Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19

Volunteers are returning to national cemeteries under certain circumstances, following strict COVID-19 guidance.

More than 40 volunteers displayed the new policies during an event Sept. 19 at Culpeper National Cemetery in Virginia. A group from a local Latter-day Saints church cleaned headstones while wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

“The reason we wanted to do this is every year we look for service to do in our community,” said Tyler Herring, who organized the volunteers. “It’s an honor to be able to come out to do this every year.”


Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19

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Justice Cruzan, a Culpeper County High School student, said she volunteered because she had family members who served. She added cleaning the headstones is a way of repaying the fallen.

“Keeping their headstones clean is honoring them,” Cruzan said.

The cemetery director said groups spending time volunteering during a pandemic is inspiring.

“Witnessing these volunteers dedicate their time and energy on this beautiful autumn day always renews my commitment to NCA’s mission of honoring Veterans and their eligible family members with a final resting place in national shrines and with lasting tributes that commemorate their service and sacrifice to our Nation,” said Matthew Priest, cemetery director. “Even in the middle of this pandemic, Americans are going to safely gather to help us honor our servicemembers who have come before us and stood for something greater than themselves.”

Herring said the event was different from previous years with COVID-19 restrictions. He said that didn’t stop the group from coming out.

“We’re still able to social distance,” Herring said. “We’re still able to follow all the mandates we need to, but we’re still able to serve.”

National cemetery directors may allow volunteers to return to the cemetery on a limited basis. The decision to bring back volunteers will be a local cemetery decision based upon current cemetery conditions. Cemeteries use federal, state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance. Any volunteers who are considered at risk due to COVID-19 are strongly encouraged to wait until conditions improve prior to resuming any volunteer activities.

Volunteers are essential

Priest said volunteers are an essential part of national cemeteries honoring Veterans and ensuring no Veteran ever dies.

“This is the second year that Tyler contacted me about how his team can help memorialize the men and women interred at Culpeper National Cemetery,” Priest said. “I am always amazed when I see so many patriots volunteer their time to help remember those who stood their final formation for us. Service and commitment are two words that are etched in the core of all Americans. That is evident today.”

More information

To find local cemeteries to see if they offer volunteer opportunities, visit https://www.cem.va.gov/cems/listcem.asp.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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It’s almost time for Russia’s annual display of weapons and World War II pride

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
T-72s roll along Red Square during last year’s Victory Day parade. (Photo: AFP)


It’s the biggest event that happens every year in Moscow, a Russian extravaganza that rolls out weapons new and old and continues the war of words between Russia and the United States.

On Monday, Russia will celebrate the 71st anniversary of the end of World War II – known there as The Great Patriotic War – with it annual Victory Day celebrations and parade.

More than just a commemoration of Russian sacrifices during the war, since Soviet times the celebration is part of a carefully crafted military spectacle intended to tell the U.S. and the West that Russia is a world power worthy of respect – and even fear.

That’s a message that Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin wants the United States to hear loud and clear.

“The Victory Day parade, with all its loudly trumpeted pomp and technology, is also a clear message to Russia’s perceived threats and enemies that Russia is not to be trifled with militarily,” Peter Zwack, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general and former U.S. military attaché to Russia, told We Are The Mighty.

“The 71st anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany is the underlying theme, but in reality these recent parades are a robust display to the world and also Russia’s domestic population of Russia’s modern military might,” Zwack said.  “While initially there are vehicles and troops in commemorative World War II battle dress, overwhelmingly this is an aggressive assertion of today’s Russian military which has had recent, widely publicized successes in Syria.”

Russians hold the impressive parade in Moscow’s Red Square. Traditionally, the parade is in three parts: a procession of the Ground Forces, the “military hardware demonstration” that showcases weapons systems new and old, and the “fly-by of the air forces.”

One of the ways Russia asserts its might is the tradition of rolling out new hardware for the entire world to see. This year’s parade and aerial flybys will be no different – and the Kremlin uses its Twitter and Instagram presence to gain maximum publicity.

According to the Kremlin’s recent English-language social media postings, at least one new example of Russian military hardware will appear for the first time during the Victory Day celebration on Monday.

It is the Su-35s fighter, which is reportedly an upgraded version of the tried-and-true Flanker multirole air superiority fighter. Earlier this year, the Russian government placed a $1.4 billion order for 50 of the fighter planes to expand the Russian Air Force.

