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Joy

Best buddies separated during WWII reunite 78 later, proving that true friendship is forever

'It was like we had always been family.'

vets reunited, ptsd, world war 2

World War II, Operation Overlord, Omaha Beach, 1944.

This summer, after 78 years apart, my grandfather, World War II veteran Jack Gutman, got to reunite with his best friend from the war, Jerry Ackerman. They saw each other for the first time since the 1940s and spent two days laughing, joking, catching up and being honored by the Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California.

Finding an old friend is always an occasion to celebrate, but the story of how this reunion came to be feels like true kismet. Not only were two buddies reunited, it also brought closure to two WWII veterans during some of the tougher years of their lives, while also uniting two families, now forever changed.

Take a moment and think back to what you were doing at the age of 17.



Depending on your generation, the activities might look a bit different. Baby boomers might have been sipping a milkshake at the local diner. Gen Xers might have been angstily listening to The Smiths or the Sex Pistols. If you’re a Gen Y millennial like me, you were maybe shopping for cheap jewelry at Claire’s Accessories at the mall. Regardless of what you were up to as a teenager, you probably weren’t doing what my grandfather was doing at age 17—fighting as a Navy Corpsman during the invasion of Normandy.

My Grandpa Jack was born in 1925 and grew up in New York City. When Uncle Sam called, he lied about his age and enlisted in the Navy. He wanted to serve his country, but had no idea the horrors of war he would witness during the Normandy Invasion and the invasion at Okinawa.

When I was growing up, my grandfather didn’t talk about the war. For years he struggled with PTSD and all of the various coping mechanisms people experiment with to get out of pain. It almost tore his life apart, but with the love and support of our family, he made his first steps toward healing.

With the help of Dylan Bender, a talented therapist with the Veterans Association, a decade of EMDR and CBT, my grandfather can now talk about his experience during the war. He even wrote a book about it.

Group photo of young navy corpsmen during World War II.

via Erin Shaw

He’s been interviewed on television, at the WWII Museum in New Orleans and he speaks to groups of students regularly. He even got to travel to Normandy, France for the 75th anniversary of D-Day as part of a documentary. You could say his journey to heal the wounds of war was pretty complete, but there has always been one bit of closure he was never able to get.

A friend he always wondered about.

In between the invasion of Normandy and his time in Okinawa, my Grandpa Jack returned to Camp Pendleton for training and that is where he met Jerry Ackerman.

“I was assigned to Oceanside, California and that’s where I met Jack, and we became instant friends,” said Jerry. “He was the most jovial, fun-loving guy ever. Always smiling and always happy.”

The feeling was mutual. “Jerry was one of my best friends after Normandy. I knew him when I got transferred over to Oceanside to the Beach Battalion. We hit it off, I guess from both being New Yorkers maybe. One thing I didn’t like about Jerry was that he was better looking than me,” Grandpa Jack joked. “We bonded together, and it was one of the greatest times I’ve ever had.”

The camaraderie of this new friendship gave my grandpa a respite from all of the atrocities he had experienced while trying to patch up dying soldiers on the beach in France. In his friendship with Jerry and another Navyman, Joe Gagliardi (who we haven’t been able to find), Grandpa Jack found solace and humanity … the very things he wanted to fight to protect when he enlisted. Unfortunately, the war hadn’t ended yet and when Grandpa Jack was sent to Japan, he, Joe and Jerry lost touch.

“We never got a chance to say goodbye when we got to Pearl Harbor,” said Grandpa Jack. “I got transferred to another ship. So all these years I often wondered about them.”

Apparently, Jerry had been wondering about my grandfather as well because one day in early 2021, out of nowhere, a silly little song my grandpa had once taught him popped into his head. It was a happy memory that Jerry desperately needed. His wife Barbara was in the hospital in New York for a health issue, and he was very down after having visited her.

“My parents have been married for 70 years and when something happens to one of them, like my mother’s hospitalization, it really affects the other,” said Peter Ackerman, Jerry’s son. “My father and I finished visiting her and went to a restaurant. It was there, toward the end of our meal, when a song randomly popped into his head that he hadn’t sung since his Navy days during WWII. It was a song, he said, that was taught to him by his good buddy, Jack Gutman. As my father lamented out loud about having never been able to track his friend down, using my phone and good ol' Google, I found someone matching Jack’s description and Navy background. When my father realized I was actually calling someone named Jack Gutman his eyes were as wide as pies!”

