This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here's how. - We Are The Mighty
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This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

There’s a reverence that surrounds Memorial Day in the military community. A day that’s typically associated with summer barbecues and mattress sales has a very different meaning to those of us who understand that “the fallen” we’re all asked to honor are our brothers and sisters in arms, husbands, wives, mommies, daddies, friends.

It’s a day that feels heavy, weighted with nostalgia and fraught, wanting to honor their sacrifice by living, but wanting the rest of the world to pause alongside us, to bear some of the burden of the grief and to mourn our collective, irreplaceable loss.

This year, we’re asking you not just to pause, but to act.


In 2018, USAA, in partnership with The American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, created the USAA Poppy Wall of Honor to ensure the sacrifice of our military men and women is always remembered, never forgotten. The wall contains more than 645,000 artificial poppies – one for each life lost in the line of duty since World War I. Red flowers fill one side while historic facts about U.S. conflicts cover the opposite.

The exhibit was installed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., over the Memorial Day weekend in 2018 and again in 2019. This year, USAA is making it available to more people by presenting the educational panels of the wall digitally. We encourage you to take the time to look at the wall, to teach your children and grandchildren about service and sacrifice. But more than that, we’re asking you to dedicate a poppy.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

WATM had the opportunity to sit down with Wes Laird, Chief Marketing Officer at USAA, to talk about why this event matters, not just to the company, but to him.

“I tell people I grew up in a Ranger Battalion,” Laird said. “A long, long time ago in a land far, far away. Just eight and a half months after I enlisted, I was in combat on a tiny island called Grenada. I lost five people from my company, including a young man named Marlin Maynard, who was a PFC. When I got back, I was asked to eulogize PFC Maynard. I just turned 19 and I had to talk about the sacrifice he’d given. It was a very formative, impactful moment in my life.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

Wes Laird in his Army days. Photo courtesy of Wes Laird.

“Every Memorial Day since, every 4th of July, every time I hear the National Anthem, I think about PFC Marlin Maynard. I think about how I went to college with my veteran benefits. I think about how I went on to have a family, to raise two boys — one who is in the Air Force — how I had a career and a whole life, and how he, and 645,000 other soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, Coast Guardsman, how they didn’t. But that’s why this – why Memorial Day, and what we’re doing at USAA – is so important. I want Marlin’s family to know that he is remembered and honored. That his sacrifice, all these years later, has never been forgotten.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

PFC Marlin Maynard, Grenada Company A, 1st Battalion (Ranger)

75th Infantry, kia October 25, 1983. Photo via Sua Sponte Foundation.

“This Memorial Day and every Memorial Day, I dedicate a poppy to him and the four others we lost in Grenada that day. What we’re doing at USAA with the USAA Poppy Wall is giving others an opportunity not just to honor, but to act. This year especially, with the COVID crisis, we are providing people the ability to come together, to unify around something we can all agree on — the importance of remembering the ultimate sacrifices of so many men and women.

“We are proud to partner with the incredible team at the Tragedy Assistance Survivors Program (TAPS) to provide meaningful opportunities for Gold Star families. You see these kids come in who have lost a parent, and the fact that we’re able to assist in their journey is so humbling. These kids need to know that their moms and dads are remembered and honored by all of us. Yes, it’s the right thing to do, but it’s also part of our DNA. We were formed by the military for the military. We say we know what it means to serve and we do know what it means to serve. It’s part of who we are, why we exist — to honor the great sacrifices of so many thousands of men and women who have served before us, alongside us and will continue to serve after us. Memorial Day is the most important day of the year for us. We hope you’ll join us this year by honoring through action.”

For more information about the USAA Poppy Wall, click here.

Articles

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 14 edition)

Here are the headlines you need to know about going into the weekend (whatever that is. Around WATM we call it “two working days until Monday”):


Now: 11 weapons from pop culture we could totally use right now

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS is urging its fighters to avoid Europe because of the coronavirus pandemic

ISIS has issued a travel advisory for Europe to its fighters due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, asking fighters to suspend travel to the region for terror attacks.


The latest edition of the terror group’s newsletter, Al-Naba, calls on its fighters to “stay away from the land of the epidemic,” Homeland Security Today recently reported.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

“The healthy should not enter the land of the epidemic and the afflicted should not exit from it,” the editors of the newsletter stated.

