The 82nd Airborne Division has a long and storied history. It also has a very significant mission for the United States: It’s America’s fire brigade — sent to a hot spots around the world to draw a line in the sand whenever needed. It did just that in 1990, at the start of Operation Desert Shield, but a lot of time has passed since then.
During Saber Strike 2018, an international exercise held annually in partnership with the Baltic States and Poland to rehearse the deployment of troops in defense of those nations, the 82nd Airborne Division was used to send a pointed reminder. The world needed to know that this division remains ready to act.
With the help of nine U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport planes, roughly 700 paratroopers from the famed division, as well as some from the British Army’s Parachute Regiment, dropped into Latvia, simulating a no-notice deployment.
A paratrooper gathers his equipment after making a landing during Saber Strike 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)
It took ten hours for the planes to take the troops to their drop zone in Latvia. In addition to the paratroopers, they also dropped vehicles, like the High-Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), and equipment, including FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank guided missiles and .50-caliber sniper rifles.
The message was clear: In less than half a day, the United States and its allies can have troops on the ground, equipped and ready to fight.
But here’s something you may not know about the 82nd Airborne Division: There is always a brigade ready move anywhere in the world with just 24 hours’ notice. This is known as the Division Ready Brigade. Inside that brigade, one battalion can arrive anywhere in the world within 18 hours or less.
Not only did paratroopers from the 82nd make a jump into Latvia, they brought vehicles like HMMWVs, too!
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)
In 1990, the deployment of those forces to Saudi Arabia stopped Saddam Hussein at the Kuwaiti border with Saudi Arabia. It was a clear message that said crossing the border would lead to war with America.
Their rapid deployment as part of Saber Strike 2018 sends a similar message to Putin: The United States of America can and will rapidly respond if you try to attack the Baltic States. Hopefully, as it did in 1990, such a deployment will give a hungry, aggressive nation pause.
Chuck Schumer of New York said Mark Green, a Republican state senator from Tennessee, is opposed to gay marriage and has sponsored legislation that would make it easier for businesses to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
“A man who was the lead sponsor of legislation to make it easier for businesses to discriminate against the LGBTQ community; opposes gay marriage, which is the law of the land; believes being transgender is a ‘disease;’ supports constricting access to legal contraception; and makes deeply troubling comments about Muslims is the wrong choice to lead America’s Army,” Schumer said in a statement.
Trump last month selected Green for the Army’s top civilian post. Green, 52, is a West Point graduate and former Army physician who has featured his military background in his political campaigns.
Trump’s selection of Green is a jarring contrast to President Barack Obama’s choice of Eric Fanning for the post. Fanning was the first openly gay leader of one of the military branches.
While Schumer urged his colleagues to oppose Green’s nomination, Republican control of the Senate makes it unlikely his nomination will be defeated.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said May 3 he’s concerned by “a broad variety of statements” that have been attributed to Green. McCain said Green will have the opportunity during his confirmation hearing to respond to explain the comments he’s made.
“That’s why we have hearings,” McCain said. “We ask questions and we let them defend themselves.”
Green last year supported legislation that lets therapists decline to see patients based on religious values and personal principles. Critics said the law allows for discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.
Green argued during the state Senate debate that counselors should be given the same latitude as he is as a doctor.
“I am allowed to refer that patient to another provider and not prescribe the morning-after pill based on my religious beliefs,” Green said.
Schumer said Green also has made derogatory comments about Latinos and Muslims. Schumer’s office cited a YouTube video of a speech before a tea party group in which Green is asked what could account for a rise in the number of Latinos registered to vote in Tennessee.
He suggested they “were being bused here probably.”
Green also referred to the “Muslim horde” that invaded Constantinople hundreds of years ago and agreed that a stand must be taken against “the indoctrination of Islam in our public schools.”
Earlier on May 3, several House Republicans told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R- Ky., that Green is a “dedicated public servant” who has the full support of Defense Secretary James Mattis.
“Any attempt to politicize personal statements or views that have been expressed by Mark at any point throughout his career must not be allowed to supersede his qualifications or be conflated to create needless uncertainty with his nomination,” according to a letter from Reps. Duncan Hunter of California, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and nine other GOP members.
If you walk around any military base today, you will see the color “Coyote Brown.” The dull yellow-brown shade can be seen on the uniforms of sailors, airmen, soldiers and Marines. Certain uniform items like beanies, boots and fleece jackets are entirely Coyote Brown. With its popularity throughout the military, the question must be asked: where did this color come from? For that answer, we have to go back to the turn of the millennium.