In February, the Russian military deployed four of the Su-35s to Khmeimim air base near Latakia for combat operations in Syria, according to a Russian news report.

The Kremlin says altogether 128 pieces of military equipment will participate in this year’s Victory Day parade. That also will include reappearances by hardware that debuted last year such as the T-14 Armata tank.

T-90 main battle tanks, BTR-80 armored personnel carriers, and several other classes of armored vehicles will also appear.

Zwack said that in recent years Putin revived much of the Soviet-era pomp associated with the celebration as part of a carefully orchestrated campaign to bolster Russian pride. But not only will rolling tanks and soaring aircraft be on display – so will the Russian political leadership.

“Vladimir Putin is always front and center of the Victory Day parade with his defense minister, Sergey Shoigu,” Zwack said “He is clearly the ‘Alpha Leader’ in charge, and he conveys that he will at all costs and any sacrifice protect and defend the Russian populace against all threats. In his mind he benefits internationally, and most importantly, domestically from this full blown display and resurgence of Russia’s military capability and competence.”

Celebrated since 1946, День Победы – Victory Day – displays the exceptional status that Russians believe they possess because of their sacrifices during the war. It is even celebrated on a different day than Victory in Europe Day – otherwise known as VE Day.

As far as most Russians are concerned, the celebration of their victory over Nazi Germany and the commemoration of the nearly 25 million soldiers and civilians who died during World War II is an affirmation of the eternal validity of Russian nationalism, the importance of Russian identity, and the necessity of Russia’s place in the constellation of “great power” nations.

Germany signed a surrender agreement in France with the Allied Powers on May 7, 1945 – but the Soviet Union wanted a separate peace with Nazi Germany for a variety of political reasons.

While the rest of the world celebrated VE Day on May 8, Nazi representatives and the Allies repeated the surrender in Berlin where supreme German military commander Wilhelm Keitel, Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov and others signed the instrument of surrender.  It was May 9 in the Moscow time zone when the agreement took effect – hence the date for Victory Day.

Since last year, one of the themes repeated by Moscow is the United States does not respect the sacrifice of the Russian people during World War II. It appears that is also a message that will accompany this year’s Victory Day celebration.

For example, the message from the Kremlin to the United States regarding the upcoming anniversary is bitter. Its English-language social media site recently published photographs of post-war banners that said in Russian “Americans will never forget the heroic deeds of Russians” and “America says ‘Hi’ to our valiant Russian allies.”

The Moscow-written tag-line to the recent post is: “How sad that you’ve already forgotten.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

US troops still ready to fight North Korea despite canceled exercises, according to general

U.S. troops are still ready to “fight tonight” against North Korea despite the indefinite suspension of major military training exercises on the Korean peninsula, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.


Army Gen. Robert Abrams, commander of U.S. Forces Korea and the 28,500 U.S. troops on the peninsula, is confident “that we still have the readiness required to be able to respond to any aggression,” Air Force Lt. Gen. David Allvin told the House Armed Services Committee.

If Abrams “felt like he was not able to achieve the readiness to accomplish the mission for which he was assigned, he would certainly come up voicing that, and we’d be hearing that,” said Allvin, director of strategy, plans and policy for the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. “The overall posture remains strong.”

The large-scale Ulchi Freedom Guardian, Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises were suspended in 2018 by President Donald Trump as too costly and “provocative” to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who repeatedly branded them as practice for an invasion.

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19

media.defense.gov

However, Allvin said that readiness has been maintained through more than 270 small-scale exercises with South Korean forces in 2019.

He said U.S. troops had conducted 273 of 309 “planned activities” with the South Koreans last year, giving the combined force the fighting edge to deal with any threat mounted by North Korea.

The readiness of U.S. forces is crucial as diplomatic leverage to maintain prospects for resuming long-stalled negotiations with North Korea on disarmament and denuclearization, said John Rood, the under secretary of Defense for Policy, but he cautioned that Kim’s next steps are impossible to predict.

Kim broke off talks last year after the U.S. refused to ease sanctions ahead of negotiations, and the North has since resumed test launches of short- and medium-range missiles.

A top North Korean official last month also threatened that the U.S. would be receiving a “Christmas gift” that the U.S. and regional allies suspected might be the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile or a resumption of underground nuclear testing, but there was no follow-through.

“We are watching very carefully what they are doing,” Rood said. “We don’t know clearly the reasons why North Korea did not engage in more proactive behavior, which they seemed to be hinting they were planning to do in December.”