Meanwhile in California, Grandpa Jack was having a tough time himself. His life had changed drastically when the pandemic hit. He, like everyone else, was feeling isolated, and while younger generations were turning to their devices, social media and Zoom, older generations without as much tech knowledge were feeling even lonelier. At the time, Grandpa Jack had just gotten over the coronavirus and my grandma had gotten COVID-19 pneumonia and was still slowly recovering. They were quarantined at home and Grandpa Jack was experiencing some pretty tough bouts of depression.

“I was depressed and really down, sitting in my office one afternoon and I was just thinking that life was a lot of crap,” Grandpa Jack said. “I usually try to stay pretty positive, but this day was tough. In my lowest moment of depression the phone rang, and it turned out to be a guy named Peter. He said to me, ‘Are you Jack Gutman?’ and I said, ‘Yeah…’ and he said, ‘Were you stationed in Oceanside, California?’ and I said, ‘I sure was, yeah.’ And he said, ‘Did you ever know a Jerry Ackerman?’ and I said, ‘He was my best friend. I’ve got his picture up on my wall,’ and he said, ‘He’s my father and he’s sitting right here, and he’s been looking for you for about 77 years.’ And I tell you, the tears flowed. It was just the thing I needed so badly. I could not believe it.”

The timing of this call couldn’t have been better, and it was so random that it felt kind of like fate to our families.

“I will take to my grave the look of pure joy on my father’s face when he and Jack spoke for the first time. They talked for a half hour and vowed to keep in touch,” said Peter.

For Grandpa Jack, it was an emotional and life-affirming call that helped give his days some renewed vigor. “Hearing his voice and realizing that there’s a man that for 77 years has been wondering about me, it touched my heart,” said Grandpa Jack.

When the call ended, Peter tells me that his father was beyond grateful to have reconnected with Jack. “He was almost in shock, and happier than I had seen him in a very long time,” he said. “Sitting there in that restaurant, listening to my father talking, laughing and reminiscing with Jack, I felt so happy for both of them, and a deep sense of satisfaction in having helped sew that stitch. It was as if a circle was completed. It was a highlight of my life, and I believe one of the great highlights of my father’s life as well.”

These two men could have connected at any point during the last 70-plus years but for some reason it didn’t happen until a moment when they both needed to hear from each other. Some might call it coincidence, some might call it fate, but it changed both men’s lives.

“My dad’s life had changed so much because of the pandemic,” said my mom, Paula Shaw. “He couldn’t be out with his friends and doing his speaking engagements. So when Jerry’s call came through, dad’s whole life picked up again and turned around. It gave him hope and it gave him a sense that he mattered because this man, 77 years later, remembered him and sought him out. So it was a real turning point for dad.”

You’d think that just having that phone call would have been a highlight of these two men’s twilight years, but there was more coming.

A reunion with military honors.

Jack and Jerry kept in touch over the phone for the next year, but they were still yet to see each other face to face. My mom Paula had gotten to befriend Peter and together they were able to plan a time for Grandpa Jack and Jerry to meet, with a few family members in tow.

It turned out the Ackermans were planning to be in San Diego for a wedding in June of this year and with my own family based in Southern California it would be the perfect time for a reunion.

But before that, they had a face-to-face chat with my mom when she interviewed them for her podcast, Change it Up Radio. I asked my mom what it was like to facilitate the first face-to-face interaction between Jack and Jerry on her podcast over Zoom, and she described it as life-changing.

“When I got the idea to have them see each other for the first time on the Zoom screen I had no idea how really wonderful and moving and almost life-changing it was going to be. When they laid eyes on each other for the first time, dad started to cry, and Jerry just got the sweetest, softest expression on his face. He was so touched that dad was so happy to be able to see him.”

With their podcast interview in the can and a first face-to-face reunion over Zoom a success, it was time to get together in person in San Diego.

