Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

For the more than 19 million veterans currently living in the United States, where you live can be essential to your access to healthcare, good employment, and a strong quality of life.

WalletHub recently conducted a report of the best US cities for veterans, analyzing 20 key indicators of livability, affordability, and veteran-friendliness. The study then provided rankings — out of 100 — for each category.


Employment rankings took into account the number of veteran-owned businesses per veteran population and opportunities for job growth, as well as the availability of jobs that utilize military-learned skills. Economy rankings considered factors such as the median veteran income and veteran homelessness rates, while quality of life was determined by analyzing veteran population, restaurants with military discounts, and more.

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Carlos Delgado)

The study found that Tampa, Florida, triumphed as the best major US city for veterans, earning a total score of 72.44 out of a possible 100. Boston, Massachusetts, despite ranking at No. 68 overall, earned the highest ranking for veteran employment.

Keep reading to find out the top 25 best US cities for veterans.

25. Lincoln, Nebraska

Total score: 60.69

Employment (ranked out of 100): 49th

Economy (ranked out of 100): 8th

Quality of life (ranked out of 100): 29th

Health (ranked out of 100): 94th

24. Durham, North Carolina

Total score: 60.72

Employment: 15

Economy: 55

Quality of life: 28

Health: 42

23. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Total score: 60.85

Employment: 14

Economy: 10

Quality of life: 18

Health: 84

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Gerson Repreza)

22. Chesapeake, Virginia

Total score: 61.25

Employment: 57

Economy: 13

Quality of life: 26

Health: 61

21. San Antonio, Texas

Total score: 61.34

Employment: 29

Economy: 27

Quality of life: 19

Health: 47

20. Denver, Colorado

Total score: 61.79

Employment: 6

Economy: 50

Quality of life: 12

Health: 79

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Owen CL)

19. Laredo, Texas

Total score: 61.80

Employment: 33

Economy: 1

Quality of life: 78

Health: 20

18. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Total score: 61.96

Employment: 20

Economy: 72

Quality of life: 25

Health: 30

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen)

17. Columbus, Ohio

Total score: 62.16

Employment: 24

Economy: 14

Quality of life: 37

Health: 54

16. Boise, Idaho


Total score: 62.71

Employment: 21

Economy: 36

Quality of life: 4

Health: 89

15. San Diego, California

Total score: 62.75

Employment: 47

Economy: 78

Quality of life: 2

Health: 35

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Lucas Davies)

14. Plano, Texas

Total score: 63.23

Employment: 82

Economy: 44

Quality of life: 10

Health: 20

13. Fort Worth, Texas

Total score: 63.35

Employment: 70

Economy: 5

Quality of life: 32

Health: 20

12. Irvine, California

Total score: 63.66

Employment: 50

Economy: 40

Quality of life: 41

Health: 1

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Catatonique)

11. Madison, Wisconsin

Total score: 64.50

Employment: 27

Economy: 6

Quality of life: 21

Health: 40

10. Jacksonville, Florida

Total score: 65.50

Employment: 23

Economy: 20

Quality of life: 36

Health: 13

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Lance Asper)

9. St. Petersburg, Florida

Total score: 65.67

Employment: 51

Economy: 18

Quality of life: 23

Health: 13

8. Gilbert, Arizona

Total score: 67.73

Employment: 40

Economy: 3

Quality of life: 15

Health: 64

7. Virginia Beach, Virginia

Total score: 68.13

Employment: 62

Economy: 2

Quality of life: 11

Health: 61

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Jason Pratt)

6. Colorado Springs, Colorado

Total score: 70.06

Employment: 17

Economy: 24

Quality of life: 5

Health: 49

5. Scottsdale, Arizona

Total score: 71.45

Employment: 12

Economy: 9

Quality of life: 3

Health: 64

4. Raleigh, North Carolina

Total score: 71.78

Employment: 5

Economy: 4

Quality of life: 14

Health: 70

3. Orlando, Florida

Total score: 71.94

Employment: 3

Economy: 16

Quality of life: 9

Health: 32

Here are the 25 best US cities for veterans to live

(Photo by Drew Coffman)

2. Austin, Texas

Total score: 72.22

Employment: 11

Economy: 17

Quality of life: 7

Health: 20

1. Tampa, Florida

Total score: 72.44

Employment: 8

Economy: 12

Quality of life: 6

Health: 16

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

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MIGHTY CULTURE

No right to quit – Soldier honors Black History Month by sharing father’s legacy

FORT GORDON, Ga. – Fort Gordon honored Black History Month with a command program Monday in Darling Hall. The program was hosted by Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center and broadcasted live on Facebook to help maximize attendance.

The theme for this year’s observance is “Honor, Remember, Inspire.”