To maintain pressure on the North, the U.S. is continuing to ask South Korea to pick up more of the cost for the presence of U.S. troops on the peninsula, he said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in balked last year at Trump’s suggestion that South Korea should boost its contribution from id=”listicle-2644992511″ billion to billion.

Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the chairman of the committee, said the South Koreans are unlikely to agree to a five-fold increase in their share for the U.S. presence.

“How are we going to walk our way through that rather difficult situation?” he asked.

Rood did not give specific numbers, but said the U.S. objective is a “larger burden sharing of the costs,” and one that “doesn’t unduly strain the alliance” with South Korea.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Navy stared down China in the South China Sea

Two US Navy destroyers challenged China’s excessive maritime claims in the South China Sea May 6, 2019, angering Beijing.

The guided-missile destroyers USS Preble and USS Chung-Hoon conducted a freedom-of-navigation operation, sailing within 12 nautical miles of two Chinese-occupied reefs in the Spratly Islands, the US Navy 7th Fleet spokesman Commander Clay Doss told Reuters.

The operation, the third by the US Navy in the South China Sea this year, was specifically intended “to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law,” he said.


Beijing was critical of the operation, condemning it as it has done on previous occasions.

“The relevant moves by the U.S. warships have infringed on China’s sovereignty and undermined peace and security in relevant waters. We firmly oppose that,” Geng Shuang, a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, told reporters at a press briefing May 6, 2019.

“China urges the United States to stop these provocative actions,” he added.

China bristles at these operations, often accusing the US of violating its sovereignty by failing to request permission from China to enter what it considers Chinese territorial waters. The US does not acknowledge China’s claims to the South China Sea, which were discredited by an international tribunal three years ago.

The 7th Fleet said that these operations were designed to “demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.”

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19

(Stratfor)

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy identified and warned off the US Navy vessels. The ships do not appear to have encountered anything like what the USS Decatur ran up against last September, when a Chinese destroyer attempted to force the ship off course, risking a collision.

The US Navy is not only challenging China in the South China Sea, though. It is also ruffling Beijing’s feathers by sending warships through the closely watched Taiwan Strait on the regular. The US has conducted four of these transits this year, each time upsetting Beijing.

The latest operation in the South China Sea comes as trade-war tensions are expected to rise in the coming days. US President Donald Trump is said to be preparing to significantly increase trade penalties and tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese exports in response to Beijing’s unwillingness to bend on trade.

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

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Hallo-memes! Wait … that’s not right. Meh, whatever.


1. Remember, terrorists “trick or treat” too (via Military Memes).

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
Get special candy for them.

2. Pretty sure DA PAM 670-1 Chapter 5 Section 7 addresses this.

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19

SEE ALSO: From 1860-1916 the uniform regulations for the British Army required ever soldier to have a mustache

3. How the invasion of Iraq really went down:

(via Pop Smoke)

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19

4. When you join the Navy to see the sights:

(via Sh-t My LPO Says)

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
At least you’re in California. You could be stuck with those same sights in Afghanistan.

5. Your trip to find yourself in Vienna does not impress your elders (via Air Force Nation).

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
If you were finding Nazis there, maybe. You’d have to fight them too.

6. How the military branches decide who’s the most awesome/fabulous (via Sh-t My LPO Says).

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
Coast Guard has it made.

7. Just two combat veterans letting off a little steam in a war zone (via Ranger Up).

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
Bet the A-10 kept flying combat missions until at least the second trimester.

8. The standard is Army STRONG …

(via Marine Corps Memes)

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
… we’re not worried about much else.

9. He forgot how to Marine (via Terminal Lance).

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
Hey, staff officers have to practice throwing grenades too. Just don’t give him a real one.

10. Stolen valor airman can’t be bothered to learn your Air Force culture (via Air Force Nation).

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19

11. This is true (via Military Memes).

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
Iraq and Afghanistan would look a little different if soldiers and Marines had access to nukes.

12. First sergeant just wants you to be ready to fight in any environment.

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
Side note: If you ran at the actual pace he was trying to set, you would be warm during the run.

13. Real warriors like to stay cool (via Marine Corps Memes).

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
Don’t like the view? Get out of the mortar pit.

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House panel seeks to increase Army ranks by 45,000 soldiers

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19


The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee has introduced a defense bill that would increase the U.S. Army by 45,000 soldiers.

Rep. Mac Thornberry’s version of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Bill would provide money to add 20,000 soldiers to the active Army’s end-strength, bringing it to 480,000.