In February 2000, the entire U.S. military was wearing BDUs and Marine Sgt. Ken Henley had just been transferred from Scout Sniper Platoon 2/2 at Camp Lejeune to be a TBS combat instructor at Quantico. Aside from being an experienced sniper, Henley was also a decorated Marine, having earned a Purple Heart during an embassy reinforcement in Monrovia, Liberia, in May 1996.
Marines test early prototypes of MARPAT and the MCCUU which had removable sleeves (USMC)
Henley’s sniper expertise was called upon when two captains from MarCorSysCom solicited TBS for him to deliver a lecture on camouflage to students at the University of Virginia who were working on design theories for camouflage and colors in textiles. The captains were so impressed with Henley that they continued to solicit his expertise, borrowing him from TBS to help design a camo helmet cover and a new lightweight helmet among other projects.
Henley’s biggest challenge came when the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James Logan Jones, Jr., issued a directive for MarCorSysCom to develop a new and improved Marine Corps uniform. Naturally, Henley was tapped for the project and went up to the Navy Clothing Textile Research Facility in Natick, Massachusetts. Initially, Henley believed that the project would be a simple one. “I’ll just check out some current patterns, maybe tweak some color schemes and be done,” he first thought. “Boy was I wrong.”
The newest fleece jacket is entirely Coyote Brown (U.S. Army)
Working with the civilian textile engineers at NCTRF, Henley went through over 150 current camouflage patterns until he narrowed them down to just three: the Vietnam-era tiger stripe, a modern commercial tiger stripe, and a Rhodesian version of the British DPM. After some tweaking and modifications, they settled on a version of the Rhodesian DPM.
However, after the trip, Henley had a realization. “Marines would be taking this uniform into the 21st century…my fellow Marines would be wearing it on foreign ground, depending on this uniform to do its job,” he recalled. “This uniform not only needed to actually work, it needed to be unique.” In order to accomplish this, Henley enlisted the help of another sniper.
Being at Quantico, Henley was able to make a visit to the SNCOIC of the Scout Sniper School, a Marine that Henley had served with in Somalia in 1993. Gunny H, as he will be referred to, was enthusiastic about the new project and MarCorSysCom approved his involvement at Henley’s request.
Coyote Brown gear is universal and can be used with Desert MARPAT… (USMC)
Together, Henley and Gunny H facilitated a brainstorming session involving the NCTRF engineers, sniper school staff and even a current sniper school class. With input from both designers and end users, Henley made a second trip up to Natick with Gunny H to continue tweaking the designs he had worked on previously. It was on that trip that Gunny H made a fateful visit to a local Home Depot and discovered a color swatch from the Ralph Lauren Santa Fe paint collection called Coyote.
Though the color is now discontinued, it can still be custom mixed. If any of you motivators want to paint your house the original Coyote, just ask for RL color code SF11B (no, that’s not an Army MOS joke). Gunny H took the swatch back to NCTRF and a tech scanned the color into the pattern that Henley had last developed. Though Coyote worked with the other colors, the existing pattern was still lacking.
As fate would have it, the engineers at Natick had recently received a few samples of the new Canadian CADPAT. “It looked good in theory but the color scheme was way off for our use,” Henley recalled. “The Canadians had used way too much bright lime-green in the pattern. Using CADPAT as a starting point, Henley and Gunny H further developed their pattern by having one of the engineers produce a “snow” screen, simulating static on a TV without reception. Sections of the pattern were then separated with the new color palette applied. “It took a good bit of refining and pattern modification, but by the second day it came out good,” Henley said of their work on what would become MARPAT. “We tweaked the colors just a bit more, printed out a sample, and were done.”
The new pattern went through extensive testing at Quantico before its patent was filed on June 19, 2001. MARPAT made its official debut on the new Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform at Camp Lejeune on January 17, 2002.
Woodland MARPAT (USMC)
Since the introduction of MARPAT and the universal Coyote Brown gear that goes with it, other services have taken notice. Today, Coyote Brown is an integral part of the Operational Camouflage Pattern used on the latest version of the Army Combat Uniform worn by soldiers and airmen alike. That’s right, OCP is the pattern and ACU is the uniform. It bears mentioning that OCP was developed as a joint venture between the Army’s Natick Labs and Crye Precision, the original producers of MultiCam.