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Chief Warrant Officer 5 Phillip Brashear, 80th Training Command, shows a photo of his father with Cuba Gooding Jr. The actor played his father in the movie Men of Honor, which was released in 2000 – six years before Master Chief Petty Officer Carl Brashear passed away. (Photo Credit: Laura Levering / Fort Gordon Public Affairs )

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Phillip Brashear of the 80th Training Command, a U.S. Army Reserve unit based in Richmond, Virginia, served as the program’s guest speaker. Brashear is the third-born son of the late Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Carl Brashear, who is the subject of the well-renowned film “Men of Honor,” and whose role is played by actor Cuba Gooding Jr.

Phillip said he likes to share his father’s story in hopes of inspiring others to overcome all adversity.

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Chief Warrant Officer 5 Phillip Brashear, 80th Training Command, shows photos of his father enduring going through a series of movements required by the Navy to prove that his father was fit to return to active-duty following an injury that cost him his left leg. (Photo Credit: Laura Levering / Fort Gordon Public Affairs )

Born in 1931 to a family of sharecroppers in Kentucky, Phillip said that his father faced many obstacles during his lifetime. But Carl refused to let them get in the way of setting out to accomplish what he believed God had intended for him.

With barely an eighth grade level education, Carl enlisted in the Navy in 1948 at age 17.

“Race, poverty, and illiteracy were three things that my father had to face before he finally joined the Navy to try to do better in his life … three things still affect every country today,” Phillip said.

But his obstacles were far from over. Even among the ranks, racism was rampant. Being a Black man during that time meant career paths in the military were very limited. But Carl set his sights on becoming a diver and succeeded in 1954, making him the first African American Navy diver.

About 12 years into his career, Phillip’s father was involved in a military operation off the coast of Spain where he was sent in to assist with bomb recovery. During the operation, Carl suffered an injury that later required his lower left leg be amputated. The injured diver could have decided that was the end of his military career, but he refused. Instead, he endured months of pain and rehabilitation, determined to prove to the Navy he could still perform his duties.

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Master Chief Petty Officer Carl Brashear is seen in this photo climbing a wall ladder with weights strapped to his back while wearing dress shoes and his prosthetic leg. (Photo Credit: Laura Levering / Fort Gordon Public Affairs )

“At any point, my father could’ve said, ‘This is too much for one man to bear,’ but my father wasn’t built like that, and he wasn’t going to take ‘no’ for an answer,” Phillip said. “My father said, ‘You know what? What’s for me is for me, and what God told me I could accomplish, I can accomplish despite.’”

The following year, in 1967, Carl returned, making him the first amputee to return to active-duty after the loss of a leg.

“If the Navy saw any fault in his abilities, the Navy was going to retire him,” he said. “He struggled and he endured, and he stayed in shape so that he could do what he had to do.”

“He knew in his heart that he didn’t want to quit, and he knew he had faith and God on his side; he overcame,” Phillip said of his father. “We don’t have the right to quit. No matter how hard we think we’ve got it, there’s always somebody who’s got it worse. Always.”

Phillip showed photographs to the audience of his father during physical rehabilitation. The images illustrated some of the obstacles he faced including donning a 300-pound dive suit in harsh conditions, and climbing a metal staircase with weights over his head while wearing dress shoes. Had he slipped and fallen, Phillip believes the Navy would have discharged his father.

In doing so, Phillip said that his father proved “nobody can take your goals away from you.” It was one countless life lessons he carries with him and shares with others.

Carl continued his service as a re-certified Navy diver until 1979, when he retired. Although the senior Brashear received an honorable discharge, Phillip said that his father admitted to having an alcohol addiction and sought help prior to his discharge – yet another hurdle he was able to overcome.

“Obstacle in the way? Deal with it. Move it, knock it down, go around it, obliterate it,” Phillip said. “It’s not a sin to get knocked down. It’s a sin to stay down.”

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Col. Carlene A. S Blanding, Eisenhower Army Medical Center commander, gives closing remarks during Monday’s African American/Black History Month command program. (Photo Credit: Laura Levering / Fort Gordon Public Affairs )

The elder Brashear passed away in 2006, but his legacy lives on in the stories his family shares and in multiple physical forms throughout Kentucky, such as the Carl Brashear Memorial Bridge in Tonieville, Kentucky and a marble statue in the Kentucky State Capitol Rotunda.

Reflecting on what Phillip shared, Col. Carlene A. S Blanding, EAMC commander, said it occurred to her that people “have no reason to not succeed.”

“It’s about action, and I think CW5 Brashear has laid the path of his father’s story for all of us,” Blanding said. “We have great opportunities, and it is our responsibility to make sure we capitalize on those opportunities.”

Articles

Watch an elderly Vietnam Vet fight off a woman who tried to take his wallet

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An attack by a woman on an elderly veteran was caught on tape outside a Fresno, California, auto parts store.

Police are asking for the public’s help in trying to find 73-year-old Victor Bejarano’s attacker.