The bill would also add 15,000 to the National Guard and 10,000 to the Reserves, resulting in a Guard strength of 350,000 and a Reserve strength of 205,000. The panel was expected to approve the measure on Wednesday.

Under the President Barack Obama’s current proposed defense budget, the Army projects its end-strength to be at a total of 980,000 soldiers by fiscal 2018, including 450,000 for the active force, 335,000 for the Army National Guard and 195,000 for the Army Reserve.

“The Chairman’s Mark halts and begins to reverse the drawdown of military end strength, preserving the active duty Army at 480,000,” according to summary of the proposed bill.

The size of the Army has been a major concern among lawmakers, many of whom have stated that the active force is too small to deal with the growing number of threats facing the U.S.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has testified that there is a “high-military risk” if the service continues to operate at its current size, but also told lawmakers that growing end-strength without additional funding would lead to a hollow force.

Thornberry’s revised budget earmarks just over $2 billion in additional funding for the troop increase, according to language in the bill. That’s about $2.5 billion short of what the Army would need, according to Army senior leaders that have testified it will cost about $1 billion for every 10,000 soldiers.

“Where possible, Chairman Thornberry’s proposal cuts excessive or wasteful expenditures and rededicates those resources to urgent needs,” according to the bill’s summary. “Even with a vigorous re-prioritization of programs, the Committee was unable to make up essential shortages in the President’s budget and simultaneously provide a full year of contingency funding.

“The proposal is designed to restore strength to the force through readiness investments and agility through much needed reforms, while providing a more solid foundation for the next President to address actual national security needs,” it states

The proposal also would increase the strength of the Marine Corps by 3,000 and the Air Force by 4,000.

“Perhaps it is also true every year, that when it comes to overall spending levels for defense, we are presented with only difficult, imperfect options,” Thornberry said in his opening remarks at Wednesday’s committee-wide markup session within the House Armed Services Committee.

“But, the bottom line for me this year is that it is fundamentally wrong to send service members out on missions for which they are not fully prepared or fully supported,” he added. “For that reason, I think that it is essential that we begin to correct the funding shortfalls that have led to a lack of readiness and to a heightened level of risk that we have heard about in testimony and that some of us have also seen for ourselves.”

The bill, currently in its draft form, will have to be passed by both the House and the Senate. Obama could also choose to veto the bill after passage.

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This prediction of an asteroid impact on Earth will give you goose bumps

Scientists believe a 40-million-ton asteroid set to fly close to Earth in 12 years may end up colliding with our planet on a future pass.


The Apophis asteroid will pass within 18,600 miles of Earth on April 13, 2029, which is ridiculously close by space distance standards. Scientists expect the near-miss to disrupt the asteroid’s orbit, making its future path unpredictable.

This means there’s a small chance Apophis could hit Earth on a future pass. Apophis will pass by the Earth again in 2036.

“You can find a full table of objects for which the impact probability is not mathematically zero,” Dr. Richard P. Binzel, a planetary science professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who’s involved in research on Apophis, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The table includes Apophis with a probability of 8.9e-6 (less than one chance in 100,000).”

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
Image courtesy of NASA / JPL.

If Apophis did strike Earth, it could create a crater about 1.25 miles across and almost 1,700 feet deep. Such an impact could be devastating, as on average an asteroid this size can be expected to impact Earth about every 80,000 years.  It could annihilate a city if it were to directly land on an urban area. The blast would equal 880 million tons of TNT or 65,000 times the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

“We can rule out a collision at the next closest approach with the Earth, but then the orbit will change in a way that is not fully predictable just now, so we cannot predict the behavior on a longer timescale,” Alberto Cellino of the Observatory of Turin in Italy, told Astrowatch.net.

MIT announced last month that professors and students are designing a space probe mission to observe the asteroid “99942 Apophis” as it passes Earth in 2029. MIT or NASA would have to launch the probe before August of 2026 due to the way orbital mechanics work.

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
Wikimedia Commons photo by Steve Jurvetson.

The MIT probe could teach scientists more about the construction of asteroids, providing valuable information about the formation of our solar system. What scientists learn from the Apophis encounter could make it easier to mount a planetary defense in the event an asteroid was ever found to be on an impact course.

In December 2004, initial observations of Apophis indicated it had a 2.7 percent chance of striking Earth in 2029 or exactly seven years later. This has since been revised downward considerably.