The newsletter also offered militants advice on how to avoid getting infected, including “cover the mouth when yawning and sneezing” and “wash the hands before dipping them into vessels.” There’s a full-page graphic on the back cover that cites Islamic texts for “directives to deal with epidemics.”

The terror group’s newsletter has been following the novel coronavirus pandemic closely, reporting on the spread of the virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, since the beginning of 2020.

In a February edition, ISIS said “many Muslims rushed to confirm that this epidemic is a punishment from God Almighty” for China’s oppression of the Muslim Uighur minority, but went on to warn that the “the world is interconnected” and transportation “would facilitate the transfer of diseases and epidemics.”

ISIS no longer has a self-declared caliphate, meaning it doesn’t control a large swath of territory across Iraq and Syria anymore. But it’s estimated the terror group still has as many as 20,000 fighters in the region, and a recent UN report said the group has 0 million in reserves.

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There have been confirmed cases of coronavirus in a number of countries where ISIS has fighters, including Iraq and Afghanistan. As of Tuesday afternoon, almost 196,000 people worldwide have been infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and more than 7,800 have died.

Europe has been hit especially hard by COVID-19, particularly Italy, where over 30,000 people have been infected and over 2,500 people have died as of Tuesday.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Dunford discusses military deployments to the border

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff laid out the process for military support to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security during a discussion with students in Duke University’s Program in American Grand Strategy Nov. 5, 2018.

The U.S. military has stepped out smartly to support DHS, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford said. There are now 5,200 active-duty personnel helping Customs and Border Protection on the Southwest border.

The chairman spoke of the process solely from a military perspective. The Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection agency have the mission of securing the borders. DHS officials have said that they are worried that caravans of Central American asylum-seekers pushing up from the south may overwhelm CBP personnel. DOD was tasked to provide logistical and medical support.


Capabilities

Homeland Security told DOD in writing what capabilities they needed, Dunford said. DOD officials studied the request and proposed what is being deployed now. This includes logistical support, specifically to harden points of entry.

“There are soldiers on the border putting up concertina wire and reinforcing the points of entry,” the chairman said.

DOD personnel are also helping with movement and providing trucks and helicopters. DOD is also providing some medical support.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discusses the U.S. military’s support to Customs and Border Protection with students in Duke University’s Program in American Grand Strategy in Durham, N.C., Nov. 5, 2018.

(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

“There is no plan for U.S. military forces to be involved in the actual mission of denying people entry into the United States,” Dunford said. “There is no plan for soldiers to come in contact with immigrants or reinforce the Department of Homeland Security as they are conducting their mission. We are providing enabling capabilities.”

The military is following an order from President Donald J. Trump to support the Department of Homeland Security, the chairman said.

Clear guidance

From a military standpoint, he said, he asked a number of questions. The first was, “Do we have unambiguous directions on what the soldiers … have to do?”

The answer is yes, Dunford said, and what’s more, the soldiers understand what is expected of them.

“Number 2: ‘Is this legal?’ And the answer is, yes,” Dunford said. “And three, do they have the capability, the wherewithal to perform the task we’ve asked them to accomplish?”

The service members on the border “know exactly what they are doing, they know why they are doing it and they have the proper training and equipment to do it,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Articles

Team Rubicon is on the ground in Nepal

Team Rubicon, a non-government organization made up of military veterans and first responders, rapidly deploys skilled personnel to emergency areas after disasters. After the earthquake in Nepal, Team Rubicon sent folks who have made a difference on the ground executing what they’ve called Operation Tenzing Nepal.


This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.
Photo: Team Rubicon

The team members have deployed to very remote areas, so knowing what to put in the pack-up is crucial.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.
Photo: Team Rubicon

Veterans with the appropriate skills set up medical aid stations to help those affected by the quake. After major disasters, the spread of disease can be accelerated due to contaminated water and a loss of basic services.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.
Photo: Team Rubicon

Keeping track of care can be a challenge in the chaotic, high patient volume environment that follows a disaster.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.
Photo: Team Rubicon

Many patients have multiple injuries, each of which requires treatment and follow-up. Teams stationed in a village do their best to make sure injuries don’t become worse.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.
Photo: Team Rubicon

Team Rubicon works with local and foreign governments while conducting their operations. And since many members are veterans, they are able to interact with militaries more easily than some NGOs.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.
Photo: Team Rubicon

Reconnaissance in remote areas can be challenging, especially after existing infrastructure is damaged by an earthquake. Drones allow foreign responders like Team Rubicon, as well as local forces, to respond more efficiently.

