Cpl. of Horse Craig Harrison set the world record for a sniper kill twice in November of 2009 while serving in Afghanistan. Near the end of a three-hour firefight between British forces and Taliban insurgents he spotted the machine gun team that was pouring lead onto his buddies. But his distance estimate put the two fighters 900 meters outside of the effective range of his rifle.
But he didn’t give up. He figured he would have to fire 6 feet high, and 20 inches to the left of his target to account for the drop of the bullet, the estimated wind, and the spin of the earth. Even with his weapon balanced on the firm compound wall, it was a seemingly impossible task.
Harrison took the shot. He waited six seconds for the round to hit the target. It missed. He saw the enemy react, trying to figure out where the shot came from. He fired again. This time the bullet found its mark. The gunner slumped over his weapon, dead. Harrison lined up on the other insurgent and squeezed the trigger.
Again, he watched for six seconds only to see the third shot miss and again he steadied himself and took aim. The fourth shot downed the second enemy fighter.
An Apache later used its lasers to measure the distance between the two spots and calculated it at 2,475 meters, just over 1.5 miles. The two longest sniper kills in recorded history belonged to Harrison.
Harrison later revealed his unique training regimen: “Each night I got my DVD player, put it at the end of the corridor and watched a film while lying in a firing position behind my rifle,” he told The Daily Mail. “Once I had mastered the stillness, I started balancing a ten pence piece on the end of the barrel, just to really hold myself to account.”
Also known as “Washington’s Birthday,” Feb. 16 is now known as a federal holiday to honor all U.S. presidents. Military service is not a prerequisite to be President of the United States, but plenty had it on their resume when they took the oath of office.
We took a look back at four ex-commanders-in-chief throughout history and found the ones with the craziest war stories. Here they are.
President George Washington secretly planned an icy river crossing on Christmas day before surprise attacking enemy forces.
It was the winter of 1776 and then-Gen. George Washington and his Continental Army — low on morale after a series of defeats at the hands of the British — desperately needed a victory to prove their revolution would not be short-lived.
On Dec. 26, 1776, they got it. After secretly crossing the Delaware River the previous night with approximately 2,400 troops, Washington pulled off a daring raid on Hessian mercenaries in Trenton, N.J.
The freezing and tired Continental Army assembled on the Jersey shore without any major debacles. Once ready, Washington led his army on the road to Trenton. It was there that he secured the Continental Army’s first major military victory of the war. Without the determination, resiliency, and leadership exhibited by Washington while crossing the Delaware River the victory at Trenton would not have been possible.
He kept the operation completely secret — even from his own men — and eventually captured nearly 1,000 Hessian fighters, at the cost of just four of his own men, according to The History Channel.
With just four or five men, Teddy Roosevelt led a daring charge up a heavily-defended hillside.
Teddy Roosevelt was serving as the assistant secretary of the Navy at the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, but he resigned his position to get himself out from behind a desk and into the fight. He organized and led a diverse mix of western cowboys, Native Americans, blacks, and easterners into the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry — better known as the “Rough Riders” — that later took Cuba’s San Juan Hill on July 1, 1898 from 500 Spanish defenders who had held off previous attacks throughout the day, according to The History Channel.
Mr. Roosevelt later said that the “charge itself was great fun” and “we had a bully fight.” He was nominated for a Medal of Honor, though he did not receive it during his lifetime. The battle buoyed his political career, as he won the governorship of New York in 1899, was elected vice president in 1900 and became president in 1901 following the assassination of President William McKinley.
Although his nomination for the Medal of Honor was rejected at the time (The American Legion’s Burn Pit has an interesting look at the reasons why), Roosevelt finally received his recognition on Jan. 16, 2001 from President Bill Clinton. Roosevelt remains the only president to receive the nation’s highest award.
“Facing the enemy’s heavy fire, he displayed extraordinary bravery throughout the charge, and was the first to reach the enemy trenches, where he quickly killed one of the enemy with his pistol, allowing his men to continue the assault,” his citation reads. “His leadership and valor turned the tide in the Battle for San Juan Hill.”
After his small patrol boat was sliced in half by a Japanese destroyer, John F. Kennedy saved the lives of his men and survived in enemy territory.
As a Navy lieutenant in charge of a patrol torpedo boat in the Solomon Islands, John F. Kennedy and his men were tasked with engaging and (hopefully) damaging Japanese destroyers that were supplying enemy troops. On the moonless night of Aug. 1, 1943 however, it was Kennedy’s PT-109 that was damaged — or more specifically — it was sliced in half.
The destroyer, later identified as the Amagiri, struck PT-109 just forward of the forward starboard torpedo tube, ripping away the starboard aft side of the boat. The impact tossed Kennedy around the cockpit. Most of the crew were knocked into the water. The one man below decks, engineer Patrick McMahon, miraculously escaped, although he was badly burned by exploding fuel.
After he personally recovered some of his men and helped them to a nearby island — including towing a wounded sailor using a life-vest strap clenched in his teeth — Kennedy would later swim out from shore and to other nearby islands to look for food, fresh water, and American patrols.
They finally reached Cross Island (which was thought to be Nauru Island) and met up with some natives who agreed to pass a message along for them. On a coconut shell, Kennedy carved out: “Nauro Isl. Commander. Native knows posit. He can pilot. 11 alive need small boat. Kennedy.”