Smaller asteroids are much harder to detect and there’s little that could be done to stop a small space rock on course for Earth without early warning. Typically, these rocks are discovered just days or hours before they pass by Earth.

There’s not a shortage of space rocks that put our planet at risk either. Global asteroid detection programs found more than 16,314 near-Earth objects of all sizes — 816 new near-Earth objects were identified so far this year alone, according to International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planets Center.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army’s new rifle qualification is more realistic

In 2019, the Army approved a new rifle qualification and individual weapons training strategy. The old qualification, the automated record fire, was developed back in 1956. Since then, the Army’s battles and the way it fights them have changed. The new qualification, the rifle and carbine qualification, was developed with the same principle as the Army Combat Fitness Test. It more holistically assesses a soldier’s ability to employ situational awareness, safe weapon handling, and core marksmanship competencies.

Soldier shooting the new qualification in the snow
A 10th Mountain Division soldier shoots the new qualification (Miguel Ortiz)

Due to COVID-19 considerations, full integration of the new rifle qualification in 2020 was slowed. However, more and more units in both Forces Command and Training and Doctrine Command are starting to test their soldiers on the new standards.

Training and evaluation for the rifle and carbine qualification is broken down into six tables: preliminary marksmanship instruction and evaluation, pre-live fire simulation training, magazine and shooting position drills, grouping and zeroing, practice qualification, and qualification. “Soldiers start by receiving a series of classes on how to properly zero the rifle, whether it’s a bare rifle or with optics,” said Staff Sgt. Tadeysz Showers, assigned to the 25th Sustainment Brigade. “Soldiers received classes on laser bore sight, Minute of Angle (MOA), zeroing process, windage, ballistics, and also received EST training and practiced position changes before going to a live range.”

The rifle qualification consists of four firing phases for which soldiers will employ four magazines with 10 rounds each. 40 targets will pop up on their own or in groups for varying lengths of time depending on their distance. Soldiers will fire from the standing unsupported, prone unsupported, prone supported, kneeling supported, and standing supported positions. A barricade is used to simulate cover and provide a more stable shooting position for supported fire. Transitioning between positions and changing magazines are integrated organically into the course of fire in order to more closely simulate real-world combat situations. “The old rifle qualification did not help in combat situations, so they incorporated magazine exchanges and position changes by yourself to represent combat,” said Staff Sgt. Tadeysz Showers, assigned to the 25th Sustainment Brigade. “No matter the military occupational specialty (MOS), any MOS can teach a Soldier how to do this new weapons qualification.”

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
A soldier of the 25th Infantry Division engages targets from the kneeling supported position (U.S. Army)

Whereas commanders could previously dictate whether or not their soldiers could shoot “slick” without their body armor and helmet, the new rifle qualification requires soldiers to wear them. Magazines are retained on the soldier’s gear rather than laying ready on the ground or on a sandbag in order to more closely simulate a combat situation. The first shot of the qualification will be on a close-range target from the standing unsupported firing position. From there, soldiers will transition into the prone unsupported firing position and engage the next nine targets through a port in the bottom of the barricade. The last 30 targets will appear in three waves of 10 with soldiers conducting magazine and firing position changes on their own in between.

The new qualification also includes guidance for night and CBRNE shooting. Soldiers will be expected to utilize night-vision goggles, IR lasers, and gas masks to engage targets under adverse conditions. The inclusion of these variables reflects the Army’s return to training for a near-peer fight against conventional armies. Additionally, soldiers will no longer be given alibis. Previously, if a soldier experienced a weapon malfunction during their course of fire, they could be given the opportunity to re-shoot. Now, soldiers will be expected to assess and clear the malfunction during the course of fire and continue to engage targets. Any missed targets during this time will count against them. While this can make the qualification more difficult, it encourages soldiers to build the muscle memory necessary to address such variables under stress.

Some aspects of the old rifle qualification have carried over though. Soldiers are still required to hit 23 of the 40 targets in order to qualify. 23-29 hits earns a Marksman qualification, 30-35 hits earns a Sharpshooter qualification, and 36-40 hits earns an Expert qualification. “This new weapons qualification is more combat oriented with changing positions, changing magazines and engaging the targets,” said Sgt. Octavius Moon assigned to the 25th Sustainment Brigade. “This will help Soldiers shoot better as well as make ranges faster and have more Soldiers qualified. It helps Soldiers become more knowledgeable about their weapon as well.”