So, the next time someone makes fun of your uniform, you can claim sartorial superiority. After all, you’re wearing a Ralph Lauren color.
A funeral was held Jan. 10 for a Texas soldier whose 92nd Infantry Division was the only African-American Army division to fight in Europe and who was buried for decades as “unknown.”
The service was held at Houston National Cemetery for Army Pfc. Lonnie Eichelberger, a 20-year-old from Waco who died in heavy fighting with German forces in Italy just months before Germany’s surrender in 1945.
For decades, he was among nearly 73,000 U.S. service members from WWII who are unaccountable.
“It has brought closure that he has been identified,” said his great-nephew, Cheyenne Eichelberger, who explained that family members knew only that his uncle was killed in action somewhere in Europe.
Army officials notified the family in 2016 that Defense Department scientists had identified the remains using dental and anthropological analysis and circumstantial evidence.
Pfc. Eichelberger enlisted at a time the Army was segregated and he was assigned to the 92nd Infantry Division, which, in 1944 and 1945, fought at the westernmost portion of the Allied line in northern Italy, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, an arm of the Defense Department.
“That’s the forgotten piece,” Cheyenne Eichelberger said Jan. 10. “Minorities have served in every war and conflict that America has been involved in.”
His uncle was declared missing after a battle near Strettoia, Italy. Remains recovered near there after the war in Europe ended could not be identified and eventually were buried in 1949 at the American cemetery in Florence, Italy, designated as remains X-193.
Decades later, information was obtained linking X-193 to two soldiers in the 92nd Infantry who still hadn’t been identified, so the remains were disinterred in 2016 and ultimately one set was identified as Eichelberger’s, according to DPAA.
Of the approximately 73,000 service members in WWII whose remains have not been recovered, more than 3,600 were from Texas.
By now you’ve seen (ad nauseam) the results of FaceApp, a Russian-based photo filter app that realistically adds wrinkles, grey hairs, and, well, years to faces. Further investigation to the origins of the app — and its Terms & Conditions — has prompted a demand for a federal investigation into the company behind the app and the potential security risks it poses to Americans.
“FaceApp was developed by Russians. It’s not clear at this point what the privacy risks are, but what is clear is that the benefits of avoiding the app outweigh the risks,” read a security alert from DNC chief security officer Bob Lord, as reported by CNN.
In a letter to the FBI and the FTC, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) stated, “FaceApp’s location in Russia raises questions regarding how and when the company provides access to the data of U.S. citizens to third parties, including foreign governments. I ask that the FBI assess whether the personal data uploaded by millions of Americans onto FaceApp may be finding its way into the hand of the Russian government, or entities with ties to the Russian government.”
See the full letter right here:
BIG: Share if you used #FaceApp:
The @FBI @FTC must look into the national security privacy risks now
Because millions of Americans have used it
It’s owned by a Russia-based company
And users are required to provide full, irrevocable access to their personal photos datapic.twitter.com/cejLLwBQcr
NPR reported that FaceApp had topped Apple’s and Google’s app download charts by Wednesday, July 17, attracting big celebrities and your roommate and that guy you went to high school with alike. While it can be fun to see what forty years can do to a face, there are a number of potential risks involved.
First there’s the matter of privacy. In order to use the app, you give FaceApp access to your device and some personal information. According to NPR, data privacy experts warn against these kinds of apps, especially after Facebook reported up to 87 million of its users’ personal information was compromised by a third party analytics firm.
Second, we are in a new age of facial recognition software, which can be used to target certain groups or individuals, potentially putting innocent people at risk.
But the US and Russia said the missile had a medium range and presented no threat to either country.
North Korea has increased the frequency of its missile tests, in defiance of a ban by the UN Security Council.
China and Russia called on Pyongyang to freeze its missile and nuclear activities.
The announcement on North Korea state television said the Hwasong-14 missile test was overseen by leader Kim Jong-un.
It said the projectile had reached an altitude of 2,802km (1,731 miles) and flew 933km for 39 minutes before hitting a target in the sea.
North Korea, it said, was now “a full-fledged nuclear power that has been possessed of the most powerful inter-continental ballistic rocket capable of hitting any part of the world.”
It would enable the country to “put an end to the US nuclear war threat and blackmail” and defend the Korean peninsula, it said.
