How one non-profit is keeping the fight for our forgotten allies alive - We Are The Mighty
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How one non-profit is keeping the fight for our forgotten allies alive

“Sorry if it sounds like I am yelling when I talk,” Hewad said when we met up recently on a rainy Connecticut afternoon. “My friends have told me I have been talking louder recently. It’s my hearing. I think it’s from the explosion during that attack on FOB Salerno.”

I immediately knew what he was talking about. I, like almost every service member who served in Afghanistan in 2012, had heard about the explosion at Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost province,  and had seen the security footage. The power and magnitude of the explosion were unforgettable. 

The Taliban packed a large jingle truck full of nearly 2,000 pounds of explosives and – in a suicide attack- drove it into the perimeter of the FOB. The blast’s mushroom cloud quickly rose and darkened the midday sky and its shockwave shook every building on the sprawling base. Two American soldiers and five Afghan allies were killed in the blast and the dining facility was destroyed. After the blast, about a dozen suicide attackers stumbled out of a van that followed behind the truck. The blast’s shockwave had noticeably affected the attackers and they looked drunk as they staggered towards the smoking hole in the base’s perimeter.  They were quickly engaged and shot by U.S. forces, except for the last attacker, who found a corner in the remaining perimeter of Hesco barriers, crouched down, and detonated his suicide vest.

“Were you there too?” Hewad asked.

 “No, I was in a different province. I got there a few weeks after, but everyone was still talking about it,” I said. I was an Army Civil Affairs Officer leading a team in Afghanistan when I first met Hewad.

“I was lucky that day, I was working in my b-hut and was late going to lunch. I was about to walk out the door with three other linguists when the explosion went off,” he said.

Since returning from Afghanistan, I worry about my hearing too. And, like Hewad, when I hear the now familiar ringing, I speculate about what specific day permanent damage was caused. I can go to the VA and get my ears checked, but I felt a deep sympathy for my friend when I realized Hewad cannot get help at the VA, despite being in the same conflict and bearing many of the same risks. 

Hewad worked for the U.S. from 2006 to 2013. He started as a linguist and was promoted to an operations manager for a popular U.S. funded radio broadcast program that delivered radio programming to most of Eastern Afghanistan. His program mostly aired music. “But “we sometimes aired education programs aimed at influencing the youth by teaching that violence is not goodness,” Hewad said. “I was proud of that because I believe in order to preach goodness you have to be good, and not violent. That’s also why I think I was targeted,” Hewad explained.

A few months after surviving the attack on FOB Salerno, extremists texted Hewad on his personal cell phone. The text said “We know you, we know your father. Pay us 150,000 Afghani (approximately $2,000) or we will kill you and your family.”

Hewad walked into his U.S. counterpart’s office and showed them the text. Within thirty minutes they had verified the threat, told him he was in real danger and advised him to move himself and his family to Kabul immediately.

 It was in Kabul Hewad learned about the Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) for Afghans who were employed by the U.S. Government; an effort to protect America’s Afghan allies who are living in danger as a result of their employment by giving them expedited Visas. It took two years for his application to get approved and Hewad moved to the U.S. in 2014.

Hewad is one of nearly 20,000 Afghans that have benefitted from the SIV program and have escaped threats to their families by moving to the United States. An estimated 18,864 Afghans, however, are still waiting for approval in a process that has significantly slowed in the past few years. “The [SIV] process is very, very slow….You could literally land a rover on Mars within seven months,” Retired General David Petraus recently said. “But this takes something like three and a half years – and that’s when it’s working.” Under the former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the process was not working at all. It took a legal win in a lawsuit filed against Pompeo by the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), on behalf of Iraqi and Afghan SIV applicants, to get the approval process moving again.

 With violence against civilians and targeted killings increasing in Afghanistan, and with an eventual U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan looming in the near future, many SIV applicants worry that their visas will come too late, if at all.

Now in the U.S., Hewad still actively advocates for former U.S. employees living in constant danger in Afghanistan while waiting for SIV approval. He has met with numerous lawmakers at town halls and conferences to remind them of the plight of SIV applicants. As Senator Richard Blumenthal’s guest at a conference in 2017, Hewad met many of the nation’s most influential politicians.

“One of my favorites was Senator John McCain,” Hewad told me. “We were shaking hands and when he found out I was a refugee because of my work with the U.S. military, he told me that a hand shake wasn’t good enough, and he gave me a big hug.”

Hewad says many SIV applicants doubt the SIV process. “I tell them that there are many good Americans fighting for us, and not to lose hope,” he said.

“Senator Blumenthal has also become a good friend. He came to my naturalization ceremony to support me,” Hewad said. 

One organization that Hewad recognizes as making a large impact is No One Left Behind, an all-volunteer non-profit charity that works with the Executive and Legislative branches of the U.S. government to advocate for Iraqi and Afghan allies.

How one non-profit is keeping the fight for our forgotten allies alive
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Dane Sawyer serving with the 405th Civil Affairs Battalion speaks with local nationals on Combat Outpost Herrera, Paktia province, Afghanistan, Oct. 24, 2012. Moments earlier Sawyer gave the men soccer balls. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jenny Lui/Released)

“You can protest and hold a sign on the street, but because America is a country of laws, the most important thing to do is to work with the proper branches of government to get the laws changed,” Hewad said. And this is where No One Left Behind has been the most impactful. As the only organization dedicated to ensuring America keeps its promise to Iraqi and Afghan allies that served side by side with U.S. military and government personnel, they have been leading the fight in advocating for those left behind by the stagnant SIV program. They have worked with almost every major media outlet in the U.S. to keep the message alive, and continue to be the most reliable source of SIV news and information for both Afghanistan and Iraq military veterans and SIV applicants.