Kennedy received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for the incident, along with the Purple Heart for the injuries he sustained, according to the JFK Library. He later tried to downplay his role in the incident, as his chance for heroism “was involuntary,” he quipped, according to The Smithsonian. “They sank my boat.”
After getting hit by anti-aircraft fire that set his plane’s engine on fire, George H.W. Bush still finished his bombing mission and then bailed out in the Pacific.
On Sep. 2, 1944, then-Lt. George H.W. Bush and his squadron was conducting a bombing mission on a Japanese installation on the island of Chichi Jima when they were attacked by anti-aircraft fire. The 20-year-old Bush, piloting a Grumman TBM Avenger, continued with the mission despite the damage to his aircraft.
With him on the mission were two men — Radioman 2nd Class John Delaney and Lt. Junior Grade William White. Their aircraft was struck by intense anti-aircraft fire on the mission. With the cockpit filling with smoke and with Bush expecting the plane to explode at any minute, he completed his bombing run, flew as far as he could over the water, instructed the two men to bail out, and then parachuted out of the aircraft.
After ditching his aircraft, Bush survived for roughly four hours in a life raft before he was picked up by a Navy submarine, according to The History Channel. The only one rescued on that day, the future president would later receive the Distinguished Flying Cross for his bravery. The rest of his squadron however, suffered a gruesome fate at the hands of the Japanese, as James Bradley uncovered in his book “Flyboys.”
Everyone loves a good deal, and military veterans are no different. Plus, cable is expensive these days. So for veterans and the military, Comcast offers a $100 prepaid card back to its vet customers, along with a $25 Xfinity coupon. For a lot of companies, the discount would be as far as it needed to go. But the love Comcast has for vets is real – after all, the company was founded by a World War II-era Navy veteran.
Navy veteran and Comcast founder Ralph J. Roberts.
In the early 1960s, Navy vet Ralph J. Roberts purchased a Mississippi-based 1,200-subscriber cable company with his two business partners. The World War II veteran had come a long way from selling golf clubs and suspenders. He first became interested in the proliferation of TV broadcasting after using the proceeds of his suspenders business to buy over-the-air TV antennas which broadcast television to rural areas. Roberts eventually grew what started as a half-million-dollar investment into America’s largest cable company, Comcast.
These days, Comcast still remembers its founder’s Navy roots. The company is actively working to provide internet access to low-income veterans, hire a record number of veterans and their spouses in all areas of its operations, and support veteran-related initiatives in many, many areas.
In 2015, Comcast vowed to hire 21,000 members of the military-veteran community by 2021. This includes the spouses of servicemembers and veterans of all eras, not just the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their dedication extends to members of the reserve and the National Guard, who, as Comcast employees, get more benefits when activated than what the laws of the United States demand. Comcast, while acknowledging it can’t hire every veteran, also helps other companies to hire more – by teaching them how to hire more vets.
The cable provider funds the Veterans at Work Certificate Program, a certification program for human resources professionals that teaches hiring managers why veterans make better employees and instructs them on how to find vets that fit their needs, all at no cost.
To further help veterans find work, Comcast has invested in bridging a digital divide by provide low-income veteran households with high-speed internet access, along with providing more than 100,000 home computers, and providing digital skills training to ensure their beneficiaries can properly utilize both. Since 2011, more than eight million people have benefitted from the generosity of Comcast’s Internet Essentials program and a further 9.5 million people have been reached through Comcast’s literacy training efforts.
But Comcast doesn’t stop there. While Comcast works in the world of digital internet and television, there are many, many areas where it doesn’t have a beachhead. To serve those areas, the company provides funding for special, military-related nonprofits to reach it for them. Since 2001, Comcast has given million in cash and in-kind donations to more than 265 veterans organizations whose missions are essential to the wellbeing and increased livelihoods of the military-veteran community.
The Military Influencer Conference brings veteran-oriented organizations together.
One of those organizations is the Military Influencer Conference, an annual event that brings together important and emerging entrepreneurs, influencers, creatives, executives, and leaders who are connected to the military community. the three-day conference focuses on delivering actionable insights from the stories of others and fostering an environment where people of diverse backgrounds and skill sets are motivated to forge legitimate relationships through conversation that lead to powerful collaborations.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has spent more than 40 years in the study and practice of war, but his extensive thoughts and writings on the subject have often been selectively reduced to chesty one-liners.
There’s the admonition to the troops, “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”
And another, “There’s some a——s in the world that just need to be shot.”
Other examples of bumper-sticker bravado could be cited that tend to drown out the context and Mattis’ consistent underlying message in a career as Marine legend and four-star general — that being prepared for war is the best way to prevent it.
Mattis, in the past week, has been attempting to provide more context in three informal sessions with Pentagon reporters that he acknowledges undertaking at the suggestion of The Associated Press’ senior defense correspondent, Bob Burns.
It’s just him in the middle of a reporters’ huddle. His aides stand aside but within earshot. He is unfailingly polite and direct in his responses to any topic that comes up, with the exception of those that he feels would give a clue to future operations.
Only once has he snapped at a question. Mattis took a question on civilian casualties in Yemen as suggesting that the U.S. didn’t care about the casualties. “Don’t screw with me,” he said.