The Vietnam vet said the woman got out of an SUV and asked him for his wallet in the parking lot. When he refused, she tried to take it from him, leading to a prolonged struggle.

When he made his way inside the store in order to get help, she followed him and the struggle continued right at the counter.

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None of the customers in the store stepped in to help, police said. The woman got back in her SUV and drove off before police arrived.

After all that, Bejarano said if the woman had just asked him politely for money and explained her situation, he would have helped her out.

“If she would’ve told me from the beginning: ‘Sir, please help, I have a child. He’s crying because he’s hungry.’ I would have given her the money. But she didn’t ask for the money, she asked for my wallet. I said, I can’t give you my wallet,” said Bejarano, who was at the Auto Zone to fix a friend’s van.

Watch the “Fox and Friends” report here.

Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com
MIGHTY TRENDING

VP open to the new Space Force using orbital weapons

If officials can advocate for reusable rockets to deliver cargo to troops from space ports, perhaps more firepower in space is possible, too.

Vice President Mike Pence on Oct. 23, 2018, didn’t immediately rule out positioning nuclear weapons in space sometime in the future. In a conversation with the Washington Post during its “Transformers: Space” summit, Pence was asked if the United States was looking to renegotiate the terms of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which currently bans “weapons of mass destruction,” but still allows for conventional weapons in orbit.


“That treaty…doesn’t ban military activity,” Pence said. “It gives nations a fair amount of flexibility in operating in their security interests in outer space. At this time we don’t see any need to amend the treaty, but as time goes forward, the hope that we could continue to see outer space as a domain where peace will reign will require military presence.”

Post reporter Robert Costa, who interviewed Pence onstage at the forum, asked him if he thought nuclear weapons should be banned from space.

“They are now,” Pence replied.

“Should they always be banned from space?” Costa said.

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A SpaceX “flight proven” first stage booster successfully lands on Landing Zone 1, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Dec. 15, 2017.

(SpaceX photo)

“Well, look. I think what we need to do is make sure that we provide for the common defense of the people of the United States of America. And that’s the president’s determination here,” Pence replied. “What we want to do is continue to advance the principle that peace comes through strength.”

The vice president on Oct. 23, 2018, headlined a few events to promote plans for the Trump administration’s proposed Space Force, intended to be the sixth military branch.

Following his appearance at the Post, Pence convened a meeting of the National Space Council at Fort McNair, where cabinet secretaries, members of the national space and security councils, and policy officials discussed recommendations to begin forming the Department of the Space Force.

Echoing a plan Pence unveiled at the Pentagon in August 2018, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the Defense Department would move to:

  • Establish the creation of a unified space command, known as U.S. Space Command
  • Direct a legislative proposal for a Space Force for the White House to review
  • Form a budget request proposal to include Space Force elements in the fiscal year 2020 budget Review various space agency authorities to understand and streamline chain-of-command
  • Establishes the Space Development Agency for new satellite and technology procurement
  • Strengthen relationships between the new military space branch and the intelligence community

The recommendations, approved unanimously in the meeting, will eventually be woven into Space Policy Directive-4, known as SPD-4, Space News reported.

When SPD-4 may be signed by the president was not disclosed, even though members of the Pentagon have been waiting to discuss the directive for some months, Military.com reported last week.

During the two-hour meeting, the conferees heard from Doug Loverro, deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy; Mark Sirangelo, an “entrepreneur-in-residence” at the University of Colorado Boulder’s aerospace engineering program and former head of Sierra Nevada Corporation’s space business; and Air Force Lt. Gen. James K. McLaughlin, deputy commander of U.S. Cyber Command.

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U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. James K. McLaughlin, Deputy Commander of U.S. Cyber Command.

All were in favor of establishing a Space Force. McLaughlin, however, stressed interoperability and warned of bureaucratic overlap.

“I think you undermine the need for a department if you try to create a combatant command with service-like authorities,” McLaughlin said. “We have to be careful about these three entities not overlapping, and drawing clear lines.”

According to a report from DefenseOne, the Pentagon already has some lines drawn.

Current space operations conducted by bases that belong to Air Force Space Command, the Army‘s 1st Space Brigade, the Navy‘s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command and the Naval Satellite Operations Center will all be absorbed into the Space Force, according to plans.

Space Force will not initially include “the transfer of [the] strategic intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance mission of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO),” the 13-page memo said, as reported by DefenseOne Monday. Whether the intelligence agency will be incorporated at a later date remains to be seen.

“It was not easy to do this,” Shanahan said Tuesday. “But we are moving out.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Nigerian woman stopped hunting antelope to shoot terrorists

For the terrorist group whose name translates to “Western Education is Forbidden,” Aisha Bakari Gombi’s name means getting schooled on the battlegrounds of sub-Saharan Africa.


“Boko Haram know me and fear me,” says Gombi.