“It is hard to look through all of the government documents and know what is happening. No One Left Behind is doing a good job of giving regular updates and for many, they are the only thing that is giving us all hope that the SIV program will work again,” Hewad said.

No One Left Behind’s efforts seems to be paying off. On February 4, the Biden Administration issued Executive Order 14013, which called for a review of the Iraqi and Afghan SIV programs and a report to the president within 180 days with recommendations to address any concerns identified.

After the executive order was signed, and with the support of former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and No One Left Behind advisory board member, Retired General David Petraeus, No One Left Behind submitted a 22 page report to the Office of the Inspector General that outlined recommendations to streamline the SIV process. Many of these recommendations were instrumental in improving the process going forward.

“You’re right, you do yell when you talk sometimes,” I say to Hewad when we are discussing the latest updates on the No One Left Behind Facebook page. I want to laugh but I remember all he has been through; surviving bombs, suddenly packing up his home and moving his family to Kabul, waiting two years for his SIV to process, slowly losing his hearing and building a life in a new country.

It makes me think about the nearly 19,000 SIV applicants waiting for their chance to escape danger and start a new life in safety. Most of them probably have stories similar to Hewad’s; have survived moments of real danger, have fled from extremists and have risked their own family’s safety to support their American allies. My friend’s hearing loss makes me wonder how many of the waiting SIV applicants bear physical scars of their service to America. I wonder if any of them still have hope that they won’t be left behind when America’s memory of its involvement in Afghanistan fades.

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Senators seek pension hike for Medal of Honor recipients

The country’s 72 living Medal of Honor recipients could see a huge bump in their pensions should legislation proposed by a bipartisan group of Senators pass.


According to a report by MilitaryTimes.com, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a retired Air Force Reserve colonel who made multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, introduced the legislation in order to not only more than double the pensions, but to also provide a travel stipend to allow recipients to tell their stories. Congress.gov notes that the legislation, S. 1209, was introduced on May 23, 2017, but no text was available.

In a May 25, 2017 release, Senator Graham noted that his legislation would increase the pension from $1,303.15 per month to $3,000 per month. These pensions are in addition to other military benefits that these servicemen have earned.

How one non-profit is keeping the fight for our forgotten allies alive

“Medal of Honor recipients represent the best among us. These heroes have served our country with distinction, and this modest increase is the least we can do to convey our gratitude for their sacrifices. I urge my colleagues to support this bill so that we can do right by our Medal of Honor recipients,” Graham said in the statement.

Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), an Iraq War veteran and an original co-sponsor of S.1209, added, “We can never repay our Medal of Honor recipients for everything they’ve done for our country. But we can and should support them on behalf of a grateful nation.”

Many of the Medal of Honor recipients have often traveled to tell their stories at their own expense. The last stipend increase was passed in 2002, according to the release issued by Senator Graham’s office.

How one non-profit is keeping the fight for our forgotten allies alive
Col. Lindsey Graham, a Senior Senator from South Carolina, chats with Command Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Narofsky, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Command Chief, during a briefing int the wing conference room April 9, 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Ian Carrier)

S. 1209 is expected to cost about $1.5 million per year over the next ten years, according to Senator Graham’s office, and was referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) are also original cosponsors of the legislation. Blumenthal was caught up in a stolen valor controversy during his 2010 campaign for the Senate after his claims of service in the Vietnam War were disproven. The controversy re-surfaced this past February.

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Here’s what an Army medic does in the critical minutes after a soldier is wounded

When a soldier is wounded on the battlefield, medics get the call.


Medics are sort of like paramedics or emergency medical technicians in the civilian world, except paramedics and EMTs are less likely to carry assault rifles or be fired at by enemy forces. When everything goes wrong, soldiers count on the medics to keep them alive until they can be evacuated to a field hospital.

Also Read: Inside ‘Dustoff’ — 22 Photos Of The Army’s Life-Saving Medevac Crews 

Ninety percent of soldier deaths in combat occur before the victims ever make it to a field hospital; U.S. Army medics are dedicated to bringing that number down.

To save wounded soldiers, the medic has to make life or death decisions quickly and accurately. They use Tactical Combat Casualty Care, or TCCC, to guide their decisions. TCCC is a process of treatment endorsed by the American College of Surgeons and the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians.

First, medics must decide whether to return fire or immediately begin care.

How one non-profit is keeping the fight for our forgotten allies alive
Photo: US Army Army Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell

Since the Geneva Convention was signed, the Army has typically not armed medics since they are protected by the international law. But, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have mostly been fought against insurgencies who don’t follow the Geneva Convention and medics have had many of their markings removed, so they’ve been armed with rifles and pistols.

When patients come under fire, they have to decide whether to begin care or return fire. The book answer is to engage the enemies, stopping them from hurting more soldiers or further injuring the current casualties. Despite this, Army medics will sometimes decide to do “care under fire,” where they treat patients while bullets are still coming at them.

Then, they treat life-threatening hemorrhaging.