A 10th Mountain Division soldier conducts the new qualification while wearing cold weather gear (Miguel Ortiz)
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Homes for our Troops builds homes while rebuilding lives

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
Sgt. Mendes in his new Homes for our Troops home.


On a chilly May morning, the city of Murrieta, CA dispatched a firetruck to a new home. Dozens of men, women and children congregated the driveway. The sounds of  Rolling Thunder could be heard in the distance. As if on cue, the wind picked up and the huge American flag streaming from the ladder of the firetruck began to wave. American Legion Riders escorted wounded Army veteran Sgt. Nicholas Mendes to his new specially adapted home, and the community was there to welcome him.

This is the work of Homes for our Troops.

HFOT builds mortgage-free, specially adapted homes across the United States for those who have been severely injured in theater of combat since September 11, 2001. The non-profit’s purpose is to assist wounded warriors with the complex process of integrating back into society.

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
Army Sergeant Nicholas Mendes, who was a gunner with the 10th Mountain, 3rd Brigade, is one of 214 veterans to thus far be living in one of these homes. On April 30, 2011, an IED detonated beneath his vehicle in Sangsar, Afghanistan. The explosion, set off by a 1200-pound command wire device, caused multiple fractures to his vertebrae and rendered him paralyzed from the neck down. Mendes had previously served in Iraq in 2008.

After being presented with the key to his new home, Mendes’ wife held the microphone up to his mouth so he could address the audience of well-wishers.

“Bear with me, I didn’t write anything down – because my arms don’t work.” Mendes joked. “It’s just crazy looking back on everything, this all started with a Google search, and then putting in an application to a foundation that I didn’t know if they’d ever write me back…”

Not only did they write him back and build him a home, Homes for our Troops is working with Mendes to allow him to reclaim his independence. The adapted features in his home remove much of the burden from his wife and family and allow him to focus on recovery and his plans to  pursue a career in real estate.

“These men and women are not looking for pity. They’re looking to rebuild their lives.” said Bill Ivy, Executive Director of HFOT.  “We have an extremely talented group of men and women who are either in homes or that we are building homes for. The whole idea is to get them back going to school, back into the work force, raising families. Since 2010 we’ve had over 100 children born to families living in our homes. So it is about the next generation and moving forward. We have a tremendous amount of successes out there.”

Homes for Our Troops lays a foundation for these men and woman to continue on after their injuries. Although their way of life has undergone major changes, their spirit and desire to serve remains. Many of these home recipients are able to rehabilitate to the point where they enter the workforce and give back to their community as teachers and counselors.

Two HFOT recipients started a non-profit together called Amputee Outdoors.  Another recipient, Joshua Sweeny is an American gold medal sledge hockey player and Purple Heart recipient who competed in 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia. Four recipients participated in the recent Invictus games, and one even spent a month in a tent to raise awareness for veteran homelessness.

“There’s duty, there’s honor and self sacrifice. Death nor injury does not diminish those qualities in our soldiers. It is a testament to the love of this country” said David Powers of Prospect Mortgage – one of the key ceremony speakers. “Duty is the mission, the lesson is the sacrifice for our country, and for our freedom.”

For more information visit the Homes for Our Troops website.

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
HOFT Executive Director, Bill Ivy raising a flag outside Sgt. Mendes’ new home.

 

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ICE detained this Afghan man who helped the US military

Rights groups are calling for the release of an Afghan man with a special visa given to those who assist the United States military overseas who has been held by immigration authorities for nearly three weeks.


Abdul, whose full name is not being revealed for security reasons, arrived at the Newark, New Jersey airport on March 13 as part of the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. Afghans who are in life-threatening danger are eligible for this status. 

“Border agents coerced him into signing away his fundamental rights, even though the federal government understood his life was in danger in Afghanistan because of his service to the United States,” Jeanne LoCicero, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.

The man and his family had previously been attacked by the Taliban armed group. U.S. immigration authorities are trying to deport him. 

Abdul, who holds a sponsorship letter from a retired U.S. Army sergeant, worked as a cashier for five years at a cafeteria next to the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul until February, shortly before he departed for the United States.

Instead of a warm welcome, Abdul was detained on arrival.

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
Customs at Ramstein Air Base. (Photo: Jeremy Bender/ Business Insider)

“If they had stamped his passport, he would be a lawful U.S. resident,” Jason Scott Camilo, an immigration lawyer representing Abdul, told Al Jazeera.

Camilo said the Afghan was initially interrogated for 28 hours by agents from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs (ICE) agencies. 