World War II veterans are harder and harder to connect with these days. According to Forbes, we lose approximately 234 of them each day. Having two best friends from the war still alive, healthy and with all their mental faculties intact is rare, so time was of the essence to get these two together for some quality time.

Unbeknown to Jerry and Grandpa Jack, my mom had arranged a visit to Camp Pendleton for them as well as for CBS News to come capture their reunion. Our family captured some of our own amateur footage, which is hard to watch without crying.

So what was it like to witness the reunion in person? “It was just lovely to see,” said Mary Jo Gutman, my grandma. “To think about the time that had passed and now they were able to see each other and touch each other, it was just a beautiful moment. Everybody that was there was having the same experience. Some people teared up and some were just in a state of shock, but a happy state. We were all just happy for them both.”

My uncle, Craig Gutman, traveled with Grandpa Jack back to Normandy in 2019 and was with him when he visited the beaches and military cemetery there. He says while that was tough, this moment of closure was nothing but joyful. “It was just so nice for them to see each other again and to be back with each other,” he said. “Even after just a few minutes they were the same 19-year-old guys, BS-ing with each other and telling jokes. To just see the joy in both of them, being able to find an old friend after so many years that they probably figured was either dead or gone and would never be seen again. It was just great.”

My aunt Marilyn Gutman describes their reunion as a full-circle moment. “When they met, it was like they had always been together, starting in on the jokes, the laughter, the camaraderie that had brought them together initially. I felt their lives had just come full circle. I felt a completeness for them, a closure of the wounds of war.”

Over the course of the next couple of days, the families got to spend time together and although I wasn’t able to be there myself, everyone who was there described loving each other instantly just like Jack and Jerry had upon meeting.

“It was like we had always been family,” my mom Paula said. “I get a little teary just thinking about it. It was like we’d known each other for years. We laughed, we had meals together, we chatted up a storm. It was crazy. It was like whatever that energy was that brought dad and Jerry together had been passed onto the families. All the family members felt that same connection.”

For my Grandpa Jack, getting to reunite with his best friend from the war was the last bit of closure he has needed during his healing journey with PTSD. It has reminded him that love is the most important thing we can give to others and that we never know how we touch someone’s life just by being their friend.

“Jack struck me as the happiest guy in the whole world,” Jerry said. “I never ever knew what he went through in Normandy. I’m very delighted to know that at least I was a part of helping Jack rehabilitate himself. I’m very happy about that. Our reunion is something I will never forget.”

Grandpa Jack told me that he spent so long working to get over post-traumatic stress but not knowing what happened to Jerry was like a wound still left open. Finding out what had happened to him gave him closure, but being able to see each other and connect was a moment he’ll never forget. “It really fulfilled a closure for me. It was just amazing.”

“I feel like for both of them there was this unfinished chapter,” said my mom, Paula. “There was so much love between these two men and the war didn’t kill it.”

Perhaps Virgil said it best when he said, “Amor vincit omnia.” Love conquers all.

Joy

Watch a timid shelter dog named 'Venom' transform with some tender care and a new name

Rocky Kanaka knew "Venom" wasn't a fitting name for this sweet girl, and he sat with her to earn her trust.

Venom was unsure at first but warmed up after a while.

Dogs are a man's best friend, as the saying goes, but that's only true when humans treat them as they should be treated. When someone neglects, abuses or otherwise mistreats a dog, their sense of trust in human companionship gets disrupted and doesn't come as naturally as it should.

It's common to see issue with dogs who end up in shelters. They might be timid, suspicious or fearful, and living in a kennel in a shelter away from everything familiar doesn't help. Even if a shelter is better than the unhealthy situation they came from, it's certainly not ideal, which is one reason Rocky Kanaka goes to visit and sit with shelter dogs. If he can help a dog feel safe and convince it to to trust him, he kick-starts the process of repairing the dog-human bond.


One dog Kanaka sat with was a 3-year-old black Shepherd mix named "Venom." She was curled up in the corner of her kennel and wasn't too keen on having him coming into her space. She wasn't aggressive, but guarded. Her self-protective instincts seemed on, so Kanaka took it very slow.