While Pyongyang appears to have made progress, experts believe North Korea does not have the capability to accurately hit a target with an ICBM, or miniaturize a nuclear warhead that can fit onto such a missile.
Other nuclear powers have also cast doubt on North Korea’s assessment, with Russia saying the missile only reached an altitude of 535km and flew about 510km.
How far could this missile travel?
The big question is what range it has, says the BBC’s Steven Evans in Seoul. Could it hit the United States?
David Wright, a physicist with the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists, says that if the reports are correct, this missile could “reach a maximum range of roughly 6,700km on a standard trajectory”.
That range would allow it to reach Alaska, but not the large islands of Hawaii or the other 48 US states, he says.
It is not just a missile that North Korea would need, our correspondent adds. It must also have the ability to protect a warhead as it re-enters the atmosphere, and it is not clear if North Korea can do that.
Once again North Korea has defied the odds and thumbed its nose at the world in a single missile launch. With the test of the Hwasong-14, it has shown that it can likely reach intercontinental ballistic missile ranges including putting Alaska at risk.
Kim Jong-un has long expressed his desire for such a test, and to have it on the 4 July holiday in the US is just the icing on his very large cake.
Despite this technical achievement, however, it is likely many outside North Korea will continue to be skeptical of North Korea’s missile. They will ask for proof of working guidance, re-entry vehicle, and even a nuclear warhead.
From a technical perspective, though, their engines have demonstrated ICBM ranges, and this would be the first of several paths North Korea has to an ICBM with even greater range.
Are neighbors and nuclear powers concerned?
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has called on the UN Security Council to take steps against North Korea.
Japan described “repeated provocations like this are absolutely unacceptable” and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his country would “unite strongly” with the US and South Korea to put pressure on Pyongyang.
Russia and China said the launch was “unacceptable”.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is in Moscow, where he held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The two leaders urged Pyongyang to suspend all its tests. They also asked the US and South Korea to not hold joint military exercises.
US President Donald Trump also responded swiftly on July 4.
On his Twitter account he made apparent reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, saying: “Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?”
“Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”
President Trump has repeatedly called on China, Pyongyang’s closest economic ally, to pressure North Korea to end its nuclear and missile programs.
On the prospect of North Korea being able to strike the US, he tweeted in January: “It won’t happen”. However experts say it might – within five years or less.
Beijing called for “restraint” following the latest test on July 4.
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China was opposed to North Korea going against clear UN Security Council resolutions on its missile launches.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said the UK “stood alongside the US and our allies to confront the threat North Korea poses to international security”.
A new video of ISIS recruits trying to pledge their allegiance to the caliphate shows a recruit fluffing his lines and being interrupted by screeching bird calls.
A video of a recruits in Yemen, unearthed by Dr Elisabeth Kendall, a senior research fellow at Oxford University’s Pembroke College, shows a bearded youth coming struggling to get through his vows.
The footage was recorded in 2017, when ISIS still held territory in Iraq and Syria, and was attracting recruits from further afield.
Kendall told Business Insider the clip was released this week by Hidaya Media, a broadcaster associated with al-Qaeda’s operations around the Red Sea.
ISIS and al-Qaeda are rival jihadist organizations and have been known to insult and belittle each other.
Although ISIS has been deprived of its former territory in Syria and Iraq, the organization continues. Both ISIS and al-Qaeda are currently fighting over territory in Yemen.
In the video the insurgent, identified by The Independent as Abu Muhammad al-Adeni, trips over his lines, prompting a fellow recruit to say: “Stay calm, keep cool”.
On two occasions his speech is cut short by loud, intrusive bird calls. The man has a Janbiya knife tucked into his belt.
The footage may have been found by al-Qaeda operatives when they took over an ISIS camp in northwestern al-Bayda, Yemen, earlier this summer, Kendall told Business Insider.
Footage from a different part of the shoot later made it into an actual ISIS propaganda video, released in September 2017. It shows a series of young recruits gathering together, celebrating, affirming their vows to the caliphate, and eating.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
More than 16 million Americans fought in World War II. When those brave veterans of the ‘Greatest Generation’ returned home, many of them refused to talk about it. Now, in a race against time, one veteran’s son took on the mission of making sure their stories are told.
Charley Valera’s father Giovanni “Gene” Valera was in the legendary 8th Army Air Force’s 93rd Bombardment Group in the European Theater. But Charley didn’t know anything about it until a full ten years after his father passed away.