Gombi’s title is now “Queen Hunter” for her prowess in fighting terrorist cells in the country. According to the Guardian’s Rosie Collyer, she commands men who communicate using sign language, animal sounds, and birdsong.

 

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Boko Haram, the junior varsity ISIS, still somehow manages to ill innocent civilians and wreak havoc across Nigeria.

Her home as a youth is a town called Gombi, near Nigeria’s Sambisa Forest, which is now rife with Boko Haram extremists. This is a short drive from where 200 girls were kidnapped in 2014.

Gombi has been a member of the local hunter’s club since she was in her youth, taught to hunt by her grandfather.

“We could free them if the military would give us better weapons,” she told the Guardian as she eyed a double-barreled shotgun on her lap.

In the same forest where she once hunted antelope for food, she now hunts Boko Haram fighters for vengeance. Many other women in the village have since joined the hunt for terrorist fighters, many to avenge missing loved ones abducted by the group.

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Aisha Bakari Gombi. (Photo by Rosie Collyer)

Many other women in the village have since joined the hunt for terrorist fighters, many to avenge missing loved ones abducted by the group. There are now 228 hunters in Gombi’s village who have been recruited by the government to help fight terrorists.

Aisha Bakari Gombi vows never to stop fighting Boko Haram until her village is free from their threat. The only thing holding her back is the resources required to go on the offensive.

“I’m waiting for a call authorizing me to go back to rescue those women and children from Daggu, but I don’t know if they will give us more arms,” she says.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Allies built all-new harbors in a matter of days after D-Day

There was a reason that the Nazis thought the original D-Day invasions were a feint: Aside from the misdirection operations conducted by the Allies, the geography of the beaches made it seemingly impossible to fully supply a large invasion force.

It was seemingly impossible, even with landing ships and Higgins boats, to move enough beans and bullets over the sands.


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A line of U.S. Liberty ships deliberately sunk off the coast at Omaha beach to form a breakwater for the Mulberry harbor there.

(U.S. Army)

But the Allies had a secret. They didn’t need to fully supply the invasion for months using only the landing craft, and they didn’t need to race to a port and try to wrest it from fierce defenses. Instead, they had a plan to build their own port, complete with two man-made harbors, in a matter of days just after D-Day. These “Mulberry harbors” would tip the logistics battles in favor of the landed forces.

The inspiration for Mulberry harbors came from the failed Dieppe Raid, which pitted about 6,000 troops against the heavily defended port at Dieppe, France, and resulted in 2,000 Canadians being taken prisoner.

The Allies realized that taking a deepwater port would be a tall order. While the plan for Operation Overload included a follow-on operation against the port of Cherbourg, to be completed in eight days, military planners realized they needed a Plan B.

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A sectional concrete breakwater for the Omaha Beach breakwater is floated towards the French shore, June 1944

(U.S. Navy)

That Plan B ended up being Mulberry harbors, sort of the Ikea solution to deepwater ports. The British needed eight months to build the concrete sections and prepare them for deployment. On June 6, when they got the word that the landing forces were likely to succeed in taking the assigned beaches, a fleet of ships took off towards France carrying these concrete sections.

But the British engineering plan was ambitious. It called not just for a few large piers, but two entire artificial harbors. For those who aren’t familiar with naval activities, this meant that the engineers had to construct what was, essentially, a massive horseshoe stretching hundreds of feet into the ocean to shelter the piers from the worst ocean currents.

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The Mulberry artificial harbor at Arromanches, France, September 1944.

(British Army Sgt. Harrison)

Each harbor had multiple piers with a combined length of six miles. The concrete caissons that made up the piers required 330,000 cubic yards of concrete, 31,000 tons of steel, and 1.5 million yards of steel shuttering.

When the call came to begin construction, the ships took off across the channel and began placing gear in position. Some older ships were deliberately sunk to help form the breakwaters, and the piers were ready to receive supplies a shocking three days after the invasion began.

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But it was hardly a charmed undertaking. The American forces controlled one harbor and the British, Canadian, and Free French forces controlled the other. The British piers were anchored to the seafloor, but the American ones were not, and a June 19 storm demolished the American harbor.

According to an article by Michael D. Hull on Warfare History Network:

The Americans’ harbor was harder hit than Port Winston. The Utah Beach Gooseberry lost several blockships that were torn open, and the Mulberry harbor off St. Laurent was devastated. The breakwaters were overwhelmed by waves, two blockships broke their backs, and only 10 out of 35 Phoenix caissons remained in position. The piers and bombardons were wrecked, and the harbor was eventually abandoned. When the gale finally blew itself out on June 23, Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley, commander of the U.S. 12th Army Group, went down to the beach to see the damage for himself. “I was appalled by the desolation, for it vastly exceeded that on D-Day,” he said.
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This was a huge problem because Cherbourg — slated for liberation on June 21 — was still in German hands. The decision was made to shift what pieces were still functional in the American harbor to the British one and shut down the U.S. effort, doubling the necessity of taking the French port.