Team Rubicon is collecting donations to support of Operation Tenzing Nepal on their website. Also, military veterans or civilians with skills as first responders can volunteer with Team Rubicon for future operations. Teams serve one of 10 regional areas in the United States or deploy internationally.

MORE: This Green Beret’s heroism was so incredible that Ronald Reagan said it was hard to believe

AND: New report shows vets more civic-minded than non-vets

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia just declared the defeat of ISIS in eastern Syria

The Latest on the Syrian conflict (all times local to Beruit):


6 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says the Islamic State group in eastern Syria has suffered a “complete defeat.”

Putin, speaking on a visit to Nizhny Novgorod, said Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to him earlier December 6th that operations against the IS on both the western and eastern banks of the Euphrates River had been successfully completed.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.
Putin’s inauguration. (Kremlin image)

Putin said some isolated pockets of resistance could remain in the area.

The Russian military says it has provided air support to Kurdish forces and local tribes in the oil-rich province of Deir el-Zour in eastern Syria and helped coordinate their offensive against the IS.

Russia launched an air campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in 2015.

5:30 p.m.

Syrian activists say airstrikes have killed at least 12 civilians in an eastern Syrian village held by the Islamic State group.

Deir Ezzor 24 says Tuesday’s attack targeted the village of al-Jarthi. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 21 civilians were killed, among them 9 children. It says Russia carried out the strikes, in support of U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led forces driving to capture IS territory on the Euphrates River.

Read Also: ISIS forces now declared defeated in Iraq and Syria

The extremist group still controls patches of territory in eastern Syria, where it imposes a media blackout.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces on Sunday thanked both the U.S. and Russia for their military support, days after the U.S. announced it would stop arming the group.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Carrier Theodore Roosevelt ends deployment rocked by COVID-19 and chaos

The carrier Theodore Roosevelt arrived in San Diego on Thursday, but it’s returning without two crew members who died during the deployment and the original commanding officer.


The crew has seen a challenging six-month deployment, fraught with sickness and leadership upheavals since it deployed to the Asia-Pacific region in January. Two other ships with the carrier strike group — the destroyer Russell and guided-missile cruiser Bunker Hill — returned to California on Wednesday, officials with Third Fleet announced.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

Electronics Technician 1st Class Vincent Testagrossa, a sailor assigned to the guided-missile destroyer USS Russell, hugs his family following his return to Naval Base San Diego after a six-month deployment, July 8, 2020. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin C. Leitner)

The Roosevelt’s crew lost two sailors during the deployment. Aviation Electronics Technician Chief Petty Officer Justin Calderone, assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 146, died last week following a medical emergency. In April, Aviation Ordnanceman Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr. died of complications due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Weeks earlier, the ship’s former commanding officer, Capt. Brett Crozier, was relieved of command over his handling of an emailed warning about the carrier’s growing health crisis as COVID-19 cases began to spread rapidly. Crozier was one of the 1,273 crew members to contract the virus in the Navy’s largest outbreak to date.

Crozier’s relief was followed up with an unplanned visit from then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, who flew nearly 8,000 miles from Washington, D.C., to Guam, where the carrier was sidelined for about two months as the crew was evacuated and isolated. Modly, who had fired Crozier, slammed the captain’s decision to send an emailed warning about the coronavirus cases on the Roosevelt, calling him “too naïve or too stupid” to serve as their commanding officer.

The speech was recorded and obtained by media outlets, including Military.com. Modly faced backlash over his speech and the decision to fly across the globe to deliver it. He stepped down April 7, leaving the Navy secretary position suddenly vacant for the second time in six months.

The Roosevelt spent about one-third of its deployment docked in Guam. Much of the crew was moved into hotels and other facilities as the ship was disinfected, but the coronavirus spread rampantly among its personnel, eventually infecting about a quarter of the sailors on the ship.