He began by turning his back to her and squatting down, not interacting with her other than to speak soothingly, just to let her get used to his presence. He brought some treats, which he shared with her before sitting down. She kept looking at him with a mix of curiosity and trepidation, and Kanaka respected her space.

He found out she had been at the shelter for 10 days, which Kanaka said was bad because if a dog is still in this kind of nervous state after 10 days in the shelter, it's harder for them to get adopted. Soon, he got her to take treats from his hand, which enabled him to move a little closer to her—the goal being to eventually get her to approach him.

Then Kanaka got her story, including that her name was Venom and this was her second time in the shelter. The first time, her owners were on vacation, The second time a good samaritan brought her in, and the shelter couldn't get a hold of the owners. When they were finally reached, the owners said that she had not been behaving well with their smaller dog and they didn't want her anymore.

Kanaka didn't cast judgment on the owners for giving her up, but he was totally taken aback by her given name.

"Come on. Venom? She is anything but that. It should be like, Honeysuckle, you know? Or something sweet. Something sweet like Honey. I think that's her name, Honey."

Watch how this sweet puppers slowly warms up to Kanaka and begins to trust him:

Watching her eventually melt into a state of relaxation as Kanaka scratched her head was so rewarding. You can tell that she's a good girl who's been through some rough times, and she'd be an incredible dog for someone who took good care of her.

"Her eyes and brows are so expressive. You can read the concern in her face," wrote one commenter.

"That poor baby is heart broken. She knows she was left and lost family. I feel you baby," wrote another.

"What a sweet little fluff," shared another. "How could anyone just abandon her and not think she's worth the fee will baffle me for all of time. And to call her 'Venom' is not only an insult to her, but an insight into the life she could have previously had and how her last 'owners thought of her. Can't wait for her to find her forever home and finally get all the love she deserves."

Thankfully, according to an update on Kanaka's website, Honey was adopted on March 8, 2024. So hopefully, she did find a forever home with people who will appreciate and nurture her naturally sweet disposition and give her the life she should have.

You can follow Rocky Kanaka for more "Sitting with Dogs" videos on YouTube and on his website rockykanaka.com.

Democracy

What to know about the 1864 abortion ban Arizona's Supreme Court says is 'now enforceable'

The legal code it comes from also outlaws interracial marriage and forbids minorities from testifying against white people in court.

Peter Zillmann (HPZ)/Wikimedia Commons, Brandon Friedman/Twitter

Arizona's borders may soon be even more consequential.

When the 2022 Dobbs decision overturned the federal protection of medical privacy in reproductive decisions, leaving abortion law up to the states, experts warned of the legal and medical consequences to come: People in states with old laws on the books would find themselves facing abortion restrictions the likes of which had not been seen in over 50 years since Roe vs. Wade became "settled as a precedent of the Supreme Court," and medical providers would face legal conundrums that threatened patient care.

Nearly two years later, we've seen the fallout on multiple fronts, from women suing states for denying them medically necessary care to children who have been raped and impregnated being forced to travel across state lines to get an abortion.

And the latest development has Arizona set to enact a near-total abortion ban based on a 1864 legal code, after the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the law "it is now enforceable."

Here's what to know about the 160-year-old law:


There is only one abortion exception allowed for in the law—to save the life of the mother. As medical providers have made clear, that kind of exception is a murky gray area that leads to impossible questions like "How imminent does a mother's death need to be?" for a doctor to take action without fearing legal repercussions.

Civil War-era historian Heather Cox Richardson shared some of the details about how the law came about and the context in which it was written on Facebook, and the historical facts paint a picture of how utterly absurd it is for the law to go into effect in 2024.

"In 1864, Arizona was not a state, women and minorities could not vote, and doctors were still sewing up wounds with horsehair and storing their unwashed medical instruments in velvet-lined cases," wrote Richardson. She pointed out that the U.S. was in the midst of the Civil War, and that the law didn't actually have much to do with women and reproductive care.

"The laws for Arizona Territory, chaotic and still at war in 1864, appear to reflect the need to rein in a lawless population of men," she explained, sharing that the word "miscarriage" was used in the criminal code to describe various forms of harm against another person, specifying dueling with, maiming and poisoning other people.

