This man is giving back to fellow veterans in a unique way — with broken TVs.

Ever since Staff Sgt. Todd Hering was a boy, he loved to take mechanical things apart.

"I always wanted to see how things were put together," Hering recalls.

As he grew up, he started learning how to use those parts to repair various electronics, like radios. Slowly but surely, he got good at it. While it was a simple hobby, it's hard not to see how those skills led him to become a mechanic in the Air Force.


And not just any mechanic — one who worked with all the components of nuclear warheads.

A 90th Missile Maintenance Squadron maintainer works on a Minuteman III ICBM, which is akin to the missiles Hering maintained. Photo by Senior Airman Brandon Valle/U.S. Air Force.

Handling all the inner workings of such dangerous weapons of war might sound terrifying to the average person, but Hering found it fascinating and even fun.

It's no wonder he ended up spending nine years working in the nuclear sect both in the States and oversees in Italy on a nuclear-tipped ground launch cruise missile.

Hering officially left the Air Force in 1993, when he got married, but his transition out of such an important military job was not the easiest.

He had no trouble finding two part-time jobs working for an airline, but it was a far cry from the responsibility he had before. He missed the high-profile work, but similar civilian jobs were hard to come by at the time.

Then a seemingly inconsequential accident led to a total lifestyle change. Hering stubbed his toe while walking around his house. Like anyone might have, he ignored the discomfort he felt — until the toe became badly infected.

When he finally saw a doctor, the infection had gotten so bad, it was in his bone. Todd had nine surgeries to try and save his foot, but in the end, the bone infection was so extensive, the doctors declared he needed to have his right leg amputated.

Photo via iStock.

Just like that, he was a veteran living on disability and a frequent visitor to the local Veterans Affairs (VA) office for medical aid and physical therapy.

During his downtime, Hering picked up his old hobby of making repairs on electronics. At first it was just for fun, but while he was at the VA, he began to realize there might be an unmet need for his skills.

He spoke to many vets on disability who were trying to turn their lives around but were down on their luck. Some mentioned how nice it would be to have a TV to pass the time — and that's when he got an idea of how he could help them.

"All these people just throw their flat-screen TVs away because it's a disposable world," Hering explains. "I thought, they're easy to fix, so I'll just start fixing them and donating them to some vets that need them."

He looked around for broken TVs that had just been thrown away. He also posted ads on Craigslist asking people to send him their old, broken TVs. Since he's a seasoned mechanic, he didn't need to spend a lot of money on replacing the motherboards; he just bought parts piecemeal and fixed the motherboards himself.

So far, Hering has repaired over 70 TVs for veterans. And while it's obviously making their lives better, it's fulfilling him in a big way, too.

Hering with one of the veterans who received one of his fixed TVs. Photo via Todd Hering, used with permission.

"This gives me a feeling of self-worth," says Hering. "I feel like I'm worth more than I was before because I'm helping other people."

He started this give back project over two years ago, and yet every time he gives a repaired TV to a deserving veteran, he's reminded that his work makes a real difference.

"One guy kept wiping his eyes, and said, 'That's the best picture I've seen in my life.'" Hering recalls. "It wasn't a big screen or anything; he was just so grateful to have one."

Hering presents a repaired TV to another veteran. Photo via Todd Hering, used with permission.

Hering has over 127 broken TVs in storage, so he's not planning on stopping his project anytime soon. In fact, he's looking to expand his reach to victims of domestic violence.

He recognizes that people in that situation sometimes have to leave everything they have behind. He hopes that by gifting them a TV, it'll give them some comfort.

That said, continuing this philanthropic mission is getting expensive for a veteran living off of disability pay. Even just buying small parts can involve hefty shipping fees or travel costs, so he now accepts donations to help maximize what he can do for fellow veterans.

When you're living with a disability and have barely enough money to pay for your basic needs, sometimes a little thing like a TV means the world. Hering understands that more than most.

Everyone loves a hilarious animal video, and there are plenty of great ones to go around. However, not all animal videos are as cute as they might seem. In fact, some can be downright cruel without people realizing it.

Robotics engineer and NASA intern Aaron Shepard explains what's wrong with some of these videos in a TikTok he shared on Twitter. He said he usually uses his social media to talk about science and space exploration, but he's also an advanced scuba diver who was taken aback by a viral video showing a man "tickling" a ray.

Shepard's video begins with a clip showing a ray lying on its back on a boat. A man's voice says, "How do you tickle a fish?" and then a hand reaches down to "tickle" the ray. The ray wraps its fins around the man's hand, its mouth opens as if it's laughing, and then it closes its mouth in what looks like an adorable smile.

The problem is, it's not laughing or smiling, and what's happening is anything but adorable.

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Everyone loves a hilarious animal video, and there are plenty of great ones to go around. However, not all animal videos are as cute as they might seem. In fact, some can be downright cruel without people realizing it.

Robotics engineer and NASA intern Aaron Shepard explains what's wrong with some of these videos in a TikTok he shared on Twitter. He said he usually uses his social media to talk about science and space exploration, but he's also an advanced scuba diver who was taken aback by a viral video showing a man "tickling" a ray.

Shepard's video begins with a clip showing a ray lying on its back on a boat. A man's voice says, "How do you tickle a fish?" and then a hand reaches down to "tickle" the ray. The ray wraps its fins around the man's hand, its mouth opens as if it's laughing, and then it closes its mouth in what looks like an adorable smile.

The problem is, it's not laughing or smiling, and what's happening is anything but adorable.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."