While Cherbourg would end up being the greater logistics hub for the Allies through the conclusion of the war, it was the Mulberry harbors that kept Allied logistics alive long enough for Cherbourg to fall. At the height of their use, the Mulberry harbors moved 12,000 tons of cargo and 2,500 vehicles a day.

The harbors were designed for 90 days of hard use, but the British installation actually functioned for a full eight months. The American harbor was used, without the broken piers, for most of the rest of the war as well.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the pilot who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima doesn’t have a grave

When Paul Tibbets died in January 2007, he had been retired from the Air Force since 1966. He was never forgotten, however, and never would be. He was the man who dropped the first atomic weapon used in combat against an enemy city. But instead of being interred at home or at Arlington National Cemetery with all his brothers in arms, he was cremated and his ashes spread across the English Channel.


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Tibbets in his later years.

It wasn’t that Tibbets wasn’t proud of his service. At the time of the Hiroshima bombing, he was one of the youngest, but most experienced pilots in the Army Air Forces. He proudly named his airplane Enola Gay after his beloved mother. He even re-enacted the bombing in a B-29 during a 1976 Texas air show and denounced the Smithsonian’s exhibition of the actual plane when it debuted because of the exhibition’s focus on the suffering of the Japanese people, and not the brutality of the Japanese military.

His family was also a proud military family. His grandson is an Air Force Academy graduate who came up flying B-2 Spirit bombers. But when he died at age 92, he requested cremation with no headstone – and no funeral, military honors or not.

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Paul Tibbets Jr., left, and his grandson, then-Capt. Paul Tibbets IV, fly the last flyable B-29 Superfortress, ‘Fifi,’ in Midland, Texas.

The elder Tibbets was concerned that any grave or headstone he left behind would become ground zero for anti-nuclear weapons protests, anti-war protesters, or a place for any other kind of revision historian to make a stand against what he saw as the right history. Instead of that, he opted to be cremated and his ashes spread across the English Channel, where he had flown so often during the war.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 things you didn’t know about firing squads

Throughout history, executions have been controversial ways of punishing heinous crimes against individuals, institutions, and governments. From hangings to lethal injection, executions have spanned the gamut of cruelty and, at every point, there has raged a debate over the moral grounds of taking a life for justice.

Historically, one form of execution has been reserved for military personnel: the firing squad. The concept is elementary: a prisoner stands against a brick wall or study barrier and is gunned down by a handful of soldiers. It might sound simple, but there are a few things about this deadly punishment that you might not know


The final walk

Out of grim curiosity, we’ve watched several videos of firing-squad executions found in the war archives. We noticed that the majority of criminals sentenced to die conducted their last walks under their own accord. Although this was likely their last moment of life, criminals weren’t dragged to their position.

We thought that was interesting.

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A firing squad in Cuba.

The crimes committed

Throughout many parts of the world, if a troop or civilian was convicted of cowardice, desertion, espionage, murder, mutiny, or treason, they would be sent up in front of a firing squad as punishment.

That doesn’t happen too often today.

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What it’s like facing a Spanish firing squad without a blindfold.

Blindfolds

In many cases, the prisoner was blindfolded before stepping in front of his executioners. However, some requested the opportunity to face the men who were about to unload their barrels.

That’s pretty ballsy.

According to the Crime Museum, when the condemned person was able to look into the eyes of their executioners, it diminished their anonymity. This made the event stressful for the shooters who were following orders.

The firing squad

Once given the cue by a superior, each soldier pulled the trigger of their rifle simultaneously, resulting in a kill shot by multiple rounds.

In some cases, only a handful of the executioners were given live rounds. The rest would receive blanks. This way, nobody could know who, exactly, was responsible for the kill.

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Ronnie Lee Gardner in the the courtroom

(National Public Radio)

The last use of a firing squad for a convicted criminal.

According to NPR, the last person to be executed by firing squad was convicted murderer, Ronnie Lee Gardner, in 2010. While already faced with a murder conviction in Utah, Gardner attempted to escape and, in the process, killed an attorney.

Gardner’s conviction came through before the state abandoned the use of the firing squads in 2004. He elected to be killed this way.

Articles

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

US military advisers are operating inside the city of Raqqa, Daesh’s last major bastion in Syria, a US official said July 12. The troops, many of them Special Operations Forces, are working in an “advise, assist, and accompany” role to support local fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces as they battle Daesh, said Col. Ryan Dillon, a military spokesman.


The troops are not in a direct combat role but are calling in airstrikes and are working closer to the fight than did US forces supporting the Iraqi military in Mosul.

“They are much more exposed to enemy contact than those in Iraq,” Dillon said, adding that the numbers of US forces in Raqqa were “not hundreds.”