The lawyer said Abdul was without legal counsel for more than a day. He was held in “a big waiting room. There’s a couple of jail-like cells without beds…he couldn’t sleep,” Camilo said.

Shortly before his scheduled deportation, the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) filed a case on Abdul’s behalf, which was denied. It then filed an emergency appeal and a court placed a temporary stay on his deportation pending a review of his case. 

Abdul has since passed an initial interview for refugee status and is awaiting a court review in mid-April. However, he remains locked up in the Elizabeth Detention Center, a private facility contracted by ICE.

Betsy Fisher, IRAP’s policy director, said Abdul’s detention is part of a larger clampdown on the Special Immigrant Visa program.

In December 2016, then-president Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which only allocated 1,500 more SIV visas. With so few visas available, Fisher explained, interviews for applicants at the U.S. embassy in Kabul ended on March 1. 

“There are roughly 10,000 people still waiting for SIVs,” Fisher told Al Jazeera. “The fact that applicants are now in indefinite limbo because Congress has failed to provide the number of visas we knew were needed is a disgrace and abandonment of our allies.”

Abdul is the second Afghan SIV recipient to be detained in March. On March 4, a family of five that had been granted approval to move to the U.S. because of their father’s work was detained in Los Angeles. 

Al Jazeera contacted ICE and CBP for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.

Articles

Iran-backed rebels attack US ship for third time in a week

For the third time in a week, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason came under attack off the coast of Yemen by Iran-backed insurgents.


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Guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94), front, steams in formation with USS Stout (DDG 56), USS Mason (DDG 87), USS Monterey (CG 61) and USS Roosevelt (DDG 80). The Mason and Nitze have been involved in three missile ambushes by Iran-backed Houthi rebels off the coast of Yemen in recent weeks. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan U. Kledzik/Released)

Guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94), front, steams in formation with USS Stout (DDG 55), USS Mason (DDG 87), USS Monterey (CG 61) and USS Roosevelt (DDG 80). The Mason and Nitze have been involved in three missile ambushes by Iran-backed Houthi rebels off the coast of Yemen in recent weeks. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan U. Kledzik/Released)

As was the case in the previous attacks, the incoming missiles were apparently fired by Houthi rebels late Saturday night and did not hit the destroyer. Yemen is about 7 hours ahead of the East Coast of the United States.

According to a report by NBC News, the Mason used countermeasures to avoid being hit. The previous attacks on Oct. 9 and Oct. 12 apparently used Noor anti-ship missiles, an Iranian copy of the Chinese C-802. In the Oct. 9 incident, USS Mason used a Nulka decoy as well as an SM-2 and Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles to defeat the attack.

The second attack was defeated using what a DOD statement termed as “defensive countermeasures.”

Following the Oct. 12 attack, USS Nitze (DDG 94) launched three Tomahawk cruise missiles on radar stations officials believed helped the Houthis target the U.S. ships.

The Pentagon reported the radar stations were destroyed, but there had been speculation that the Houthi rebels used personnel in small boats or skiffs to spot targets for the anti-ship missiles.

Iran responded to the attack by deploying at least two surface combatants off the coast of Yemen.

The Mason and Nitze were deployed near Yemen with the USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) after the former Navy high-speed transport HSV-2 Swift was attacked by Houthi rebels using RPG rockets. At least two of the anti-tank rounds hit the Swift, which suffered a fire, and has been towed from the area.

In a statement after the Nitze launched the Tomahawks against the Houthis, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook warned, “The United States will respond to any further threat to our ships and commercial traffic, as appropriate, and will continue to maintain our freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, the Bab al-Mandeb, and elsewhere around the world.”

Apparently, the Houthi didn’t think the United States was serious.

Articles

Fort Carson troops train to fight microscopic enemies

Fort Carson soldiers trained Sept. 6 to tackle an unseen enemy — disease.


As part of a month-long, annual disaster drill at the post, soldiers practiced to fight a bacterial pandemic. It’s a new twist for the post, where soldiers have trained against fictional terrorist threats and even militant hackers in recent years.

But of all the exercises, fighting a microscopic enemy may be the toughest, Lt. Col. Renee Howell explained.

“I’m going to have to stay on my toes,” said Howell, who is the head of preventive medicine at Fort Carson’s Evans Army Community Hospital.

The training has roots in recent Army history. In 2014, 200 Fort Carson soldiers were sent to western Africa to help nations there combat an Ebola outbreak that claimed 11,000 lives.