Richardson offered that detail as the context in which the law states that "a person who provides, supplies or administers to a pregnant woman, or procures such woman to take any medicine, drugs or substance, or uses or employs any instrument or other means whatever, with intent thereby to procure the miscarriage of such woman, unless it is necessary to save her life, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not less than two years nor more than five years."

How did the law even come about? At that time, the newly formed Arizona Territorial Legislature was composed of 27 men. The first thing they did was authorize the governor to appoint a commissioner to draft a code of laws, but a judge named William T. Howell had already written one up. After some discussion, the legislators enacted Howell's laws, known as "The Howell Code."

The code included laws like, "No black or mulatto, or Indian, Mongolian, or Asiatic, shall be permitted to give evidence in favor of or against any white person," as well as "All marriages of white persons with negroes or mulattoes are declared to be illegal and void."

Richardson also pointed out that the code set the age of consent for sexual intercourse at 10-years-old.

Essentially, a law written by one man, 48 years before Arizona was officially a state, over half a century before women were allowed to vote, when it was perfectly legal to enact and enforce racist laws and see 10-year-olds as old enough to consent to sex, is now considered "enforceable" by the Arizona Supreme Court.

As Richardson pointed out, the difference now is that women can vote. And Americans have proven time and again that draconian abortion laws are wildly unpopular across the political spectrum. Even some Republican lawmakers and politicians are flip-flopping on previous praise for the 1864 law, saying that the Arizona legislature needs to do something about the law to prevent it from taking effect.

All GIFs and images via Exposure Labs.


Photographer James Balog and his crew were hanging out near a glacier when their camera captured something extraordinary.

They were in Greenland, gathering footage from the time-lapse they'd positioned all around the Arctic Circle for the last several years.


They were also there to shoot scenes for a documentary. And while they were hoping to capture some cool moments on camera, no one expected a huge chunk of a glacier to snap clean off and slide into the ocean right in front of their eyes.


science, calving, glaciers

A glacier falls into the sea.

assets.rebelmouse.io

ocean swells, sea level, erosion, going green

Massive swells created by large chunks of glacier falling away.

assets.rebelmouse.io

It was the largest such event ever filmed.

For nearly an hour and 15 minutes, Balog and his crew stood by and watched as a piece of ice the size of lower Manhattan — but with ice-equivalent buildings that were two to three times taller than that — simply melted away.

geological catastrophe, earth, glacier melt

A representation demonstrating the massive size of ice that broke off into the sea.

assets.rebelmouse.io

As far as anyone knows, this was an unprecedented geological catastrophe and they caught the entire thing on tape. It won't be the last time something like this happens either.

But once upon a time, Balog was openly skeptical about that "global warming" thing.

Balog had a reputation since the early 1980s as a conservationist and environmental photographer. And for nearly 20 years, he'd scoffed at the climate change heralds shouting, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"

"I didn't think that humans were capable of changing the basic physics and chemistry of this entire, huge planet. It didn't seem probable, it didn't seem possible," he explained in the 2012 documentary film "Chasing Ice."

There was too much margin of error in the computer simulations, too many other pressing problems to address about our beautiful planet. As far as he was concerned, these melodramatic doomsayers were distracting from the real issues.

That was then.

Greenland, Antarctica, glacier calving

The glacier ice continues to erode away.

assets.rebelmouse.io

In fact, it wasn't until 2005 that Balog became a believer.

He was sent on a photo expedition of the Arctic by National Geographic, and that first northern trip was more than enough to see the damage for himself.

"It was about actual tangible physical evidence that was preserved in the ice cores of Greenland and Antarctica," he said in a 2012 interview with ThinkProgress. "That was really the smoking gun showing how far outside normal, natural variation the world has become. And that's when I started to really get the message that this was something consequential and serious and needed to be dealt with."

Some of that evidence may have been the fact that more Arctic landmass has melted away in the last 20 years than the previous 10,000 years.

Watch the video of the event of the glacier calving below:

This article originally appeared on 11.04.15

A tourist visiting Italy. (Representative image)

Americans pride themselves on living in the “best country in the world.” However, the American way of life isn’t for everyone and some prefer the more laid-back approach to life that people enjoy in Europe.