At the session with reporters Jan. 5, Mattis took questions on Pakistan, Syria, Korea, Iran, Russia, transgender recruits, and the budget and, in the process, made a statement that could be added to his lexicon of one-liners.
“What counts most in war is [the] most difficult to count,” he said in expanding on his thoughts about civil war in Syria in response to a question about whether progress could be gauged by the number of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters killed.
Another reporter interjected that Mattis had recently said in Tel Aviv, “I’ve got better things to do than counting while the fight’s still going on.”
Mattis went on to say, “Yes, we’re not going to get into that sort of thing. You’ll know probably the most challenging part in assessing in combat — to include specifically your question — is that what counts most in war is most difficult to count, to quantify, OK?”
The most difficult thing to quantify is the enemy’s morale, Mattis said, but there are “lagging indicators” that would show that constant pressure is having an effect.
“Morale, eventually, you’ll see a lagging indicator,” he said. “You’ll see that not as many people want to be recruited into a force that’s getting annihilated — witness Syria.”
“You won’t see as many foreigners coming to join witness this. So, you can kind of look at what’s happened in Syria and say, ‘Wait a minute. They’re not putting out squads to go blow off bombs in Brussels anymore.’ They can’t. You know, this sort of thing,” Mattis said.
The problem is that “not always can you quantify where you’re at, at any one moment,” he said, but in the case of ISIS “we’ll fight them” until the threat is eliminated.
Mattis also spoke on tyranny and revolution in commenting on the recent street protests in Iran against the Islamic regime.
“You know, it’s interesting. You know, I enjoy reading history, just because I learn a lot from it. And, if you watch, when people confront tyranny — and this goes back 1,000-2,000 years — people, eventually, they get fed up with it,” he said.
“And whether it be physical tyranny or mental tyranny or spiritual tyranny, they revolt against it,” Mattis said.
“So we may come from different directions,” he said of Iranian and American judgments on the regime in Tehran, “but ultimately, it’s the same kind of tyranny.”
“In their case, it’s about their internal government, what it does to them. In our case, it’s that, plus it’s what that government has done to espouse or support terrorism, destabilizing activities, export of ballistic missiles, disruption of commerce. All these kinds of things,” he said.
Mattis declined to speculate on what may come next, and what the U.S. response would be.
“There’s a reason I have four-stars out in the field,” he said of the combatant commanders.
Nuclear weapons are the ultimate weapons of war and therefore the ultimate weapons to prevent and avoid war.
This two-axis struggle is captured in competing treaties for setting global nuclear norms and policy directions. This also reflects the mantra of realism — amended to include the importance of good governance in the modern world — that international politics consists of the struggle for ascendancy of competing normative architectures. Military muscle, economic weight, and geopolitical clout stand arrayed against values, principles, and norms.
For almost half a century, the normative anchor of the global nuclear order has been the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). On July 7, 2017 122 states voted to adopt a new Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty (or ban treaty). This new treaty was opened for signature in the UN General Assembly on Sept. 20 and so far four countries have ratified and another 49 have signed. The ban treaty will come into effect 90 days after ratification by 50 states.
As John Carlson, among others, has argued, the ban treaty has its technical flaws and even its advocates concede it will have no operational impact as all nuclear weapon possessing states have stayed away. Yet this treaty inspired by humanitarian principles is historic on five counts.
5. It is the first treaty to ban the possession, transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons.
This completes the legally binding prohibition of all three classes of weapons of mass destruction, after biological and chemical weapons were banned by universal conventions in 1972 and 1993 respectively. Like the NPT, the ban treaty is legally binding only on signatories. Unlike the new treaty, which applies equally to all signatories, the NPT granted temporary exemptions for the continued possession of nuclear weapons by the five nuclear weapon states that already had them in 1968, but banned proliferation to anyone else.
4. The ban treaty’s adoption marks the first divergence between the UN and the NPT that hitherto have had a mutually reinforcing relationship.
The NPT has its origins in several resolutions adopted in the General Assembly. Instances of non-compliance with binding NPT obligations require enforcement measures by the UN Security Council. But while almost two-thirds of NPT parties voted to adopt the ban, a strong one-third minority, including the five permanent members of the Security Council (P5) — who coincidentally are the five nuclear weapons states — rejected the new treaty.
3. This is the first occasion in which states on the periphery of the international system have adopted a humanitarian law treaty aimed at imposing global normative standards on the major powers.
The major principles of international, humanitarian and human rights laws have their origins in the great powers of the European international order that was progressively internationalised. Ban treaty supporters include the overwhelming majority of states from the global South and some from the global North (Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, Switzerland). The treaty’s opponents include all nine nuclear weapons possessing states (the five nuclear weapons states, plus India, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan), all NATO allies, and Australia, Japan and South Korea. Thus for the first time in history, the major powers and most Western countries find themselves the objects of an international humanitarian treaty authored by the rest who have framed the challenge, set the agenda and taken control of the narrative.
2. This is the first time that the like-minded liberal internationalist states find themselves in the dissident minority in opposing a cause championed by the Nobel Peace Committee.
Between 1901 and 1945, three-quarters of the prizes were awarded to those who promoted interstate peace and disarmament. Since 1945 social and political causes have attracted the prize as well and in the last decade a majority of laureates have been activists and advocates for human development and social justice. The Nobel Peace Prize has increasingly functioned as the social conscience of liberal internationalism.