Now, the younger Valera is trying to help families in a similar situation by interviewing and collecting the stories of WWII veterans from all ranks, all theaters, and all branches. With veterans recalling the stories they never did – or never could – tell their families, he hopes to devote equal time to every story he can capture forever. Stories like Santo DiSalvo’s (below), who was drafted into the Army on Mar. 5, 1943.
Now, having collected so many stories and interviews, Charley Valera has compiled them into a book, My Father’s War: Memories From Our Honored WWII Soldiers. His hope is that families can learn about their loved ones’ sacrifices and bravery in the biggest conflict ever fought by mankind.
“We all know someone who was there, fighting in WWII,” says Charley Valera. “We also know they didn’t talk about their war efforts. The simply say ‘I was just doing my job.'”
My Father’s War contains ten stories (and some very honorable mentions) from World War II veterans of many ranks and branches, in their own words. Included are personal photographs and letters from their time on the battlefields that detail what happened and how they felt about it – then and now.
The book is a fascinating compendium of personal narratives. You don’t have to jump in and read it cover to cover. It’s a book that is easily put down and picked back up so you can consume these stories and truly think about the fortitude and bravery it took to swallow your fear and do the job.
And then keep it all bottled up inside when you come back home.
Charley Valera’s mission is personally driven but his motivation is a beautiful and altruistic one. Consider that only 9 surviving Medal of Honor recipients from World War II and Korea are alive today — while those stories are firmly in the history books, imagine how many were never told and never seen, but still worthy of high praise.
Furthermore, this book details how men went from citizen to soldier, fighting the good fight, seemingly overnight. They aren’t just war stories, they’re personal stories from a generation that will soon be gone, enshrined forever.
Tai Chi and yoga are parts of VA’s Whole Health approach to wellness.
Mental health is still a taboo subject among veterans and service members — but it doesn’t have to be, says U.S. Marine Corps veteran Bob Moran.
Moran, who went through his own journey of mental health recovery at VA New Jersey Health Care System, is sharing his experience in hopes of inspiring others to seek help.
“I think mental health is something that a lot of veterans downplay the importance of,” he says.
According to Moran, veterans often cover up mental health issues or claim they can cope with anything. “In my experience, that’s not the case.”
Moran graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1983 and served for five years. In 2015, a friend recommended that he talk to a therapist. Moran became a VA outpatient with a diagnosis of low-level depression.
“If it worked for Bob, it might work for me.”
That was only the beginning of his mental health journey. In June 2018, Moran called the National Veterans Crisis Line. “I went to the emergency room at East Orange,” he recalls.
Moran was admitted to the VA New Jersey inpatient mental health unit and then spent time in the facility’s residential treatment program. While there, he was introduced to the VA Whole Health curriculum, which turns traditional medical care on its head by focusing on the patient and what matters to them most rather than on a particular disease. It was a pleasant surprise.
“I took part in yoga and tai chi and also the Whole Health six-week introductory course,” Moran says. “It was very much an eastern sort of holistic way of looking at my life and myself as a person.” The new approach helped Moran become better grounded and gave him tools to use when feeling anxious or depressed.
Veterans can use such tools to actively work through symptoms or issues before they become a crisis, says Dr. Heather Shangold, local recovery coordinator at VA New Jersey. “You can’t pick and choose your emotions. They are all useful and important, even the ones that are uncomfortable. They give us signs to help us stay healthy. Don’t ignore them, embrace them, and if it’s too hard on your own, get help.”
Dr. Heather Shangold.
Unfortunately, says Shangold, the stigma associated with mental health conditions sometimes stops people from seeking treatment — which is not the case with physical illness. “In all my years of working in a hospital, I have never seen anyone reject cancer treatment because of stigma or embarrassment.”
Moran has a suggestion for veterans who are unsure whether to seek mental health treatment or think they have nothing to talk about with a counselor: talk about things you think you don’t have a problem with and have under control. “It sounds counterintuitive, but [veterans should] just talk about it and practice telling a story because it’ll help them to understand their service better and how important it is to them.”
Moran says that telling his own story has helped him. He hopes other veterans will be encouraged to embark on their own paths to wellness. “They might think that ‘if it worked for Bob, it might work for me.'”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The question over whether or not Confederate soldiers were U.S. veterans is largely a symbolic one today. Only one Civil War pension is still being paid (that pensioner was a veteran of both sides of the conflict), and by the time Confederates received real benefits, they were all dead by the following year. No specific legislation exists that identifies Confederate veterans as having equal status to all other American veterans.
