Pine Castle Range Complex in the Ocala National Forest, officials said in a news release.

F-18 jets fly from Naval Air Station in Jacksonville and conduct the training.

Read: Navy Destroyer named after Winter Park veteran christened

Residents nearby might hear the training or feel the vibrations.

The exercises began Monday and continue Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Thursday 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. to 6:45 p.m., officials said.

>> Read more trending news 

Officials said wildlife might be temporarily displaced and that drivers should use caution when driving through the Ocala National Forest and surrounding areas.

The telephone number for noise complaints is 1-800-874-5059. 

Diplomas temporarily stripped from 2 students who wore military cords at graduation

Two North Carolina students said they had their diplomas taken away because they wore military cords around their necks at graduation.

>> Woman graduates from Naval Academy 5 years after struggling to get ex-NFL player dad's signature

The two graduates wore the special cords during graduation to symbolize their enlistment in the U.S. Army.

Their celebration turned to punishment after they wore their cords Friday at West Bladen High School in Bladen County, located in eastern North Carolina.

A school administrator said they broke the rules because their cords weren't pre-approved.

>> Read more trending news 

"Ms. Kelly came up to them and asked them if she could see the diplomas, and they handed them to her and she kept them," a mother, Wendy Paris, said. "I don't have a problem with rules and policies, but some of them are ridiculous."

Paris said she was able to get her son's diploma back the day after graduation.

How much coffee should you drink to stay awake? Army answers with new algorithm

Researchers with the U.S. Army have come with an algorithm that can determine the perfect amount of caffeine a person needs to drink to stay at maximum alertness, according to a study published last month in the Journal of Sleep Research.

>> Read more trending news

The study’s lead author, Jaques Reifman, a senior research scientist with the U.S. Army, said the algorithm is the first of its kind.

Researchers used a mathematical model that predicts the effects of sleep loss and caffeine on a person’s attention and reaction time, combined with the algorithm to determine “when and how much caffeine to consume to safely maximize alertness during sleep loss,” according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Researchers presented their findings Monday at SLEEP 2018, the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC, a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society.

The algorithm used a person’s sleep and wake schedule along with his or her “maximum allowed caffeine” to determine the perfect caffeine-dosing strategy, according to the study authors.

“We found that by using our algorithm, which determines when and how much caffeine a subject should consume, we can improve alertness by up to 64 percent, while consuming the same total amount of caffeine,” Reifman said. “Alternatively, a subject can reduce caffeine consumption by up to 65 percent and still achieve equivalent improvements in alertness.”

The Army is already using the algorithm for its soldiers-in-training and has plans to license it for wider use as a smartphone app, Government Technology magazine reported.

Scientists first published the study, “Caffeine dosing strategies to optimize alertness during sleep loss,” May 28 in the Journal of Sleep Research.

Woman graduates from Naval Academy 5 years after struggling to get ex-NFL player dad's signature

Florida's military community has a new addition: Ashanti Curry of Jacksonville graduated last week from the United States Naval Academy.

>> Watch the news report here

ActionNewsJax first introduced you to Curry when she was 17 years old and her dream of attending the Naval Academy almost didn't happen.

>> On ActionNewsJax.com: ActionNewsJax helps Naval Academy hopeful get dad's signature for admission

Her smile says it all. It’s even more of an accomplishment when you consider what it took to get her here.

In 2013, the honor student faced losing her academy acceptance because it required both parents’ signatures.

Her father, former Jacksonville Jaguars player Eric Curry, was never in her life and had an arrest warrant out for unpaid child support. Her attempts to get him to sign all failed.

>> Read more trending news 

“This man has never made one decision in my life, but the most important decision that needs to be made he has that in his hands. I was very upset,” Curry said at the time.

It took phone calls to Eric Curry, his attorney, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s office and eventually a temporary stay of his arrest warrant.

But finally, Curry got the signature she needed.

Now, five years later, she's graduated from the Naval Academy. Her first salute was to her stepfather, a gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corps.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

Curry is now writing the next chapter to her story, a story of service that Jacksonville and our country can be proud of.

Curry's mother contacted ActionNewsJax’s Paige Kelton on Facebook this weekend with pictures and two words that were a reminder of the power one person’s story can have. The picture was of Curry’s graduation, the words – “thank you.”

Melania Trump makes first official appearance in 24 days

She's back.

According to CNN, first lady Melania Trump, who hadn't made any official appearances since May 10, attended a private White House event for Gold Star families Monday afternoon. 

>> Read more trending news 

Although the reception was closed to the media, a video from the event quickly circulated on Twitter.

>> See the video here

Trump also tweeted photos from the event.

"Tonight @POTUS & I were honored to pay tribute to our fallen heroes," she wrote. "Thank you to the Gold Star families that joined us in celebration & remembrance." 

>> See her tweet here

The news followed weeks of rumors and speculation about the first lady, who last appeared publicly when she and her husband, President Donald Trump, welcomed three American detainees released from North Korea. Soon afterward, she had surgery "for a benign kidney condition," CNN reported.

Read more here.

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