The crew headed back out to sea in May. About a month later, the Navy’s top leaders revealed the findings of a new investigation into Crozier’s firing, announcing that they would uphold the decision and weigh the planned promotion of a one-star over what they called questionable decisions as COVID-19 cases began to mount.

That was after Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday recommended that Crozier be reinstated as the Roosevelt’s commanding officer. When pressed to address his reversal, Gilday said his initial recommendation was based only on a “narrowly scoped investigation” that examined Crozier’s email warning.

“I was tasked to take a look at those facts against then-Acting Secretary Modly’s justification for relieving him,” Gilday told reporters, “and I did not feel that the … facts supported the justification.”

“It is because of what he didn’t do that I have chosen not to reinstate him,” Gilday said, adding that Crozier was slow to put in place measures to keep the crew safe during the outbreak and released some members who’d been quarantined too quickly.

In June, the Roosevelt saw another crisis when an F/A-18F Super Hornet crashed into the Philippine Sea during a routine training flight. Both the pilot and weapon systems officer safely ejected and were recovered by an MH-60S helicopter.

Hundreds of members of the Roosevelt’s crew opted to participate in a study between the Navy and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looking at how coronavirus affects young people living in close quarters. The study found about a third of participants who’d tested positive for COVID-19 developed antibodies for the illness.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump just pardoned a soldier who killed an Iraqi prisoner

Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna was convicted of killing an al-Qaeda suspect in a combat zone during a 2008 deployment to Iraq. A military court sentenced the officer to 25 years in prison, though an appellate court noted his argument of self-defense. The former lieutenant was paroled in 2014, but won’t be going back to prison. On May 6, 2019, President Donald Trump signed a full pardon for the soldier.


This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

Behenna led a platoon in Iraq while working counterinsurgency operations in Salahuddin province. One day in April 2008, a convoy led by Behenna was returning to base with two captured suspects when it was hit by an IED. Two soldiers were killed, many more were wounded, and the convoy lost two vehicles. The next month, his unit received intelligence that the man responsible for that attack was named Ali Mansur Mohamed. They also learned where Mohamed lived.

The suspect’s house was immediately raided by Behenna and his men, who found an RPK heavy machine gun, Syrian passports, and a cache of ammunition. The Army took Ali Mansur Mohamed into custody and turned him over to intelligence agencies.

But the suspect was released less than two weeks later. Behenna would be in charge of returning him to his home.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

Behenna after his 2014 parole.

It was on the way back to Ali Mansur Mohamed’s home that things started to go south. Behenna and his convoy stopped outside of the town of Baiji, where Behenna, a sergeant under his command, and an Iraqi interpreter began to question Mansur. They removed his clothes, cut his handcuffs and ordered him to sit before questioning him about the April attack on the Behenna’s convoy.

After some time and questioning, Lt. Behenna finally pulled the trigger and fired the shot that killed the suspected insurgent. They covered up the corpse with a grenade. Behenna was charged with murder in July 2008. In 2010 a jury found Behenna guilty of unpremeditated murder and sentenced him to 25 years. That was later reduced to 15, of which he served fewer than five.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

The Northern Iraqi oil town would later be captured by ISIS.

But none of that matters now, as the President’s executive order of clemency is a full pardon for the onetime military officer. Behenna admitted to the killing at his trial, saying Mansur moved to try and take his sidearm from him. A government witness found Mansur’s wounds corroborated the self-defense story, but the evidence was not presented in his court-martial.

The Oklahoma native has been working as a farmhand since his release from the Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why so many in the military are getting STDs

Unfortunately, we’ve got some decidedly unsexy news for you. The number of cases of sexually transmitted diseases is on the rise across the U.S. Specifically, there’s been in increase in cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis – the later of which was on the verge of extinction just ten years ago.


Just how bad are the increases in STDs? According to the military’s Medical Surveillance Monthly Report, released September 2017, the number of syphilis cases has doubled over the course of a decade.

While there’s been an increase in cases among civilian populations, the rate of STDs is three to six times higher among the enlisted. Many military medical professionals are starting to ask themselves, “why is it that the odds of contracting an STD increase when a troop first puts on a uniform?” The reasons are many.

