Friday's intriguing people
Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum is defending the Army's use of a test about spirituality.
January 14th, 2011
02:02 PM ET

Friday's intriguing people

Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum

The Army's director of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness has been defending a new test being used by her arm of the military to try to gauge why suicide and stress rates are growing and why some soldiers cope with war better than others. The problem is the subject of the test: spiritual fitness.

Naturally, religion is always a hotbed of debate, and in the military, it's no different. Cornum says that spirituality is being gauged because the Army has seen that soldiers who are more spiritual are more resilient.

"Researchers have found that spiritual people have decreased odds of attempting suicide, and that spiritual fitness has a positive impact on quality of life, on coping and on mental health," Cornum told NPR.

She also told NPR the test has no impact on anyone's career and the soldier is the only one who sees the results, but that isn't stopping some soldiers from being up in arms about it. According to NPR, during the test, you must answer yes or no to some of the following questions: "In difficult times, I pray or meditate"; "I believe that in some way, my life is closely connected to all of humanity"; "I am a spiritual person"; or "I often find comfort in my religion and spiritual beliefs."

Mikey Weinstein, a former Air Force lawyer who founded the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, told NPR he may sue over the test. Cornum insists she and the Army are just trying to figure out ways to help soldiers. After all, she knows what it's like facing trauma on the battlefield.  She was captured by Iraqi forces in 1991 during the Gulf War when she agreed to go into the Persian Gulf as a flight surgeon. After her chopper was shot down, she was one of only three survivors, though as the helicopter went down, she assumed she was going to die, she told Stars and Stripes.

She was molested by a soldier, had her wedding ring taken, and was stripped of many things. But she said in the end, it changed how she viewed life and what she would try to do for the military. She wrote a book, "She Went To War: The Rhonda Cornum Story,” which was a large success. And now, she uses her experiences to try to stem suicide rates and depression. And that has put her back in the spotlight.

"I think, 'Yes, I know this horrible thing happened [to me], but I’m a better doctor — I will be more empathetic because I have been injured and afraid,' " she told Stars and Stripes.

Andrei Sitov

The Washington bureau chief for ITAR-TASS upset some folks at a White House briefing when he suggested the freedom to be a madman was tantamount to freedom of the press or of assembly.

Sitov, whose Russian news agency is state-controlled, was speaking in reference to the shooting rampage in Tucson, Arizona, that killed six people, including a federal judge and 9-year-old Christina Green.

After offering his condolences to the victims, Sitov suggested that the shooting was a consequence of freedom and that reining in such liberties was the only way to combat such violence.

"This is America, the democracy, the freedom of speech, the freedom of assembly, the freedom to petition your government. And many people outside would also say - and the quote, unquote 'freedom' of a deranged mind to react in a violent way is also American. How do you respond to that?” Sitov asked White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.

An irked Gibbs said, "No, no, I would disagree vehemently with that," before explaining that there was nothing American about the Tucson shooting rampage and that "violence is never, ever acceptable."

ABC News reported that Sitov’s questioning was a break from his normally measured questions. ITAR-TASS's English-language website did not appear to carry any stories about the Sitov-Gibbs exchange Friday.

Ryan Riddell

The pastor of Shelter Community Church of the Nazarene in Dayton, Ohio, is sleeping in a van this month in an effort to draw attention to the plight of the homeless.

But don’t get him wrong; he doesn’t think a few weeks on the streets will actually help him fully empathize with the hundreds of thousands of homeless people in the U.S.

He merely wants a better understanding of how people get to be homeless and what they do to survive, he told WCPO-TV.

"The bottom line here is no matter how hard I try, I'm not homeless," he told the station, adding that he will have a propane heater and carbon monoxide detector on board his van.

He also wants people to know that 60% of kids who get too old for foster care become homeless.

Riddell, according to the station, will use his smartphone to shoot video and photos that he will upload to Twitter, Facebook and his website, 30 Days Homeless.

The website quotes the Bible, James 2:15-16: "Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it."

Friday marked Day 12 of Riddell’s effort.

soundoff (66 Responses)
  1. Cesar

    Punch is a weird word. Punch punch punch....I'm going to punch a hole in the cardboard...... I will punch you out..... Jim wants to punch Chase and Mark...Would you like some fruit punch?...

    January 15, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. aloha jimmy

    aloha Jim B,just after 7pm on the big Isle,you seem tense and angry before you blow a gasket come on over relax a bit.take a hike maybe catch a wave,you wont regret it,unless you are to far gone.
    you,but might add a

    January 16, 2011 at 1:24 am | Report abuse |
  3. aloha jimmy not!

    no do not come over! dark skinned happy people live here and rumor has it Obama was born here.

    January 16, 2011 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
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