The disconnect between an internationalized social conscience and a national interest-centric security policy is especially acute for Norway, host of the first humanitarian consequences conference in 2013 and part of the negotiation that led to the ban treaty. While other Nobel prizes are determined by the Swedish Academy, the Peace Prize is awarded by a Norwegian committee. On December 10 Norway faced visual embarrassment when the glittering Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo recognized a treaty it opposed and honored a non-government organisation — the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) — to which it cut funding after the election of a conservative government in October 2013.
1. This is the first occasion in the UN system when the General Assembly, where all 193 Member States have one vote, has asserted itself against the permanent five.
Previously the Assembly has occasionally acted in the face of a deadlock in the 15-member Security Council.
The ban treaty embodies the collective moral revulsion of the international community. Because the nuclear-armed states boycotted the ban conference and refuse to sign the treaty, it will have no immediate operational effect. But because it is a UN treaty adopted by a duly constituted multilateral conference, it will have normative force. (My recently published article in The Washington Quarterly that highlights the normative force of the ban treaty can be found here.)
The ban treaty will reshape how the world community thinks about and acts in relation to nuclear weapons as well as those who possess the bomb. It strengthens the norms of non-proliferation and those against nuclear testing, reaffirms the disarmament norm, rejects the nuclear deterrence norm, and articulates a new universal norm against possession.
Critics allege that another landmark agreement in history was the war-renouncing Kellogg–Briand Pact of 1928 that proved utterly ineffectual. True, but there is one critical difference. That pact was entirely voluntary, whereas the ban treaty is legally binding — that is the whole point of the treaty. Once in force, it will become the new institutional reality, part of the legal architecture for disarmament.
The months following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, would forever shape the way the military does business.
In an effort to provide some sense of comfort to the families of those who perished that September day, the US Army Human Resources Command established the Joint Personal Effects Depot at present day Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, in Arlington, Virginia.
Its close proximity to the Pentagon made Arlington the perfect area to account for and process personal items of fallen warriors, return them to the families, and help provide closure.
But as America’s resolve strengthened, the young men and women of this country took up arms to defend the freedoms of its citizens against an unconventional new enemy in a war against terror thousands of miles away.
With the possibility of a rising number of casualties stemming from this new war, America’s military was faced with a new challenge — how to care for its fallen?
As the war on terror intensified, the need for an expanded personal effects facility soon became evident and the JPED was relocated from Arlington to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
Working out of old and sometimes dilapidated World War II era warehouses, workers at the JPED ran an assembly line operation without heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer until 2005, when the decision was made to consolidate the Joint Personal Effects Depot, along with the services’ mortuary, to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
“I was assigned to the depot in Aberdeen as a mortuary affairs specialist with the Army Reserve and I can say it was less than ideal conditions to work in,” said Nelson Delgado, JPED operations management specialist and retired Army Reserve master sergeant.
“Back then, everything was moved from station to station,” he said. “It was cramped and there was too much room for mistakes. One day, General Schoomaker (retired Gen. Peter Schoomaker, 35th Chief of Staff of the US Army) showed up and asked us what we needed.
“That’s how we got to Dover.”
In March 2011, construction of the current 58,000 square-foot state-of-the art facility was finally completed by the Philadelphia District Corps of Engineers at a cost of $17.5 million. A few months later in May, the first personal effects processed there.
Staffed by a mix of active and Reserve component Soldiers, Airmen, and Marines, as well as a handful of Department of the Army Civilians and contractors, the JPED, along with the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations facility provides dignity, honor, and respect for the families left behind.
When Soldiers make the ultimate sacrifice in theater, their personal effects are inventoried, packed, and rushed to the JPED, usually within five days.
“If it comes through the front door, it has to be accounted for by us and sent to the family,” said Delgado. “We don’t throw anything away.”
“Sometimes, what might seem insignificant to you and me may, in fact, be very important to the families. We’ve actually had instances where families have called back asking for something like a gum wrapper that was given to the service member by a child,” he said.
As items arrive at the depot, they are carefully x-rayed and screened for unexploded ordnance in a blast-proof corridor before they are ever brought into the main facility.
From there, items are brought into an individual cage where they are inventoried and packed for shipment to the service member’s primary next of kin.
“All the preparations are done, from start to finish, in one single room,” Delgado said.
“We ensure there are two Soldiers present in the cage at all times in addition to a summary court martial officer. This gives us a system of checks and balances and also reduces the risk of cross contamination of items,” he added.
Each cage is equipped with photographic equipment, washers and dryers, and cleaning materials. As items are inventoried, they are carefully inspected and then individually photographed. Soldiers go through great pains to ensure each item is soil-free and presentable for the family members.
“We want to make sure everything that the individual service member had with them in theater is returned to the family,” Delgado said. “What we don’t want to do is make a difficult situation worse.”
“If an item is soiled or bloodstained, we will stay here as long as it takes to get it clean so it can be returned. Besides memories, this is all the families have of their loved ones,” he said.
After items are cleaned and inventoried, they are carefully packaged into individual plastic foot-lockers.
Each item is pressed and folded. They are placed neatly in the containers, and wrapped tightly with several layers of packaging paper and bubble wrap. Smaller items, such as rings, watches or identification tags, are placed into small decorative pouches, inscribed with the service member’s individual branch of service.