How one non-profit is keeping the fight for our forgotten allies alive
Photo: US Army Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

Major bleeding is one of the main killers on the battlefield. Before the medic even begins assessing the patient, they’ll use a tourniquet, bandage, or heavy pressure to slow or stop any extreme bleeds that are visible. If the medic is conducting care under fire, treatment is typically a tourniquet placed above the clothing so the medic can get them behind cover without having to remove the uniform first.

Now, they can finally assess the patient.

How one non-profit is keeping the fight for our forgotten allies alive
Photo: US Army Spc. Evan V. Lane

Once the medic and the patient are in relative safety, the medic will assess the patient. Any major bleeds that are discovered will be treated immediately, but other injuries will be left until the medic has completed the full assessment. This is to ensure the medic does not spend time setting a broken arm while the patient is bleeding out from a wound in their thigh.

During this stage, the medic will call out information to a radio operator so the unit can call for a medical evacuation using a “nine-line.” Air evacuation is preferred when it’s available, but wounded soldiers may have to ride out in ambulances or even standard ground vehicles if no medical evacuations are available.

Medics then start treatment.

How one non-profit is keeping the fight for our forgotten allies alive
Photo: US Army Army Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell

Medics have to decide which injuries are the most life-threatening, sometimes across multiple patients, and treat them in order. The major bleeds are still the first thing treated since they cause over half of preventable combat deaths. The medics will then move on to breathing problems like airway blockages or tension pneumothorax, a buildup of pressure around the lungs that stops a soldier from breathing. Medics will also treat less life-threatening injuries like sprains or broken bones if they have time.

Most importantly, Army medics facilitate the evacuation.

How one non-profit is keeping the fight for our forgotten allies alive
Photo: US Army Army Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell

Army medics have amazing skills, but patients still need to get to a hospital. Medics will relay all information about the patient on a card, the DA 7656 and the patient will get on the ambulance for evacuation. The medic will usually get a new aid bag, their pack of medical materials, from the ambulance and return to their mission on the ground, ready to help the next soldier who might get wounded.

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After a century of shame and silence, a soldier’s family gets the medals he earned

When Charles Monroe Baucom returned home in 1919 after his third and final tour of duty with the Army, he struggled to cope.


He had apparently been exposed to a mustard gas attack during World War I, and when he began losing his hearing and vision, he worried he’d also lose his job with the railroad.

Baucom died by suicide five years after he returned to his home in downtown Cary, N.C., leaving behind five children and a cloud of silence around his military record.

Nearly a century after his death, Baucom’s granddaughter, Joy Williams, has worked to restore his legacy to the place of pride she believes it should have always held.

How one non-profit is keeping the fight for our forgotten allies alive
Solders during WWI donning gas masks. Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

Williams, who lives in Dunn, contacted the Veterans Legacy Foundation, a North Carolina-based nonprofit that tracks down military histories and awards mislaid medals during ceremonies around the country. Williams, 70, showed the organization letters her grandfather had written and asked what it could find out.

On March 26, Baucom, who served as a lieutenant in the Army, was finally awarded the recognition he had earned. During a ceremony in Raleigh, the Veterans Legacy Foundation gave Williams two medals for her grandfather – one for his service in the Spanish-American War and one for service in World War I.

“Most people get so wrapped up in the day that they don’t appreciate the past,” Williams said. “I wish he could have received these when he was living, but I’m proud to have them now in his honor.”

It was tough in the early 20th century for the military to track down veterans, said John Elskamp, who served in the Air Force for 24 years and founded the Veterans Legacy Foundation in 2010. As a result, many soldiers never received their medals.

How one non-profit is keeping the fight for our forgotten allies alive
US Victory Medal from WWI. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

For Baucom’s family, the foundation bought the Spanish-American War medal from a private collector and received the World War I victory medal directly from the Army.

Thirteen other families were also honored during the event in March. Some received original medals unearthed from a state government building in Raleigh, commissioned in 1919 for North Carolina veterans of World War I.

“People are curious,” Elskamp said. “They want to know, and it’s their family’s legacy. And we think it’s important for everyone to remember that legacy, that this country was built, in my opinion, by veterans and their families. They did a lot of the work.”

No one in Baucom’s family knew if he had ever received medals from his service. He fought in the Spanish-American War in 1898 and then took part in the China Relief Expedition during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. During that effort, the military rescued US citizens and foreign nationals.

He volunteered when he was 38 to serve in World War I.

How one non-profit is keeping the fight for our forgotten allies alive
District of Columbia War Memorial in West Potomac Park, Washington, D.C. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Williams’ mother, who was Baucom’s daughter, was 9 when her father died. So Williams, a semi-retired insurance agent who moved to Dunn from Cary 25 years ago, never knew much about her grandfather.

“She never spoke of him,” Williams said of her mother.

Her great-aunt told her the pastor at Baucom’s funeral said the lieutenant’s decision to end his own life would keep him out of heaven. Thinking about that still puts a lump in Williams’ throat.

“My mother, that probably affected her greatly,” she said. “Instead of being proud, they were kind of quiet about their father. It’s really a shame. When you die on the battlefield, that’s honorable. But if you die afterwards, it’s not as much.”

Williams saw a newspaper article about the Veterans Legacy Foundation two years ago and decided to reach out to the group. It appealed to her sense of duty to those forgotten and misremembered by history.