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Photo courtesy of Fort Carson Police.

The post exercise began as a mystery, with leaders working with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health to determine what caused the imaginary sickness spreading through Fort Carson’s 24,500 soldiers and their family members.

“We have a huge population,” she said.

Troops used their detective skills and practiced ways to control the disease including quarantine measures. They also practiced working with local authorities who would also have to deal with a quick-spreading disease that could easily leave the 135,000-acre post.

On Sept. 6, they turned a gymnasium on post into the county’s biggest pharmacy.

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CDC Logo from Wikimedia Commons.

Soldiers from Evans worked alongside medics and military police to quickly process patients and dispense mock antibiotics.

They were able to handle about 200 patients an hour, each leaving the gym with an empty pill bottle.

“People will get the right medication at the right time,” Howell said.

While the drill centered on an imaginary infection, the procedures used could come in handy against all kinds of disasters, including the hurricanes menacing the East Coast and the wildfires raging in the West.

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Hurricane Harvey left streets and houses flooded after making landfall. USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Zachary Wolf.

Howell said the common key to dealing with disasters is keeping track of people and efficiently meeting their needs.

“This operation is to make sure we screen people properly,” she said.

Away from the gym, the exercise drilled other troops in disaster skills. The hospital’s nurses and medics trained with a mass casualty exercise, overwhelming the emergency room with dozens of mock patients in need.

The post’s firefighters and ambulance crews also practiced their tactics for dealing with simultaneous emergencies.

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Firefighters and other emergency personnel assisted one another in getting into and out of protective gear. Photo by Laurie Pearson.

Most Army training drills focus on combat troops, who learn how to use their weaponry and work as a team.

This one had the doctors and nurses in the spotlight.

“We are usually in the background,” Howell said.

But putting medical crews on the front lines for training has given Fort Carson piles of new plans that can be quickly implemented.

“It’s kind of plug and play,” Howell said.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

4 ways to choose your next duty station as a family

Moving to a new base is a family decision as much as it is a career move. When considering where to go, there is so much to think about beyond career path; for instance, health and well-being, proximity to family, available health services and more.

Besides, sometimes it’s just fun to live somewhere new! As a military family, you’re likely used to frequent moves. But you can also find the right move that suits your interests, career changes, and more. Moving is a given, but when you get a say in where to go, it can make all the difference in mindset and family unity.


Consider finding a duty base that best suits your family needs for your next stop by:

Fulfilling family needs

First things first, what does your family need? Do you have a family member with certain medical needs? What type of amenities need to be nearby? Look at the proximity and quality of services close to each possible duty station. This information should be available online, with reviews so you can consider a move from afar. Military bases themselves might also offer this information, letting you know in advance what types of treatments are approved at each base. Or, find those who live there already and ask around.

Other things to consider include unique aspects to an area, preferences for climate, distance to important landmarks in your life (family, facilities, etc.).

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Considering adventure

Of course, moving somewhere new can be a great deal of fun! If you’re ready to try out a new location, think about what can be done and how it’s different from your current duty station. What activities are available that you can’t do now? (Snow skiing, hockey, sailing, rock climbing, and more.) Can you easily travel to landmarks that interest your family? Will you be able to adapt to weather changes easily?

Look at the option for adventure when considering your next base and what type of activities each family member can take on. Keep fun and adventure in mind so you can experience new cultures as well as all there is to be seen.

Looking at career moves

It’s also important to keep career changes in mind with a potential PCS. How will the move affect your military member’s career path? Is there a compromise for their best move that will also help the family? Look toward a solution that helps — or at least doesn’t hurt — a career projection in years to come.

This, of course, is based on you or your spouse’s job in the service. Some jobs will have more location choices than others, while others might head to various bases, depending on the point they are at in their career.

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Taking a vote!

If your kids are old enough, consider a family vote to decide where you might PCS. After all, they’re being affected by this move, too, so it’s only fair to consider their wants! It may or may not make a difference in the long run, but it’s worth having a discussion.

Besides, a good old fashioned family vote just seems fun! While parents have final say (and ultimately the military has final final say), it can help kids to feel included and welcomed as part of the family when voting on upcoming PCS locations.

All in all, there is much to consider when looking at military moves. Look at responsible aspects, such as infrastructure and promotion path, but also consider just how much fun is to be had at potential addresses.

How does your family decide where to move next? Tell us below.

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