First, joining the military makes you part of an expanded social network. Not only are troops looped into a group that’s made up, primarily, of young adults, they’ll also be sent to bases in new cities with entirely new local populations. Couple those two additions to a troop’s existing community back home—that’s a lot of potential partners.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Oliver Arceo draws blood for a Sailor’s annual Human Immunodefificiency Virus (HIV) test at North Island Medical Clinic, Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado, Calif. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Marie A. Montez)

Second, demographics matter: almost half (44%) of troops enlisting are from the South, where gonorrhea and chlamydia are most present. Many STDs have delayed or subtle symptoms, meaning it’s easy to unwittingly bring something with you to the barracks. Now, this isn’t a dig at the south—just plain statistics.

Third, perception is key. A recent study of Navy women reveal that many believe carrying or insisting on the use of condoms makes them appear sexually promiscuous. We all remember our high-school health teachers parroting that abstinence is the only way to prevent STDs entirely, but the second best (and more reasonable) solution is to use protection. Unfortunately, there’s a stigma associated with contraceptive use, potentially contributing to the rate at which STDs are spreading.

This isn’t a new problem. As far back as WWI, the military has struggled with STD rates among the ranks, and it’s no surprise why. Being part of the military means high stress, so it only makes sense that troops seek an outlet. However, it’s still mystifying as to why the enlisted, who have free access to health care, condoms, and screenings are affected more than civilians.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.
Hello, ladies. (British Army Poster used during WWII, 1944)

We’re not going to tell you to keep it in your pants, but we do suggest you bag it up. Not just for your health, but for the health of your partners, your partners’ partners, and populations worldwide.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marine ‘Hero of Nasiriyah’ is retiring

While the saga of Private First Class Jessica Lynch, a soldier assigned to the 507th Maintenance Company who was captured by Saddam’s forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom, is well known, the incredibly heroic story of the attempt to rescue that unit isn’t. Now, the brave Marine behind that rescue attempt is retiring.

According to a report by the Marine Corps Times, Sergeant Major Justin LeHew is set to retire after 30 years of service in the Marine Corps. His most recent assignment has been with the Wounded Warrior Battalion — East, based out of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

LeHew became a legend while serving as a platoon sergeant with Company A, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, Task Force Tarawa during the initial stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom. When the chain of command learned about the dire situation the 507th Maintenance Company was in, they sent LeHew’s unit to try to rescue the soldiers.


According to his Navy Cross citation, when they arrived on the scene, LeHew helped his Marines evacuate four soldiers from the beleaguered maintenance unit. Then, an intense, three-hour-long firefight broke out. When an AAV-7 was destroyed, LeHew sprang into action.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

One of the AAV-7s destroyed in the Battle of Nasiriyah. Justin LeHew earned the Navy Cross for heroism in retrieving dead and wounded Marines from a similar vehicle.

(USMC photo by Master Sergeant Edward D. Kniery)

According to a release by the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, he made multiple 70-yard sprints to the destroyed vehicle, retrieving nine dead and wounded Marines, picking body parts out from the wreckage — all while under fire from the enemy.

He received the Navy Cross for his actions while on another deployment to Iraq with C Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. Around the time he was awarded the Navy Cross, he would again distinguish himself in combat — this time in Najaf. During a battle against insurgents, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire, helping, once again, to evacuate the wounded, including taking one Marine with a sucking chest wound straight to a forward operating base. For his actions, he received the Bronze Star with the Combat Distinguishing Device in 2005.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

After his second tour in Iraq, LeHew held a number of senior leadership positions.

(USMC photo)

Since then, LeHew has held a number of senior NCO assignments. LeHew has also an obstacle in the Crucible named in his honor. In the opinion of this writer, LeHew also makes the short list of people who deserve having a ship named after them.

Articles

PACOM commander puts China on blast over ‘preposterous’ reaction to THAAD

Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of United States Pacific Command, called Chinese criticism of the deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system “preposterous” during testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.


The blunt talk comes in the wake of reports that China has unleashed hackers against South Korean government and business interests after the South Korean decision to allow deployment of a THAAD battery. According to Defense News, a battery has six launchers, and a Missile Defense Agency fact sheet notes each launcher has eight missiles. So, this battery has 48 missiles ready for launch.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.
AiirSource Military | YouTube

While the United States has other missile-defense options to protect allies in the region like South Korea and Japan, THAAD is one of the more capable options according to ArmyRecognition.com, with a range of about 600 miles and the ability to hit targets almost 500,000 feet above ground level. The system is also highly mobile.

The MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile, which proved itself capable of intercepting ballistic missiles during Operation Desert Storm, is already operated in the region by the United States, Japan, and South Korea, according to ArmyRecognition.com. The Patriot has a range of 43.5 miles and is capable of also targeting aircraft in addition to ballistic missiles.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.
A Patriot Air and Missile Defense launcher fires an interceptor during a previous test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The latest configuration of the system, called PDB-8, has passed four flight tests and is now with the U.S. Army for a final evaluation. | Raytheon

Adm. Harris also declared support for a study into the feasibility of deploying Ground-Based Interceptors to Hawaii. This system currently is based in Alaska and California, with 30 interceptors split between Fort Greely and Vandenberg Air Force Base. The GBI has shown a success rate of almost 53 percent in tests, per the Missile Defense Agency.

A Hawaii basing option for the GBI would add another tier of defenses to that state, which along with Alaska are potentially in range of North Korean ICBMs like the Taepodong 2 and KN-08.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack

A diplomatic security agent testified Sept. 2 that after militants stormed the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, he turned to US Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was hiding in a safe room, and said, “When I die, you need to pick up my gun and keep fighting.”


Agent Scott Wickland was the government’s first witness in a trial of Ahmed Abu Khattala, a Libyan suspected of orchestrating the attack that killed the ambassador and three other Americans. Wickland took the stand and gave a harrowing account of how he tried without success to save the ambassador and Sean Patrick Smith, a State Department information management officer.

The smoke from weapons’ fire and explosions was so thick and black that it blinded the three. They dropped to the floor and crawled on their bellies, gasping for air. Wickland said he was trying to lead them to a bathroom where he could close the door and open a window.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.
Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

“I was breathing through the last centimeter of air on the ground,” Wickland said. “I’m yelling, ‘Come on. We can make it. We’re going to the bathroom.’ Within 8 meters, they disappeared.”

Wickland kept yelling for them. He was feeling around on the floor through the toxic smoke, which made the lighted room darker than night.

“To this day, I don’t even know where they went. I was right next to them, and then that’s it,” Wickland said. “I had my hand on Ambassador Stevens. I could hear Sean shuffling.”

Twelve jurors and three alternates assembled for the opening day of one of the most significant terrorism prosecutions in recent years. Abu Khattala is being tried in US District Court, a civilian court, at a time when the Trump administration has said terror suspects are better sent to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.
The United States Air Force Band plays the national anthem during the dignified transfer of the remains J. Christopher Stevens, U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans, Sept. 14, 2012, at Joint Base Andrews, Md. USAF photo by Senior Airman Perry Aston.

During Wickland’s testimony, Abu Khattala hung an arm over his chair and held his chin, covered in a long, grayish white beard. He listened through earphones to an Arabic translation of the proceedings.

The opening testimony was aimed at turning the jury against the defendant, but his name was never mentioned throughout Wickland’s nearly three hours on the stand. He is expected to retake the stand on Oct. 3.

An 18-count indictment against Abu Khattala arises from a burst of violence that began the night of Sept. 11, 2012. Stevens and Smith were killed in the first attack at the US mission. Nearly eight hours later, two more Americans, contract security officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, died in a mortar attack on a CIA complex nearby

Abu Khattala, who appeared in court wearing a white shirt and dark pants, has pleaded not guilty to his charges, including murder of an internationally protected person, providing material support to terrorists, and destroying US property while causing death.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.
Ahmed Abu Khattala after capture. Image from US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

In his opening statement, defense attorney Jeffrey Robinson called Abu Khattala a “Libyan patriot” who fought on America’s side in the war against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. He said Abu Khattala didn’t mastermind the attack. The lawyer said the defendant simply went to the attack site because he heard there was a protest and wanted to see what was happening.

“He didn’t shoot anyone. He didn’t set any fires. He did not participate in the attacks,” Robinson said.

Robinson also said Abu Khattala was a deeply religious man who believes in conservative sharia law as outlined in the Quran. He reminded jurors that in America, people are not prosecuted because of their religious beliefs.

The prosecution gave a starkly different portrayal of the defendant. Assistant US Attorney John Crabb said that when Abu Khattala’s hatred of America boiled over, he orchestrated the attacks and then triumphantly strode around the attack site carrying an AK-47.