How one non-profit is keeping the fight for our forgotten allies alive
Photo courtesy of the Veterans’ Legacy Foundation Facebook page.

She and her husband, Martin, who are white, are part of a years-long effort in Dunn to preserve and maintain an old cemetery where many of the town’s black residents were buried. Until 1958, it was the only cemetery that would accept them.

Her home in Dunn – her husband’s childhood residence – is full of photos, artifacts and heirlooms from her family, which she said has “been in North Carolina since before it was North Carolina.”

“I don’t like home decor,” Williams said. “I like to be around things that have some kind of meaning.”

Among the items are original letters Baucom wrote while stationed at various military bases and while abroad in Cuba, China, and France. Those, as well as letters he and his wife received, have been painstakingly preserved by Williams.

A letter from Baucom’s attorney gives a sense of the former soldier’s state of mind in the days before he died. The attorney and longtime friend wrote to Baucom’s widow in the days after his death, recounting a meeting less than two weeks earlier.

How one non-profit is keeping the fight for our forgotten allies alive
Photo colorized by Open University. Original black and white photo copyright The British Library.

“He seemed very interested and very much worried over his physical condition,” the attorney wrote of Baucom, “realizing that if he did lose his hearing and his eyesight, that the position he now held (with the railroad) he could not hope to keep.”

Another, from Baucom to his wife, reveals more of what Williams hopes will be remembered about her grandfather – his love of family and pride in his service.

“Tell the boys we will play catch and I will tell them stories when I get there,” Baucom wrote from Camp Merritt, New Jersey, as he awaited a train home to Cary. “Expect to get home in a week or two. Much love from Pop.”

After so many years, Williams is happy to feel pride where her mother felt shame, to have something in her house she can point to as proof that her flesh and blood had something to do with securing the life she now enjoys.

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This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

Berlin was a dangerous place during the Cold War. A preserved piece of the Wall containing a mural memorializing 146 Germans killed trying to escape communism stands in stark testament.


As the grand central station of East-West espionage, the city was a playground for all sorts of secret agents. And its place in the history of the 20th century far outweighs its size. Indeed, 37 percent of Americans viewed the fall of the Berlin Wall as the single most important event of the 1980s.

That Wall came down after 28 years because Americans in uniform stood as a barrier to Soviet aggression. The vast majority of those GIs were clearly visible. But a small contingent operated behind the scenes, not even acknowledged until long after the Cold War ended. Only this year were they fully and publicly recognized.

Born in the Mid-’50s

Though the Status-of-Forces Agreement signed by all four powers occupying Berlin prohibited elite forces, each country had its own prowling the city. It was 10 years after WWII ended, however, before the U.S. had such a unit formally in place there.

In August 1956, the elite 10th Special Forces Group, based in Bad Tolz, Germany, stationed the secretive 7781 Army Unit (also known as the 39th Special Forces Operational Detachment) in West Berlin. It consisted of six modified detachments that became part of the Headquarters Company of the 6th Infantry Regiment. Each team had six members.

Two years later, the unit was renamed Detachment A and assigned to the Headquarters Company of the U.S. Army Garrison, Berlin. Then in April 1962, it was attached to the Berlin Brigade. Its area of operations was primarily that city, but it could undertake missions elsewhere in Europe.

How one non-profit is keeping the fight for our forgotten allies alive
Top secret spy photos taken by Det-A in the early ’60s showing detail of the Berlin Wall. (Photo: Bob Charest)

“Detachment A was literally in the eye of the Cold War hurricane,” said Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, commanding general of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. As an unconventional and classified outfit of 90 men (a normal tour of duty was three years), Detachment A carried out clandestine operations.

Originally operating in small cells, by the late 1960s it expanded to 12-man “A” teams. Unit members were as unique as the U.S. Army ever recruited. Many were German or East European refugees who still had families trapped behind the Iron Curtain. In the early years, a significant number were WWII vets, too. Hence they brought much-needed skills along with knowledge of other nations and languages to the unit.

Training and tools of the trade

Physical training was wide-ranging and progressively intense. For instance, winter warfare training in Bavaria consisted of downhill and cross-country skiing equivalent to extreme skiing. Specialized demolition training was required for various targets in Berlin. Some teammates attended the CIA’s specialized demo course at Harvey Point, N.C. Scuba diving was another required skill.

Every month, members made parachute jumps staging out of Tempelhof Air Base in Berlin. Detachment A participated in NATO escape and evasion exercises. Exercises exclusive to Berlin included dead drops, live drops, primary meetings, surveillance and communications. Team members trained with the elite West German Federal Border Guard and Border Protection Group 9, British Special Air Service and special police units.

How one non-profit is keeping the fight for our forgotten allies alive
The Det A boys ready to go all cloak and dagger circa ’72. (Photo: Bob Charest)

 

But they also taught an urban course to other 10th SFG personnel, as well as SEAL Team 2 based on Crete. As masters of spy craft, team members carried items reminiscent of a James Bond movie.

Coal filled with C-4 explosives was used to potentially sabotage the rail ring surrounding Berlin. Oneshot cigarette-lighter guns, vials filled with metal shavings for destruction of turbines and noise-suppressed weapons for eliminating targets were all part of the arsenal. The German Walther MPK 9mm SMG that fit in a briefcase was the weapon of choice.

All scuba gear was German-made, including the one-man portable decompression chamber. Every member spoke fluent German and dressed mostly in authentic German civilian clothes. They sometimes carried non-American flash documentation and identification. Dual passports, or dual nationalities, were part of the deception.