Items such as Bibles, flags, or family photos are placed at the top of the first box, so that they are the first things the families see upon opening it.
“We emphasize box one, because that is usually the box the families will open first. But that doesn’t mean we neglect box two, or box six, or even box 10,” Delgado said. “We treat each box the same way because we really want the families to know we care about their loved one.”
“That’s why we take our time and make sure items are neat and presentable, not just stuff thrown in a box.”
After the items are finally packaged and sent to the transit room, Soldiers scour the cage one last time and sweep the floor before exiting. Great attention to detail is given to make sure everything is accounted for and nothing is overlooked.
Soldiers at the JPED are meticulously screened for duty fitness by HRC’s Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Division before they are ever assigned there.
Assignments at the JPED can be emotionally taxing on the Soldiers working there.
Soldiers regularly attend resiliency training to help them cope with the tasks they are asked to perform. The JPED chaplain is as much there for them as he or she is for the grieving families attending dignified transfers.
“This is a job that not a lot of people want, or can do, but at the same time, this can be the most rewarding job you will ever do,” Delgado said.
“Taking care of the personal effects is the last part of the process. This is what helps bring some sense of closure to the families. The families don’t see what goes on here, but we get to know the service members and their loved ones by working here. We develop a closeness and connection with them,” he added.
For Delgado and others working at the JPED, that connection sometimes hits close to home.
“Sometimes you see kids as young as 19 years of age coming through here,” he said. “I have a 19-year-old kid at home. Sometimes it hits a little too close to home. I don’t know anyone working here that hasn’t cried at one time or another.
“I spent 23 of my 25-year Army Reserve career as mortuary affairs and I was blessed to get assigned to the JPED. This is our way of giving back to the families of the fallen. It’s an honor to do this.”
Vining’s full list of military accolades, including his DD-214, career timeline, and pictures of him serving, are included in his Together We Served profile.
Most noticeably, Vining was a 1st SFOD-D — Delta Force — operator during his three decade Army career. Under the “Reflections on SGM Vining’s US Army Service” section he comments about his decision to join Delta Force:
In 1978, I decided I wanted something more challenging, so I volunteered to join a new unit that was forming up at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. They wanted people with an EOD background. The unit was 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta (Airborne). I spent the next 21 years in Delta and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), except for a year in a EOD unit in Alaska. In 1988, I transferred from EOD to Infantry. I figured I stood a better chance making Sergeant Major in Infantry, which worked out for me.
Like most who served, he also had unforgettable buddies. When asked to recount a particular incident from his service that may or may not have been funny at the time — but still makes him laugh — he said:
It would be SFC Donald L. “Don” Briere. At times he reminded me of the cartoon character Wiley Coyote. We were in New Zealand in 1980 on a joint-country special operations exercise. We were on a recon mission to scout out a target site. It was just Don and I on the recon team. We had a tall steep muddy embankment that we needed to negotiate. I looked at it and thought, no way. Don thought we could do it. As he moved across it, you could see his hands and feet sliding down. He clawed up and slid down some more. Finally he slid all the way down the slope into the water. I was rolling with laughter and said, “You want me to follow you?” I found another way around the obstacle.
Vining continues to be involved with the military and veteran community, he’s a member of several organizations, including the VFW, National EOD Association, and others, according to his profile.
After exploring his incredible career, Vining is someone we’d definitely love to have a drink with.
Narrator: Kim Jong Un has been the supreme leader of North Korea since December 2011, but despite how often Kim makes the news, you probably don’t know that much about him. Since its founding in 1948, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s totalitarian government has heavily restricted the information that comes in and out of the country.
However, Kim’s life is not a complete mystery. We know most of Kim’s childhood was spent hidden from the public eye in Switzerland. He’s a fan of former NBA player Dennis Rodman, married to one of North Korea’s cheerleaders, and calls his relationship with US President Donald Trump “special.” Here’s everything we know about Kim’s mysterious life and family.
Kim Jong Un is believed to have been born in the early 1980s to Kim Jong Il and Ko Yong Hui. His birth year remains unconfirmed by the North Korean government, which is a contrast to how his father and grandfather’s birthdays are celebrated as national holidays. Kim first lived with his mother in the capital city of Pyongyang with the other North Korean elite, but later, Kim was sent to live in Switzerland. Even though the Kim regime doesn’t allow North Korean citizens to leave the country, or even travel within North Korea without permission, members of its own family have enjoyed luxurious lives abroad.
In Bern, Switzerland, the family lived in apartments purchased by the North Korean government for roughly million. The Kim family’s photo album shows Kim Jong Un doing everything from visiting Disneyland Paris to skiing in the Swiss Alps, and when he wasn’t jet-setting around Europe, the future North Korean leader attended the International School of Berne, a private English-language school that costs more than ,000 a year. Known to his classmates as Pac Un, Kim Jong Un was reportedly obsessed with basketball. In Bern, Kim seemed to wear only Adidas tracksuits and Nike sneakers.
Kim’s time in Switzerland ended in 2001, when his father ordered his return to North Korea. Once he was back, Kim started attending Kim Il Sung Military University with his older brother Kim Jong Chol. Although his father, Kim Jong Il, hadn’t formally declared an heir, Kim Jong Un was widely seen as his successor. Kim Jong Il reportedly thought that his second-oldest son, Kim Jong Chol, was “effeminate” and weak. Meanwhile, his oldest son and Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, found life in North Korea oppressive.