Four years ago, a writer named Roze left her tiny apartment in Los Angeles, booked a one-way flight to Turn, Italy and never looked back. Now, she documents her new life in Europe on TikTok to inspire others to pursue their dreams.

Recently, she posted a video in which she counts down 5 things that she’ll never do now that she lives in Italy. These are examples of the relief some Americans feel when they move to Europe and settle into their new, stress-free lifestyle.


1. Rush

"One of the first things that attracted me to Italian culture is the fact that people don't seem to be in a rush. There are no drive-thrus. People don't walk and eat. If you need a coffee, you sit down and drink a cup of coffee. There's always time for that."

2. Own a car

"I don't plan on ever living in a place where you need a car to get around. I don’t like the expense of a car and it’s just bad for the environment.”

3. Live for work

“I’ll never obsess about work as much as I used to do in the U.S. Now, I'm not saying that people don't work here. People work very hard, but there's not as many people who make working hard their whole personality."

@rozeinitaly

A few ways my perspective has changed since moving abroad, maybe some other American immigrants can relate? #fivethingschallenge #5thingsiwouldneverdo #5thingschallenge #americanimmigrant #movingabroadtips #expatsinitaly #italylifestyle #lifeinitaly🇮🇹

4. Trust the internet for business hours

"If you look it up on Google Maps, it says that it's open from 10 am to, I think, 7 or 7:30 pm. Does that mean I can go there at like 2:30 3 o'clock? No. What is not listed on there is that they are closed from 1 to 4 for lunch."

5. Worry about medical bills

“I just don’t plan on living anywhere where there is not some kind of universal healthcare.”

A group of travelers waits patiently to check their bags.

Maybe you’re one of those elite travelers who’s mastered packing for an entire trip using only carry-on luggage. If so, you’re likely haughty and won’t stop crowing about the convenience of hopping off the plane and jetting to your destination.

We know: The airlines lost your bag in 1986 and you vowed never again. So, now you roll three garments, one pair of shoes, a tiny bottle of 5-in-one body wash, and a Kindle into your backpack, and you're good to go.

For the rest of us mere traveling mortals, especially those with kids, checking bags is a necessary evil—a necessary and costly one.

If it seems to you like checked bag fees have been steadily climbing, that’s because checked bag fees have been steadily climbing. According to this article, bag fees on American Airlines rose 33% just last year from $30 per bag to $40 and 5 of the 6 biggest carriers raised their fees last year.

Why is the entire industry upping their checked-bag fees? There’s a specific reason involving an arcane bit of tax code, which accounts for why the fees are tacked on separately versus rolled into the price of the ticket.


Jay L. Zagorsky, a business school professor who studies travel, says 7.5% of every domestic ticket goes to the federal government. Airlines dislike this, claiming it raises ticket prices for consumers. But as long as the bag fee is separate, it is excluded from the 7.5% transportation tax.

Estimated bag fees for 2023 topped 7 billion. By making the bag fees separate, airlines saved themselves about half a billion dollars. If that savings has been passed down to the customer, then we all got a bit of a break, too.

Perhaps you automatically dislike the separate fees because you’re Gen X and remember a time when a ticket was all-inclusive. Now, it feels like you’re paying for stuff you used to get for free.

Turns out that more and more travelers actually like the separate charges.

“One thing that our research has shown,” Henry Hartevedlt, president of travel industry analytics firm Atmosphere Research told USA Today, “is that more than two-thirds of U.S. leisure airline passengers now feel that the unbundling of the coach product and letting people buy what they want and need on an à la carte basis is actually something they like because it helps them stick to their budget.”

This is a positive way to look at something that’s undoubtedly here to stay. And now if you hear someone complain about bag fees at the airport, you’ll know why it’s done the way it’s done, which is really sweet satisfaction in itself.

Of course, there's always this unusual workaround courtesy of Reddit user Old_Man_Withers, "I Fedex my luggage to the hotel and carry nothing on the plane but my laptop for work. It doesn't matter if it's 2 days or two months, I ship it. The hotel has it waiting in my room when I get there and I ship it back home from there when I'm done. No random inspections, no chances of loss without recompense, fully trackable... I see no downside that isn't worth the 50-100 bucks it costs."