However, provisions exist that could add up to that protected status. Under the law, that is.
President Lincoln considered Confederate citizens and soldiers “Americans in rebellion,” and not citizen of a foreign country. His view dominated in the days following the end of the war. Lincoln even began the Reconstruction process early with the 1863 Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, which pardoned the average Joe Confederate troop still fighting for the South.
President Johnson continued the amnesty policy in 1868, granting a full pardon to most former Confederates, including men who fought the Union directly. They all regained their citizenship and voting rights, but were not granted veterans status by the federal government, which means they did not receive the same benefits promised to those who fought for the Union.
As the 19th century turned to the 20th, Americans began to care for Confederate graves the way they cared for Union ones. But this was not because any Federal act told them to, it was just the spirit of reconciliation in a nation fresh from a victory over Spain. Eventually it was codified into law.
U.S. Code 38 does require the government, when requested, to put up a headstone for soldiers of the Union and Confederate armies of the Civil War, which was confirmed again in 1958 under Public Law 85. That same law also extends veterans’ pensions “to widows of veterans who served in the military or naval forces of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.”
The closest Confederates come to U.S. veteran status is in a 2001 U.S. Court of Appeals ruling about whether or not the Confederate flag was able to be flown over a national cemetery, administered by the VA. The court upheld the VA’s treatment of the rebel graves as equally honored, and that it was not obligated to fly any flag except the American flag over the cemetery.
The CSA flag was not considered a legitimate symbol of the United States and the Confederates buried there were honored as citizens, not as veterans.
So when added up, a Confederate’s benefits amounted to much of what was received by a Union veteran, but they’ll never be called American veterans. The closest they ever came was “American citizens” …”who served in the military or naval forces of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.”
President Xi Jinping said China will “fight the bloody battle against our enemies” in a speech on March 20, 2018, striking a nationalistic and hawkish tone.
In his closing speech of the country’s annual legislative meeting, Xi discussed the benefits of China’s socialism, the Belt and Road initiative, and a string of domestic policies, zeroing in on Hong Kong and Taiwan.
“We are resolved to fight the bloody battle against our enemies … with a strong determination to take our place in the world,” Xi said, according to CNN.
Xi also said any separatist action to seek independence in these territories would be doomed to fail.
“The Chinese people have strong determination, full confidence, and every capability to triumph over all these separatist actions. The Chinese people and the Chinese nation have a shared conviction which is not a single inch of our land will be and can be ceded from China,” Xi said.
While it was not clear if China’s president was referring to any particular incident, state-run media one day earlier threatened “military pressure” and drills would resume if US and Taiwanese officials began visiting one another under the new Taiwan Travel Act.
China considers the self-ruled, democratic island to be a province of China that will one day be reunified with the mainland. Beijing refuses to have diplomatic relations with any nation that treats Taiwan as a country, and relations between China and Taiwan worsened since Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s independence-leaning leader, became president in 2016.
Xi, who oversees all Taiwan affairs, also focused on reunifying Taiwan and China during a major speech to the Communist Party in 2017. Analyzing that speech, some experts estimate that Xi’s is hoping for reunification by 2050 — by peaceful means, or by force, if necessary.
In 2013, Xi said the issue needed to be resolved, and couldn’t be passed on “from generation to generation.” Even still, Taiwan has noticed a tougher stance coming from Xi of late as he begins to focus on his goal of “national rejuvenation.”
Xi also focused on increasing the “national identity” and patriotism of citizens in Hong Kong and Macau.
On March 20, 2018, Human Rights Watch issued a report on plans for Hong Kong legislators to discuss a law that criminalizes the insulting of the Chinese national anthem. The punishment for those who alter the lyrics, score, or sing in a derogatory manner, could be up to three years in prison.
“Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has played down fears the bill could be politicized, saying it merely aims to encourage ‘respect’ for the anthem. Yet she has not acknowledged citizens’ concerns about forcing their political loyalty to Beijing, or how mainland authorities’ frequently jail people for peaceful criticism,” Maya Wang, Human Rights Watch’s senior researcher on China.
“Enacting this law will merely remind Hong Kong people just how tenuous their rights to free speech are.”