Adversaries in this potentially deadly game of cat and mouse included the notorious East German Secret Police (Stasi), Soviet KGB (Committee for State Security) and even Spetsnaz (Russian Special Purpose Forces). Being vigilant of Soviet surveillance was a given. The KGB had members under constant watch and possessed dossiers on everyone in Detachment A. Yet the Green Berets always deceived their adversaries into believing they were an exponentially larger force than they really were.

Mission

During the mid-1970s, the unit’s mission began to evolve. Though the classic Cold War enemy always remained, a new one reared its ugly head in the form of terrorism. The lethal Red Army Faction —a rabid Marxist group targeting the U.S. military starting in 1972—came into play, killing six GIs in all. That meant being prepared to take on terrorists with snipers and SWAT tactics.

“They were very brave men and took on some tough missions,” recalled Sidney Shachnow, who led Detachment A from 1970 to 1974. Still, the Soviet threat hovered over the divided city. In 1978, the unit was tasked by the CIA with digging up several mission sites positioned throughout Berlin for stay-behind operations. Also, to maintain the equipment in them— weapons and demolitions, for example.

In April of 1980 Detachment ‘A’ participated in “Operation Eagle Claw,” the attempt to end the Iran hostage crisis by rescuing 52 diplomats held captive at the United States Embassy and the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran, Iran. Det-A’s portion of the mission was code-named “Storm Cloud.”

How one non-profit is keeping the fight for our forgotten allies alive
Patch for Operation Storm Cloud. (Courtesy: Bob Charest)

Detachment ‘A’ was responsible for the pre-mission reconnaissance of the targets by successfully infiltrating a team into Tehran on several occasions and contributed an element to rescue three hostages held in the MFA.

When the first mission was aborted because of a crash involving a C-130 and a CH-53 in the middle of the Iranian desert, a second attempt was planned for later that year. That was cancelled when negotiations proved successful.

Four years later the mission of this unique outfit was deemed unnecessary even though the Cold War was far from over. At the end of 1984, Detachment A was disbanded.

“I knew when I closed the door,” said Eugene Piasecki, the detachment’s last commander, “I would no longer serve in a unit like that.”

Bob Charest, a retired Army master sergeant, served with Detachment A from 1969 to 1972 and 1973 to 1978.

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A female Airman pushes back against USAF sexual harassment training

Last week, the John Q. Public blog published an open letter written by a female Airman under the nom de plume ‘Kayce M. Hagen,’ who recently attended her annual mandatory Sexual Assault Response Coordination (SARC) training.


A strong, confident military professional stared out of my bathroom mirror, and I met her eyes with pride. Then I came to your briefing.

She was disgusted at the idea of the female Airman being at once a victim and the catalyst for unit degradation, for being both untouchable and a target, and for being empowered but fragile.

“I might be hurt, and I’m fragile right?,” she writes. “Of course I am, you made me that way.”

She saw the training as taking the respect she might earn and instead forcing her male counterparts to see her as an object of their potential destruction.

“You made me a victim today, and I am nobody’s victim,” Hagan wrote. “I am an American Airman in the most powerful Air Force in the world, and you made me into a helpless whore.”

How one non-profit is keeping the fight for our forgotten allies alive

 

Obviously very strong words, whether one agrees or not, but perhaps worth consideration. This is her letter verbatim:

Dear SARC,

I got up this morning as an Airman in the United States Air Force. I got up and I put on my uniform, I pulled back my hair, I looked in the mirror and an Airman looked back. A strong, confident military professional stared out of my bathroom mirror, and I met her eyes with pride. Then I came to your briefing. I came to your briefing and I listened to you talk to me, at times it seemed directly to me, about sexual assault. You talked about a lot of things, about rivers and bridges, you talked about saving people and victimization. In fact you talked for almost a full ninety minutes, and you disgusted me.

You made me a victim today, and I am nobody’s victim. I am an American Airman in the most powerful Air Force in the world, and you made me into a helpless whore. A sensitive, defenseless woman who has no power to protect herself, who has nothing in common with the men she works with. You made me untouchable, and by doing that you made me a target. You gave me a transparent parasol, called it an umbrella and told me to stand idly by while you placed everything from rape to inappropriate shoulder brushes in a crowded hallway underneath it. You put my face up on your slides; my face, my uniform, my honor, and you made me hold this ridiculous contraption of your own devising and called me empowered. You called me strong. You told me, and everyone else who was listening to you this morning that I had a right to dictate what they said. That I had a right to dictate what they looked at. That I had a right to dictate what they listened to. That somehow, in my shop, I was the only person who mattered. That they can’t listen to the radio because they might play the Beatles, or Sir Mix-A-Lot, and that I might be offended. That if someone plays a Katy Perry song, I might have flashbacks to a night where I made a bad decision. I might be hurt, and I’m fragile right? Of course I am, you made me that way.

You are the reason I room alone when I deploy. You are the reason that wives are terrified that their husbands are cheating on them when they leave, and I leave with them. When I walk into a room and people are laughing and having a good time, you are the reason they take one look at me and either stop talking or leave. They’re afraid. They’re afraid of me, and it’s because of you. They are afraid that with all of this “power” I have, I can destroy them. They will never respect me or the power and the authority I have as a person, or the power I have as an Airman, because I am nothing more than a victim. That I as a victim, somehow I control their fate. With one sentence, I can destroy the rest of their lives.