Crabb said that later, the defendant told someone at his apartment: “I attacked the American Embassy” and would have killed more Americans that night if others had not intervened.

He said Abu Khattala “hates America with a vengeance.”

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.
The United States Air Force Band plays the national anthem during the dignified transfer of the remains J. Christopher Stevens, U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans, Sept. 14, 2012, at Joint Base Andrews, Md. USAF photo by Senior Airman Perry Aston.

“He killed Ambassador Stevens — a man of peace.”

The trial is expected to last for weeks. Crabb said the prosecution would show the jury videos of the attack site and Abu Khattala’s phone records, which he said showed a spike in activity during the attacks. He said witnesses would include weapons and fire experts and a man named Ali, who was paid $7 million to befriend Abu Khattala and help US forces capture him in Libya.

After he was captured, he was taken to a US Navy ship that transported him to the United States. During the 12-day journey, he was first interrogated by intelligence personnel and then by FBI agents. Crabb said Abu Khattala told FBI agents that America was the “root of all the world’s problems.”

His defense lawyer said Abu Khattala cooperated aboard the ship and he “continued to deny, as he denies today, any participation in planning or masterminding the attack.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why new supercarrier can land all Navy planes except for this one

The USS Gerald R. Ford, the Navy’s new supercarrier, can now land all of the service’s planes, except for its new stealth fighter.

The Advanced Arresting Gear has been given a green light to recover all propeller and jet aircraft, to include the C-2A Greyhound, E-2C Hawkeye and E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, and E/A-18G Growler, the Navy said in a statement Tuesday, noting the release of a new Aircraft Recovery Bulletin.

These aircraft can all conduct flight operations aboard the Ford.

The arresting gear is critical to the aircraft recovery process, the return of aircraft to the carrier. The Advanced Arresting Gear, one of more than 20 new technologies incorporated into the Ford-class carriers, is a system of tensioned wires that the planes snag with tailhooks, a necessary system given the shortness of the carrier’s runway. The AAG is designed to recover a number of different aircraft, as well as reduce the stress on the planes, with decreased manpower all while maintaining top safety standards.


“This achievement is another significant step toward ensuring the system can support the ship’s full air wing,” explained Capt. Ken Sterbenz, program manager for the Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment Program, in a statement.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 flies over the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).

(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)

The Navy explained that the Advanced Arresting Gear gives the USS Gerald R. Ford “the warfighting capability essential for air dominance in the 21st century.”

Missing from the list of recoverable aircraft is noticeably the F-35C, a carrier-based variant of a new fifth-generation stealth fighter designed to help the Navy confront modern threats.

“The Nimitz-class and Ford-class aircraft carriers, by design, can operate with F-35Cs,” Capt. Daniel Hernandez, a spokesperson for the Navy acquisitions chief, previously told INSIDER.

“There are,” he added, “modifications to both carrier classes that are required to fully employ the capabilities of the F-35s and enable them to be more effective on a full length deployment.”

Those modifications are expected to be completed after the carrier is delivered to the fleet, meaning that when the Navy gets its aircraft carrier, which is already behind schedule and over budget, back from the shipyard, it will not be able to deploy with the F-35C.

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

An F/A-18F Super Hornet, assigned to the “Black Lions” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 213, prepares to land on the flight deck of USS Gerald R. Ford.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan Carter)

Congress has previously expressed concerns about the inability of the new supercarriers to launch and recover the new stealth fighters, as well as the Navy’s practice of accepting unfinished carriers to skirt budget constraints.

In particular, lawmakers called attention to the Navy’s plans to not only accept the Ford without the important ability to launch and recover F-35s but to also accept the subsequent USS John F. Kennedy without this capability.

It is “unacceptable to our members that the newest carriers can’t deploy with the newest aircraft,” explained a congressional staffer in June 2019.

The Navy argues that these carriers will be able to launch and recover F-35s by the time the relevant air wing is stood up.

The Navy continues to work the kinks out of the Ford, having fixed problems with the propulsion system, the catapults, and the arresting gear, among other systems.

The biggest obstacle, however, continues to be the Advanced Weapons Elevators, systems essential for the rapid movement of bombs and missiles to the flight deck for higher aircraft sortie rates.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.