An excerpt of Xi’s speech:
“We will continue to implement One Country, Two Systems principle: Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong, Macau people governing Macau, and a high degree of autonomy in the Special Administrative Regions (SARs). We will continue to stick to the constitution and basic laws in governing the two regions and support the SARs and its chief executives in implementing its functions and supporting Hong Kong and Macau in integrating into the larger picture of the country.
We will continue to strengthen and foster the national identity and patriotism of people in Hong Kong and Macau SARs and maintain long-term stability and prosperity in Hong Kong and Macau SARs.
We should continue to stick to the One China principle, 1992 consensus, advance the development of cross-strait relations, and expand the economic and cultural exchanges between the two sides. By doing so, we will make sure that people both in Taiwan and the mainland will share in the development and improve its well-being and also advance the unification of the country.
We should safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country and achieve full reunification of the motherland. This is the aspiration of all Chinese people and this is also in line with the fundamental interests of the Chinese nation. Faced with this very important question of our nation and history, any action that aims to separate the country is doomed to fail.
And these separatist actions will be met with the condemnation of the people and the punishment of the history. The Chinese people have strong determination, full confidence and every capability to triumph over all these separatist actions. The Chinese people and the Chinese nation have a shared conviction which is not a single inch of our land will be and can be ceded from China.”
Tony Sutter was at work when he noticed photos of a vandalized sign pop up on his neighborhood watch group on Facebook Sunday afternoon. Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is a Purple Heart City, which falls under the Purple Heart Trail program. One of their signs marking Highway 11 had been spray painted black.
According to the Military Order of the Purple Heart, “The purpose of the Purple Heart Trail is to create a symbolic and honorary system of roads, highways, bridges, and other monuments that give tribute to the men and women who have been awarded the Purple Heart medal.” The signs serve as visual reminders of the sacrifices US men and women have made on behalf of their country.
Sutter served in the US Army for six years and was injured during his last deployment to Afghanistan. His grandfather, who recently died, was a Vietnam War veteran. He has seen the rigors of war through the psychological toll it takes as well as seeing brothers and sisters wounded or killed overseas. So seeing the vandalized sign hit a nerve.
The sign in Sioux Falls that was partially vandalized. Tony Sutter believes whoever was responsible didn’t spray paint the upper portion because the sign stands approximately 10 feet tall. Photos courtesy of Tony Sutter.
Sutter explained that regardless of what the vandal’s intentions were, “make your own sign and do whatever you want with it, but something that the city of Sioux Falls thought was appropriate to show some respect for our wounded veterans [should be left alone] — I couldn’t tolerate it, I gotta clean that up.”
“If I could prevent somebody from having that heartache or that feeling of disrespect [from seeing that sign vandalized] — if I could prevent that from at least one veteran or one person in general, maybe a family member of a veteran who’s been wounded, I’d say that’s a job well done,” Sutter said.
Sutter has an extensive background with mechanics and painting, so removing paint from the sign was not a problem. He grabbed a ladder and the proper chemicals to remove the paint and set out to Highway 11 and 57th Street, where the sign is located. Sutter was shaking in anger and shock over the disrespect someone had for the wounded veteran community. He thought about all of his friends and family who had been wounded while serving in the military as he scrubbed the paint away.
Though Tony Sutter specialized in radios and radio repair, he used his background before the military to assist his fellow troops with generators while deployed to Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of Tony Sutter.
The connection with his grandfather was most present in his mind. Sutter’s grandfather was a US Marine who served during the Vietnam War. They used to share quiet moments together — just being around each other was comforting due to their separate but similar experiences in war.
Sutter went through a dark period in his life that included a divorce and the weight of his past experiences weighing him down. He broke down while talking with his grandfather and, with his grandfather’s support, decided to seek help. Within about a year, his grandfather sought help with his own experiences from Vietnam.
Sutter is aware of the hard times Vietnam veterans endured upon their return to the US after deployments. They were spit on and labeled as dysfunctional. When Sutter saw the Purple Heart City sign vandalized, he immediately thought of the Vietnam veterans, especially his late grandfather.
“You don’t mess with my family, and we’re all family,” Sutter said of the military and veteran communities. “Whether we know each other or not, […] we’re there for each other. I know for a fact my grandpa [was] looking down yesterday, and he had a big smile on his face. And I know that I made him proud because that’s who he helped raise — was that person that I became, to look out for other people and not just myself.”