The operation to capture Raqqa began in November and on June 6 the SDF entered the city. With help from the US-led coalition, the SDF this month breached an ancient wall by Raqqa’s Old City, where die-hard militants are making a last stand.

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SDF fighters among rubble in Raqqa. Photo from VOA.

Dillon said the coalition had seen Daesh increasingly using commercial drones that have been rigged with explosives. The militants employed a similar tactic in Mosul.

“Over the course over the last week or two, it has increased as we’ve continued to push in closer inside of Raqqa city center,” he said.

The US military is secretive about exactly how big its footprint is in Syria, but has previously said about 500 Special Operations fighters are there to train and assist the SDF, an Arab-Kurdish alliance.

Additionally, Marines are operating an artillery battery to help in the Raqqa offensive.

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The United States Marine Corps provide fire support to the SDF during the Battle of Raqqa. Photo from USMC.

The UN said July 12 it is using newly opened land routes in Syria to expand food deliveries to areas around Raqqa.

The new access has allowed the World Food Program to deliver food to rural areas north of the city for the first time in three years.

More than 190,000 people have been displaced from and within Raqqa province since April 1, according to the UN refugee agency. In the past 48 hours, hundreds of civilians managed to flee areas under Daesh control and cross to territory seized by SDF, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. As the map of control changes, so is the access and WFP said it is now delivering food every month to nearly 200,000 people in eight hard-to-reach locations inside Raqqa province as well as other areas in a neighboring province.

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USMC photo by Sgt. Justin T. Updegraff.

Prior to the reopening of the road linking Aleppo in the west to Hassakeh in the east, the WFP relied on airlifts.

“Replacing airlifts with road deliveries will save an estimated $19 million per year, as each truck on the road carries the equivalent of a planeload of food at a significantly lower cost,” said Jakob Kern, the WFP country representative in Syria. “With these cost savings and improved access, we are now reaching more families and people returning to their homes who need our help with regular food deliveries.”

One area that is now reachable is the town of Tabqa, which was taken from Daesh by the US-backed SDF in May. WFP said it was able this month to double the number of people it reaches, delivering monthly food rations to 25,000 people, many of whom have returned to their original homes and are now working to rebuild their lives.

In Homs eastern countryside, meanwhile, a Syrian military source said the army recaptured the Al-Hayl oil field, south of Al-Sukhneh city, from Daesh militants, the state-run news agency SANA reported.

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SDF in Tabqa. Photo from VOA.

The fight against Daesh is only one facet of the war in Syria, which is now in its seventh year. Six rounds of UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva have failed to bring the warring sides closer to a political settlement.

A seventh round is now underway in the Swiss city, but expectations for a breakthrough are almost non-existent.

July 12, the head of the Syrian opposition delegation accused President Bashar Assad’s regime of refusing to engage in political discussions.

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Photo courtesy of Moscow Kremlin.

Nasr al-Hariri of the High Negotiations Committee also challenged the UN Security Council to “uphold its responsibilities” and maintain pressure on Assad to honor resolutions that the council has passed. He spoke to reporters after emerging from talks with the UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, in the latest round of indirect peace talks. Hariri cited the “continuous refusing” of Assad’s government to participate in political negotiations.

Security Council Resolution 2254 from December 2015 called on top UN officials to convene the two sides “to engage in formal negotiations on a political transition process.”

Also July 12, a human rights group said Syrian-Russian airstrikes and artillery attacks on a town in southern Syria last month killed 10 civilians in and near a school. Human Rights Watch said one of the airstrikes hit the courtyard of a middle school in the town of Tafas in the southern province of Deraa, killing eight people, including a child. It says most of those killed were members of a family who had been displaced from another town. It said two other civilians, including a child, were killed an hour earlier by artillery attacks near the school.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Swarm of Iranian boats harassed US ships in Persian Gulf, Navy says

Close to a dozen vessels from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ navy spent an hour making repeated “dangerous and harassing approaches” near American ships operating in international waters on Wednesday, according to Navy officials.

The 11 vessels carried out the aggressive moves in the Persian Gulf, Naval Forces Central Command said in a news release. The U.S. ships, including four Navy vessels and two Coast Guard, were conducting joint operations with Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, the release states.


Video of #IRGCN vessels conducting dangerous harassing approaches on U.S. naval vessels in the international waters of the North Arabian Gulf.pic.twitter.com/zL9VKQ0eiQ

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The Iranian vessels came within 10 yards of the Coast Guard’s Island-class cutter Maui and within 50 yards of the expeditionary mobile base Lewis B. Puller.

“The IRGCN vessels repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of the U.S. vessels at extremely close range and high speeds,” the Navy’s news release states, adding that the dangerous passes increase the risk of miscalculation and collision.

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Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels cross the bows and sterns of U.S. Military ships while operating in international waters of the North Arabian Gulf, April 15, 2020.

(U.S. Navy)

The provocations came about two weeks after the U.S. moved a carrier strike group out of the region. The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group departed the Middle East earlier this month.