Kim Jong Un was quickly promoted up the political and military ladder, despite lacking major military experience. The BBC reported that he was made a four-star general, deputy chairman of the power-wielding Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party, and a member of the policy-making Central Committee. In 2011, after the death of his father, Kim Jong Un became the third-generation supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
In 2012, North Korean media announced that Kim had married a woman named Ri Sol Ju. Not much is known about Ri, other than that she’s a former cheerleader and singer in North Korea’s famous “Army of Beauties.” They are believed to have three children, though their ages and gender have been kept a secret.
During the early years of Kim’s reign, it was believed that his aunt and uncle were the real decision makers. His aunt Kim Kyong Hui and her husband, Jang Song Thaek, were trusted advisers who had served on various government committees for years. However, in 2013, Kim ordered the execution of his uncle and his uncle’s inner circle. Kim’s rocky start as supreme leader continued as he pushed for North Korea to increase its nuclear arms program in 2013. In just six years, Kim Jong Un had conducted more nuclear tests than both his father and his grandfather combined.
Then, in February 2017, international condemnation towards North Korea increased when Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, was attacked at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia and later died en route to the hospital. South Korean and US officials speculated that Kim Jong Un ordered the assassination of his half-brother, and Kim Jong Nam’s death only served to heighten the world’s suspicion of North Korea’s leadership.
Donald Trump: I say to the North, do not underestimate us, and do not try us.
Narrator: Over in the US, after taking office, President Trump broke the previous administration’s “strategic patience” approach towards North Korea and demanded immediate denuclearization. Kim Jong Un responded by trying to test a nuclear missile at the same time Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to be visiting South Korea. North Korea continued testing nuclear weapons, while Trump took to Twitter to taunt Kim. Kim responded with his own insults, and as the two leaders continued sniping at each other, odds of war between the two countries seemed to increase. But then 2018 changed everything.
That March, Kim Jong Un made a secret trip to Beijing, his first known trip outside North Korea since coming into power. Just one month later, Kim made history when he met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, becoming the first North Korean leader to set foot in South Korea in 65 years. Later that summer, Kim met with Trump in Singapore. It was the first meeting between a North Korean leader and a sitting US president. Kim went on to call his relationship with Trump “special.”
As of April 2020, it appears Kim’s health may be less than optimal, and rumors are circulating that he may have had surgery. Kim wasn’t seen at his grandfather’s birthday celebration on April 15, which is abnormal, considering it’s North Korea’s most important holiday. There’s no way to know for sure why Kim hasn’t been seen, but there are reasons to believe it’s health-related. Back in 2008, his father wasn’t seen at an important parade. It was later revealed that his father had had a stroke, so it wouldn’t be the first time a North Korean leader missed an important event due to health concerns.
Kim’s been reported to have health issues as early as 2014, when he disappeared from public view for 40 days. He returned limping and using a cane to walk. However, Kim could just be staying away from the public to protect himself from COVID-19, even though North Korea’s been saying it has zero confirmed cases of the virus in the country, something public health experts find hard to believe.
Regardless of the reason why Kim has been MIA, the mystery around his health has brought other questions to the forefront, like who will succeed him? His kids are too young, his brother seems unlikely, and though his sister, Kim Yo Jong, holds a political title, there has never been a female leader of North Korea, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
There’s also the critical question of what could happen to North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. The US has previously made offers to help rebuild North Korea’s weak economy if its government hands over its nuclear weapons, but we’ll have to wait to find out if North Korea will take the US up on its offer.
Working dogs are an integral part of modern military life, but dogs have been accompanying humans into combat since before recorded history. Alexander the Great’s dog, Peritas, took down a charging elephant. An unnamed Newfoundland rescued Napoleon during his escape from exile on the Isle of Elba. The Dog of Robert the Bruce (yes that Robert the Bruce) defended the Scottish King from English troops.
Here are five more pups whose bravery is awe-inspiring:
The war dog of war dogs, this American Pit Bull Terrier was found as a stray on the Yale campus in 1917 and smuggled to France during World War I by his adoptive owner, Cpl. John Robert Conroy. Stubby served with the 102nd Infantry Regiment in the trenches in France for 18 months and participated in 17 battles. He used his keen senses to warn his unit of poison-gas attacks, incoming artillery fire, and to locate downed soldiers on the battlefield. He was promoted to sergeant – the highest rank achieved by a military animal at that time – after sniffing out a German spy in the trenches. Sgt. Stubby was wounded in the foreleg by retreating Germans throwing hand grenades, and was also injured in Mustard Gas attacks. Because of that he was issued his own, specially designed, gas mask. His handler smuggled him home after the war. Soon after, he met Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Warren G. Harding. In 1921, General John J. Pershing presented a gold medal from the Humane Education Society to Stubby. Stubby died in 1926.