“He sexually assaulted me.”

I say enough. He didn’t assault me, you did; and I say enough is enough. If you want to help me, you need to stop calling me a victim. If you want to save me, you need to help me to be equal in the eyes of the people I work with. If you want to change a culture, you need to lessen the gap between men and women, not widen it. Women don’t need their own set of rules: physical training scores, buildings, rooms, raters, sponsors, deployment buddies. When I can only deploy with another woman ‘buddy’ you are telling me and the people around me that I can’t take care of myself. When you forbid me from going into my male friends room to play X-Box on a deployment with the other people on my shift, you isolate me. When you isolate me, you make me a target. When you make me a target, you make me a victim. You don’t make me equal, you make me hated. If I am going to be hated, it will be because of who I am, not because of who you have made me. I am not a victim. I am an American Airman, I am a Warrior, and I have answered my nation’s call.

Help me be what I am, or be quiet and get out of my way.

NOW: First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes

OR: ‘You’re really pretty for being in the Army’

Mighty Moments

Fallen Marine’s mother asks for help in showering a 99-year-old veteran with cards

On August 4, 2017 Lance Corporal Cody Haley was killed at Camp Pendleton when a tree fell on him during routine training. He was only 20 years old. His mother Kim is keeping his legacy of kindness alive and she needs your help. 

Cody always wanted to become a Marine. His grandfather, Dave Crowe, was a Marine Corps Vietnam War Veteran and had passed away in a motorcycle accident not long before Cody enlisted in 2015, right out of high school. A few months after graduating from basic training, Cody was deployed overseas with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit in March of 2016, aboard the USS Comstock.

cody marine

His family sent Cody many care packages while he was deployed. Kim later found out that he shared a lot of them with other Marines who never received anything. But that’s the kind of person he was, she said: kind. 

While Cody was deployed, his great-grandfather Jesse was celebrating his 95th birthday. Every year his family would throw a big party in honor of him and Cody didn’t want to miss it. So, they waited. On June 18, 2017 he came home for his post-deployment leave and spent 10 days with his family celebrating his Great-Grandfather, “Grandpa Jesse”, who was a World War II Army veteran. 

It was the last time he saw him.

Cody was extremely close with his great-grandfather. He would spend the night at his house all the time, even after he became a Marine. They’d watch the Andy Griffith show and Gunsmoke, laughing together. They’d also talk about world affairs and the issues that plagued the country. “He was developing into a great man…you could see it,” Jesse said. 

The “spit and vinegar” kid and jokester teenager he was known for being was long gone after becoming a Marine. In its place was a young man devoted to serving his country and making his family proud. Although Cody never vocalized exactly why he joined, Kim is sure it was because he was inspired by his grandfather and great-grandfather. It was their courage and patriotism that Cody hoped to emulate, she said. 

At the time of his death, Cody had earned the nickname “fastest gun in the west” after beating out all the other marines in an exercise while deployed. “He was surrounded by the best and he told me that,” Kim said. At his memorial, over 50 Marines showed up enmasse to remember and honor Cody’s life alongside his family. 

“Last year Grandpa Jesse turned 98 but because of COVID we couldn’t do anything. I know Cody would have wanted us to do something because he was one of his favorite people,” Kim explained. She shared an idea to have cards sent to Grandpa Jesse on Facebook and he received 110 from people across the country. This year, she’s hoping they can do it again and get even more cards to surprise him with. This time, for Cody. 

Grandpa Jesse loved receiving the cards and still has them sitting by his chair, he said. Since Cody’s death, Kim has continually tried to find ways to be kind in his honor, something she’s hoping others will take to heart. “Do something intentionally nice for someone else. I just think that the more positive that can come out of this tragedy, that’s what matters,” she said. 

marine
Cody’s last picture with Grandpa Jesse

Here at WATM we hope you’ll start those acts of kindness to honor Cody’s legacy by writing Grandpa Jesse a message to wish him a happy 99th birthday. #DoItForCody. 

Mail your cards and letters to:

Kim Haley

701 11th Street

Eldora, IA 50627

Articles

Ronald Reagan got a Marine recruiting letter while he was President — his response was classic

Even though he was 73 years old and serving as President of the United States at the time, Ronald Reagan received a letter from the Marine Corps asking him if he would like to enlist in 1984.


It may have been a clerical error or just a practical joke from the service to its commander-in-chief, or in the words of Reagan in his response, the result of “a lance corporal’s overactive imagination.” In any case, on Tuesday the U.S. Marine Corps Historical Company shared on its Facebook page the letter he sent back to then-Commandant Gen. Paul X. Kelley on May 31, 1984, and well, it’s classic.

“I regret that I must decline the attached invitation to enlist in the United States Marine Corps,” Reagan writes on official White House letterhead. “As proud as I am of the inference concerning my physical fitness, it might be better to continue as Commander-in-Chief. Besides, at the present time it would be rather difficult to spend ten weeks at Parris Island.”

With his trademark wit, Reagan noted the Democrats would probably appreciate it if he left The White House, but had to pass since his wife Nancy loved their current residence and Reagan himself was “totally satisfied with his job.”

“Would you consider a deferment until 1989?” Reagan wrote. (It’s worth noting that Reagan served stateside in the U.S. Army Air Force’s first motion picture unit during World War II).