It had been operating in the region with the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, a rare move for the Navy which hasn’t had multiple strike groups in the region for years. The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group remains in the area.

Tensions between Iran and the U.S. have been high. In March, two U.S. troops were killed by a rocket attack in Iraq, believed to have been carried out by Iranian-backed militia groups.

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Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels cross the bows and sterns of U.S. Military ships while operating in international waters of the North Arabian Gulf, April 15, 2020.

(U.S. Navy)

In the Wednesday statement about the unsafe maneuvers, Navy officials said U.S. naval leaders are trained to remain vigilant and professional. But, they added, “our commanding officers retain the inherent right to act in self-defense.”

The other U.S. ships involved in the episode were the Navy destroyer Paul Hamilton and coastal patrol ships Firebolt and Sirocco, along with the Coast Guard cutter Wrangell. The crews have been operating in the region since March.

“The U.S. crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio, five short blasts from the ships’ horns and long range acoustic noise maker devices, but received no response,” the release stated.

About an hour passed before the vessels responded to bridge-to-bridge radio queries, “then maneuvered away from the U.S. ships and opened distance between them,” the release added.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s how many nukes each nuclear country in the world has

Since President Donald Trump assumed office, there has been an intense focus on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. But eight other countries, including the US, have stockpiled nuclear weapons for decades.


A few years after the US dropped atomic bombs on Japan during World War II — the only time nuclear weapons have been used in combat — Russia began developing its own nuclear capabilities. The United Kingdom, France, and China followed soon thereafter.

By the 1960s, it was becoming apparent that a future in which dozens of countries build and test nuclear weapons would not be safe for the world. This led to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1968, which was designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and nuclear technology. A handful of countries, including Israel and North Korea, have not signed on to the agreement.

The treaty has been largely successful. But the potential use of nuclear weapons between hostile nations continues to threaten international peace.

Here’s how many nuclear weapons exist and which countries have them, according to a report from the Federation of American Scientists:

9. North Korea: 60

For years, the US tried to negotiate with North Korea to curb its nuclear weapons program. The Agreed Framework, signed in 1994 under President Bill Clinton, ultimately failed. North Korea was cheating.

In 2003, Pyongyang officially withdrew from the NPT. Three years later, the country conducted its first nuclear test. North Korea has since continued building weapons, despite efforts by Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump to slow its progress.

Today, North Korea most likely has up to 60 nuclear weapons, though that number is an estimate.

8. Israel: 80

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Israel’s government will neither officially confirm nor deny it has nuclear weapons. But it’s an open secret that the Middle Eastern country has been building nuclear weapons for decades.

In 1986, Mordechai Vanunu, a former nuclear technician and whistle-blower, revealed the existence of Israel’s program.

Western allies, like the US and the UK, have supported Israel’s policy of keeping its program “secret.”

The Guardian reported that in 2009, when a reporter asked US President Barack Obama whether he knew of any country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons, “he dodged the trapdoor by saying only that he did not wish to ‘speculate.'”

7. India: 130

To put it mildly, India has a hostile relationship with its neighbor Pakistan. That tension is compounded by the fact that both countries possess nuclear weapons. For nearly two decades, however, the two nations have avoided any escalating nuclear conflict.

In 2003, India, which is not a party to the NPT, declared a no-use-first policy, meaning it vowed to never use nuclear weapons in combat unless first attacked by another country with nuclear weapons. China maintains a similar policy.

India first began developing nuclear weapons in an attempt to counter Chinese aggression in the 1960s. It has since tested multiple nuclear devices, which caused the US to impose, then later lift, various sanctions.

6. Pakistan: 140

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Contrary to India’s no-first-use policy, Pakistan has not ruled out first-attack use of nuclear weapons.

The 1971 Indo-Pakistani War and the threat of India’s burgeoning nuclear weapons capabilities prompted Pakistan to start a nuclear program of its own.

In 2014, Pakistan began developing tactical nuclear weapons, which are smaller warheads built for use on battlefields rather than against cities or infrastructure. These weapons are small enough to launch from warships or submarines, which makes them easier to use on short notice than traditional nuclear weapons.

Pakistan is also reportedly nearing completion of its nuclear triad, which would give the country the ability to launch nuclear missiles from the land, air, and sea.

5. United Kingdom: 215

Like all other nuclearized countries, the UK argues that it needs nuclear weapons largely for defense purposes.

Its nuclear weapons deterrent is called Trident and consists of four Vanguard-class submarines that can carry up to 16 Trident II D5 ballistic missiles, each armed with up to eight nuclear warheads, The Telegraph reported.

From 2010 to 2015, the UK cut the number of its operational warheads by 40, to 120. It continues to work on nuclear reduction while maintaining its advocacy for minimum nuclear force — just the right amount of force to inflict devastation and achieve combat goals.