Chips was a Collie–German Shepherd–Siberian Husky mix whose owner donated him for duty during World War II. He was trained as a sentry dog and deployed with the 3rd Infantry Division in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany. Later that year, during the invasion of Sicily, Chips and his handler were pinned down on the beach by an Italian machine-gun team. Chips broke from his handler and jumped into the pillbox, attacking the gunners, which caused them to surrender. In the fight he sustained a scalp wound and powder burns. Later that day, he helped take 10 Italians prisoner. Chips was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, and Silver Star for his actions, but unfortunately, the commendations were revoked as military policy at the time didn’t allow such recognition for animals. Chips was discharged in 1945 and returned to his original family, who in turn gave Chips to his military handler, Pvt. John P. Rowell.
Kaiser was a German Shepherd and one of 4,000 dogs who served in the Vietnam War. His handler was Marine Lance Cpl. Alfredo Salazar. Kaiser and Salazar did more than 30 combat patrols and participated in twelve major operations together. After they joined “D” Company for a search-and-destroy mission, they were ambushed by the Viet Cong while on patrol in 1966. Kaiser was hit in the initial contact and died while trying to lick Salazar’s hand. Kaiser was the first war dog killed in action during Vietnam.
On December 4, 1966, Nemo and Airman 2nd Class Bob Thorneburg were on patrol near an airbase in Vietnam when they suddenly came under concentrated enemy fire. Nemo took a round to his eye while Throneburg was shot in the shoulder after killing two Viet Cong guerillas. Nemo viciously jumped at the enemy, giving Throneburg time to call in reinforcements. After Throneburg fell unconscious, Nemo crawled on top of his body to protect him. The dog didn’t let anyone touch his handler, and it a veterinarian had to sedate Nemo so medics could attend to Thorneburg. Both survived, and Nemo lived until 1972.
The unlikely hero at four pounds and seven inches long, the Yorkshire Terrier was initially found in February 1944 after being abandoned in a foxhole in New Guinea. The dog was purchased by Corporal William A. Wynne of Cleveland, Ohio, who backpacked with Smoky all over the Pacific Campaign, both living on a diet of C-rations and spam. Smoky was a trooper, even running on coral ground for months, without developing health issues. Smoky Served in the South Pacific with the 5th Air Force, 26th Photo Recon Squadron and flew 12 rescue and photo reconnaissance missions. Smoky was credited with twelve combat missions and awarded eight battle stars.She survived 150 air raids on New Guinea and made it through a typhoon at Okinawa.Smoky even parachuted from 30 feet in the air, out of a tree, using a parachute made just for her. Wynne credited Smoky with saving his life by warning him of incoming shells on an LST, calling her an “angel from a foxhole.” On the Philippine Island of Luzon, she pulled a telegraph wire through a narrow 70-foot pipe, saving construction time and keeping workers and engineers safe from enemy fire. She died in 1957 at the age of 14.
Forget Texas and Oklahoma, Alabama’s internal division, or even the rivalry between the Army and the Navy academies. There’s only one state rivalry that ever erupted into armed conflict: the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry.
The reason? Toledo.
Admittedly, the war wasn’t over football. But after the 2016 Ohio State-Michigan game, the casual observer might believe that it was.
The spike in tensions was about not just the city of Toledo, but the entire area covered by a portion known as the Toledo Strip. In 1835, Michigan wanted to become a state but it had to settle ownership of Toledo first.
It may not be the city it once was (and the video below acknowledges that) but the strategic importance of the city meant control of the Lake Erie coastline and complete control of the Maumee River, a critical trade and transportation hub.
The Toledo War (as it came to be called) sparked more than just a long-lasting rivalry. Ohio’s importance as a swing state for Andrew Jackson’s Democrats led to political corruption that put the Toledo area in Ohio’s borders, even though Michigan was (technically) right.
At this point, it’s important to tell the reader that this author and the narrator of the video below are both Ohioans.
The “war” did turn into armed conflict, firing a total of 50 bullets and injuring one militiaman in the leg. And Jackson removed the governor of Michigan. At the time Michigan was a U.S. territory, so its governor was a Presidential appointee, which is how Jackson was able to sack him.
But while Ohio won the war for Toledo, Michigan gained its statehood AND its resource-rich upper peninsula as an extra point.
The record remained 1-1 for another 60 years when the states began to settle their scores through college football.
The idea that the American moon landings were nothing but an elaborate government hoax sits somewhere between Elvis faking his own death and FDR knowing the Japanese were about to attack Pearl Harbor.
Only wing nuts need apply.
Still die hards like Bart Sibrel think the moon landings were staged — all of them — and he’s produced four feature-length films to prove his theory. But while Sibrel has no problem telling his handful of followers over the airwaves that America never took “one giant leap,” he’d better think twice before telling one of the astronauts who actually did that it’s a fake.
After a talk at the Smithsonian Institute in 2002, Sibrel got in the face of retired astronaut, former Air Force command pilot and all-around American hero Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. That turned out to be a bad day for the conspiracy theorist because retired Cold Warriors don’t put up with that tin foil hat warble.
Sibrel chased down the retired astronaut to demand that Aldrin swear on a Bible that he landed on the moon. When the 72-year-old Aldrin tried gracefully to ignore the huckster, Sibrel turned up the heat and said some things he shouldn’t have. That’s when the eagle landed a right hook.
Since being paralyzed almost three decades ago, Dean Juntunen has competed in more than 90 wheelchair marathons, continued snowmobiling and four-wheeling, and taken up kayaking.
Now, Juntunen is taking another significant step. And then another step. And then another.