Check out the full letter below:

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Articles

7 lies sailors tell their parents while deployed

College life and Navy life are very different, but there’s one thing they have in common: worried parents.


Whether you’re in college or the Navy, you can count on parents constantly checking in and asking a million questions. These conversations can feel like investigations; especially during deployments.

While Navy parents worry about their sons and daughters being in harm’s way, sailors are usually worried about more important things, like when’s the next port visit and what are their duty days. A little white lie can ease a parent’s worries. Here are some of the most common ones offered:

1. “I’m only allowed one call a month.”

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

2. “Sorry I won’t be able to call you during my next port visit, I have duty the entire time.”

3. “Of course I’m eating healthy, midrats is the healthiest meal of the day!”

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Photo: U.S. Navy

4. “With the hours I work, I have no desire to stay out late.”

5. “Yes, I am spending my money wisely.”

6. “No, I never drink during port visits.”

7. “I spent my entire Hong Kong port visit sightseeing.”

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These ‘Pin-Up’ girls entertain veterans with burlesque shows and sexy calendars

 


“It was 2006, I was working in hotel management,” Gina Elise says. “There were all these stories about the Veterans Administration struggling to treat returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. I wanted to do something to support them and to support the hospitals who treated them.”

Gina Elise is the founder of Pin-Ups for Vets, a non-profit whose mission is based on producing WWII-style pinup calendars to support hospitalized veterans and deployed troops. After four years, she quit her job at the hotel to work with veterans full time. She has produced nine annual calendars since, but her efforts don’t stop at just calendars.  Elise and her unit of celebrities and women veterans are currently on a 50-state VA and military hospital tour. To date, the pinups visited 6,000 veterans at their bedside.

“Attitude is a huge part of recovery,” says Shannon Stacy, a former Marine Corps Flight Surgeon and the 2015 calendar’s Miss April. “I think its great that an organization like this can come in really make a difference in patients lives, on top of what the doctors and nurses do.” Stacy can appreciate how attitude affects recovery, as she is also currently an Emergency Medicine Physician.

“On the surface, we’re shooting a fun, artistic calendar,” Elise says. “Under that, we’re supporting a cause that should be important to all Americans: supporting our veterans.” Most importantly, Pin-Ups for Vets buys medical equipment for VA and military hospitals and sends morale-boosting care packages to deployed American troops around the world.  So far, Pin-Ups for Vets donated more than $50,000 of state-of-the-art rehabilitation equipment to VA military hospitals nationwide.

“My grandfather was a World War II veteran,” Elise recalls. “They used to paint this art on the nose of planes to boost morale for the guys going into battle to remind them of what they were fighting for.”

“When you think about the fact these soldiers painted these women on the sides of aircraft, and it gave them the confidence to go fight,” says Jovane Henry, a former Marine Corps Photojournalist and 2015’s Miss July. “What’s more empowering than that? I think it’s great. It’s a continuation of service for me. Serving was one of the greatest experiences of my life and I’m happy to be able to continue that service through Pin-Ups for Vets.”

The spirit of Pin-Ups For Vets also promotes volunteerism at Veterans Hospitals, supports homeless Veterans in shelters, and boosts morale for military wives and female Veterans with makeovers and clothing.

The recent launch party for the 2015 calendar, the first to feature 12 veterans, was held at the American Legion in Hollywood (Post 43) and featured a burlesque show headlined by an all-veteran pinup revue.  It was the first of its kind. Jennifer Campbell, who worked a .50 cal in a US Army transportation unit participated in the show, but saw it as a family event.

“It gave us a chance to jump into a different period of time,” Campbell recalls. “My great aunt was a WWII poster pin-up girl. It was fun seeing the transition from then to now.”

The burlesque troop, “The Dollface Dames,” performed a variety of numbers. It was a vintage burlesque show, true to its 1940’s heritage, complete with dancing, feather boas, hula-hoops, singing, even a shadow silhouette erotic dance.

“There’s no hard, fast rule that says I can’t be a hard-charging Marine and a lipstick-wearing pinup,” Henry states. “So I choose to be both.”

 

Learn more about Pin-Ups for Vets and purchase the calendar at PinUpsForVets.com.

 

Intel

This awesome GoPro video takes you inside an F-16 flying over Alaska

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Most people will never get to experience a flight in an F-16 fighter but this awesome GoPro video gives a little taste.

Produced with footage from the 35th Fighter Squadron out of Kunsan Air Force Base in South Korea, the video shows pilots as they trained in Alaska last year. It has everything: barrel rolls, air-to-air combat, low-level flight, and live fire at a range.

The squadron was in Alaska to take part in Red Flag Alaska 15-1, a training exercise that allows pilots to sharpen their skills in the air.

“The greatest takeaway from this exercise is being able to fly with other air frames that I don’t normally get to fly with at Kunsan,” 1st Lt. Jared Tew told Air Force public affairs. “And the challenges that RF-A brings are what makes me a better pilot.”

Watch the video:

(h/t The Aviationist)

NOW: The 18 greatest fighter aircraft of all time

Articles

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE

Tech. Sgt. Timothy Cotterall, an Air National Guard emergency manager, is decontaminated following attempts to identify multiple biological contaminants in a simulated lab during a Global Dragon training event on March 18, 2015. Held at the Guardian Centers of Georgia, Global Dragon Deployment For Training provides a refresher course for Airmen, allowing them to put their skills to use to identify live chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear agents and materials. 

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Photo: Tech. Sgt. Timothy Cotterall/US Air Force

The lights along the flightline at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, shine under the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights March 18, 2015. Eielson is home to RED FLAG-Alaska, a series of Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercises for U.S. forces, provides joint offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support, and large force employment training in a simulated combat environment.

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Photo: Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel/US Air Force

NAVY

WATERS NEAR GUAM (March 26, 2015) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), right, comes alongside the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197) for a replenishment-at-sea during Multi-Sail 2015.

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Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Patrick Dionne/US Navy

WATERS NEAR GUAM (March 27, 2015) U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships are underway in formation during Multi-Sail 2015. Multi-Sail is an annual Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15 exercise designed to assess combat systems, improve teamwork and increase warfighting capabilities in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force is participating in Multi-Sail for the first time.

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Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel M. Young/US Navy

ARMY

The sun sets on Soldiers assigned to 2d Cavalry Regiment, after conducting a tactical road march from Mihail Kogalniceanu Airbase to Smardan Training Area, Romania, March 24, 2015. The Soldiers are preparing to partner with Soldiers assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade and Romanian forces for a multinational training event in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

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Photo: Sgt. William A. Tanner/US Army

Paratroopers assigned to 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, conduct an after action review after completing a night live-fire, on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.during U.S. Army Alaska’s Exercise Spartan Valkyrie, March 23, 2015.

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Photo: Staff Sgt. Daniel Love/US Army

MARINE CORPS

A Marine engages targets from a UH-1Y Venom with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, during Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) above San Clemente Island, California, March 20, 2015. COMPTUEX gives the Marines of VMM-161 the opportunity to practice real-world scenarios and hone their skill sets.

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Photo: Sgt. Jamean Berry/US Marine Corps

A Marine with Combat Logistics Battalion 2, dives underwater to perform a self-rescue drill during a swim qualification course aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, March 18, 2015. The purpose of the course was to maintain proficiency, and enhance the Marines skills in water survival techniques.

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Photo: Lance Cpl. Andre Dakis/US Marine Corps

COAST GUARD

Coast Guard members from Coast Guard Sector Boston, Coast Guard Station Merrimack River and the First Coast Guard District conduct flare training on Plum Island, Mass., Dec. 15, 2014. The participants fired several different types of flares to gain familiarity with the operation and appearance for each type of flare.

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Photo: Petty Officer 3rd Class MyeongHi Clegg/US Coast Guard

As the sun sets, a crew member acts as lookout aboard Barque Eagle in the North Atlantic, April 2, 2014. Coast guard Cutter Eagle is the only active commissioned sailing vessel, and one of only two commissioned sailing vessels along with the USS Constitution, in American military service.

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Photo: Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone/US Coast Guard

NOW: Why Vietnam vet and Hollywood legend Dale Dye thinks ending the draft was a ‘terrible mistake’

AND: 5 sports stars who saw heavy combat in the military

Mighty Moments

These Army Rangers killed 25 enemies and saved their men in a 6-hour firefight

Army Staff Sgt. James B. Jones, a Ranger squad leader, and Sgt. Derek J. Anderson, a Ranger team leader, were part of a Dec. 2, 2014, mission to clear a series of enemy compounds that resulted in 25 enemies killed and both Rangers receiving Silver Stars.


 

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Army Rangers fire in a training exercise. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Steven Hitchcock)

 

The men were on a mission to secure an objective in Nangahar Province, Afghanistan, that included multiple compounds and a suspected media center. While heading from the first compound to the media center, the Rangers and their Afghan partners came under attack by two enemy fighters.

The insurgents managed to hit the Rangers with an ambush, but Jones and Anderson answered them immediately. Jones began firing back and directing Afghan special ops to fire on the fighters while Anderson shot at one fighter and then charged towards the other. Meanwhile, other fighters were directing machine gun fire and RPGs at the Rangers.

The first fighter quickly died, but the second ran for cover. Jones followed him to a trench and threw in a grenade, then Anderson fired on the insurgent to force his head down until the grenade went off.

 

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Army Rangers conduct a mission in Iraq in 2007. (Photo: US Army)

At the following compound, a group of six enemy fighters came out of the building and maneuvered on the Ranger and Afghan force. Anderson spotted the attack coming and, along with Staff Sgt. Travis Dunn, killed five of the enemy before the last one was killed by a helicopter.

At a follow-on compound, three barricaded fighters engaged the Rangers with small arms and grenades. Anderson moved forward with Dunn to stop the incoming fire. Dunn fired a grenade from his M320 into the compound but was hit in the process. Anderson dragged Dunn out of the firefight and into cover, likely saving his life.

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Army Rangers conduct a mission in Afghanistan. (Photo: US Army)

 

Jones came upon one Ranger who was injured while attempting to clear a room with three barricaded shooters. The Ranger had been shot, and Jones rushed in, ignoring the enemy fire, to rescue him.

Under heavy machine gun fire, Jones directed the fire from a Gustav recoilless rifle team to clear the barricaded shooters.

The mission successfully cleared multiple compounds and killed 25 enemy fighters. Jones and Anderson received Silver Stars during a ceremony at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, on April 29, 2015.

Dunn received a Bronze Star for Valor and a Purple Heart at the same ceremony.

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