“Just standing talking to you is interesting,” Juntunen said. “I had not gone from a sitting position to a standing position in 27 years. I got injured in ’91, so just standing is fun. I like just standing up and moving around.”
About 160 veterans are participating in the program at 15 VA Centers across the country. After completing a series of rigorous training sessions, veterans in this study will take the exoskeleton home for use in everyday life.
Juntunen executes a challenging 180-pivot with the aid of VA trainers Cheryl Lasselle (left) and Zach Hodgson.
Participants must meet certain criteria, including bone density. Users should be between about 5-foot-3 and 6-foot-3 and cannot weigh more than 220 pounds.
“Most paralyzed people, if not all, lose bone density,” Juntunen said. “So, you have to pass a bone density scan to qualify for this program. I happen to have unusually good bone density and I’ve been paralyzed for 27 years.”
Juntunen was on active duty when he was injured in between assignments from Malmstrom AFB in Great Falls, Montana, to Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, when his life changed.
Fell 30 feet, broke spinal cord in two places
An avid hiker and outdoorsman, Juntunen’s life changed when a tree branch gave way and he fell 30 feet to the ground.
“I landed on my back in a fetal position,” said Juntunen, who lives near Mass City in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. “Spine folded in half, broke five vertebrae, wrecked my spinal cord in two spots.”
“Well, I have a hard time saying no and they strongly asked me to do it. So, I decided, that’s probably going to be fun playing with that robot. I guess I’ll make a bunch of trips to Milwaukee.”
Juntunen, who has an engineering degree, said the hardest part of mastering the robotic device was developing balance.
“One of the hardest things about getting paralyzed is relearning your sense of balance because you can’t feel anything through your butt,” he said. “I’m paralyzed from the base of the rib cage down, so it’s like I’m sitting on a stump all the time.”
Turns and pivots presented challenges, as did going up an incline, he said.
“I liken this to walking on stilts for an able-bodied person because you have to feel the ground through wooden or metal legs. That’s basically what I’m doing in this thing.”
“I don’t really describe this as walking, more like riding the robot,” he said. “The interesting thing is, my brain feels like it’s walking. I’m a complete injury, so I can’t feel anything. My brain has no idea what my legs are doing, but nonetheless, it feels like I’m walking in my head.”
Not all participants are able to sufficiently master the nuances of the 51-pound device to meet the requirements of the study.
Basic training needed to master balance skills
“Some people don’t get past what we call the basic training,” said Joe Berman, Milwaukee VA project manager. “To be eligible to go into the advanced training, you have to be able to master some balance skills and do five continuous steps with assistance within five training sessions. That’s been shown by previous research to be a good predictor of who is going to succeed in passing the advanced skills that we require to take the device home.”
The training sessions at Milwaukee last about two to two-and-a-half hours, usually twice a day. With the aid of certified trainers, Juntunen walked up to a quarter mile, starting with the lightly trafficked tunnel between the main hospital and the Spinal Cord Injury Center.
When Juntunen takes the device home, companions trained to assist will replace the VA trainers.
He eventually progressed to one of the main public entries to the hospital, which had inclines, carpeted areas, and pedestrian traffic.
“The inclines are harder,” Juntunen said. “Here, you’ve got short incline, then flat, then incline, so the transitions are harder. You’re in balance going down and when it flattens out, you have to change where your balance is, so the transition is a little trickier. Coming up is the worst, up the ramps is the hardest. You kind of have to reach behind you with the crutches. It’s more exertion and more difficult on the balance because the robot is always perpendicular to the surface.”
Mastering use of the device in the public space was part of the requirement before Juntunen can take it home.
“In order to take the device home, they need to be able to navigate up and down Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant ramps and go through doorways,” said Zach Hodgson, a physical therapist at the Milwaukee VA and part of the certified training team. “Right now, we have three trainers, but at home, he’ll need a companion to walk with him at all times. It’s looking at all those skills we need to get to and then making plans based on how he’s progressing.”
“He’s going to use this device in his home and community so we really get a good idea about how useful these devices are,” Hodgson said.
At home, companions replace the VA trainers to help with the device. In Juntunen’s case, he’s getting help from his kayaking buddies.
“They’ve seen me transferring and stuff,” he said. “They know I can sit and balance, sit on the edge of my kayak before I transfer up to the seat. So, that’s all normal for them.”
After completing training in Milwaukee, Juntunen is scheduled to have another session at a shopping mall in Houghton, Michigan, tentatively followed by another session in the atrium of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.
North Korea has released three US citizens detained there, the Financial Times reported May 2, 2018, citing a South Korean activist who campaigns for the release of detainees.
The releases would meet some of the US’s demands for North Korea to demonstrate sincerity before a historic meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — something that John Bolton, Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, reiterated during an interview on Fox News on April 29, 2018.
The three citizens— Kim Dong-chul, Kim Sang-duk, and Kim Hak-song — have been released from a labor camp and given health treatment and ideological education in Pyongyang, the Financial Times report said.
“We heard it through our sources in North Korea late last month,” Choi Sung-ryong told the news outlet. “We believe that Mr. Trump can take them back on the day of the US-North Korea summit or he can send an envoy to take them back to the US before the summit.”
The Financial Times report said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Kim about the detainees during the pair’s secretive meeting in April 2018.