4. China: 270

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Lieutenant General Ding Laihang. Photo from South China Morning Post.

China’s first nuclear weapons test took place in 1964. Like India, Beijing maintains a no-use-first nuclear policy, but some in the international community are skeptical of its intentions.

Beijing keeps its nuclear weapons count secret, so it’s impossible to determine exactly how many the country has. While the East Asian superpower is a member of the NPT, its increasingly ambitious military ventures have been a cause of concern for some countries.

Next year, for example, China plans to unveil its next-generation intercontinental ballistic missile, which will be able to strike anywhere in the world and carry up to 10 nuclear warheads. In 2016, similar long-range nuclear missiles capable of striking Guam, a US territory, were revealed, sending shockwaves through the American defense establishment.

3. France: 300

France began developing nuclear weapons during the Cold War, when President Charles de Gaulle believed it needed defense capabilities independent of the US and NATO. De Gaulle feared that neither would come to France’s defense in the event of an attack by the Soviet Union or some other enemy.

While France possesses the third-largest nuclear weapons stockpile in the world, it claims it has no chemical or biological warfare weapons. It is a member of the NPT.

In 2008, French President Nicolas Sarkozy reaffirmed that the country’s nuclear weapons were not “targeted at anybody.” Rather, they were part of a “life-insurance policy.” Sarkozy also announced a nuclear weapons reduction, cutting its stockpile to “half the maximum number of warheads [France] had during the Cold War.

2. United States: 6,800

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The US ushered in the nuclear era under President Franklin Roosevelt in 1942 when the military launched the Manhattan Project, which led to the world’s first nuclear bomb detonation.

During World War II, the US forever changed the way the world would look at nuclear technology after dropping bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, instantly killing tens of thousands of civilians.

The US is a member of the NPT but has refused to sign on to a no-first-use policy.

Earlier this year, former Vice President Joe Biden doubled down on major investments to boost America’s nuclear capabilities.

“So long as other countries possess nuclear weapons that could be used against us, we too must maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal to deter attacks against ourselves and our allies,” Biden said. “That is why … we increased funding to maintain our arsenal and modernize our nuclear infrastructure.”

Quartz reported that the US would spend approximately $400 billion over a 10-year period to maintain and modernize its arsenal. Another purpose of this investment is to keep pace with Russia’s growing arsenal.

Trump has echoed Obama’s calls for a revamping of the US arsenal.

“I want modernization and total rehabilitation,” the president said. After calling for an increase in the US stockpile on the campaign trail, he said in October 2017 that would be “totally unnecessary.”

1. Russia: 7,000

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCpjgl2baLs
The former Soviet Union began work on its nuclear weapons program in the 1940s after hearing reports of the US Manhattan Project.

After the Soviet-US arms race during the Cold War, nuclear weapons stored in former Soviet states were returned to Russia, where many were dismantled. But Russia still maintained a vast stockpile of weapons.

Today, Russia appears to be investing in nuclear weapons modernization — much like the US — and growing its arsenal. Last year, President Barack Obama criticized such efforts as impediments to global nuclear disarmament.

“Because of the vision that he’s been pursuing of emphasizing military might,” Obama said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin, “we have not seen the type of progress that I would have hoped for with Russia.”

In October, Putin said he wanted to help reduce the world’s nuclear arsenal and “will be striving to achieve that,” but he added that Russia would continue to develop its program so long as other countries continue doing so.

While Russia has the most nuclear weapons of any country, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the most powerful.

Also Read: US admiral says he’d nuke China if the president orders him to

“Russia built nuclear weapons that are incremental improvements,” or weapons that would need updating every decade or so, Jeffrey Lewis, the founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk, told Business Insider.

On the other hand, Lewis said: “US nukes are like Ferraris: beautiful, intricate, and designed for high performance. Experts have said the plutonium pits will last for 100s of years.” Indeed, the US’s stocks of Minuteman III ICBMS, despite their age, are “exquisite machinery, incredible things.”

“Russia’s nuclear weapons are newer, true, but they reflect the design philosophy that says ‘No reason to make it super fancy because we’ll just rebuild it in 10 years,'” Lewis added.

14,955 nuclear weapons worldwide

MIGHTY CULTURE

Amtrak is offering veteran and military member discounts

Veterans receive a 10% discount on the lowest available rail fare on most Amtrak trains.

Use the Fare Finder at the beginning of your search on www.amtrak.com and select ‘Military Veteran’ for each passenger as appropriate to receive the discount.


Military personnel save 10% and get ahead of the ticket line

With valid active-duty United States Armed Forces identification cards, active-duty U.S. military members, their spouses and their dependents are eligible to receive a 10% discount on the lowest available rail fare on most trains, including for travel on the Auto Train.

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An Amtrak train at Penn Station, NYC.

Just use the Fare Finder at the beginning of your search on www.amtrak.com and select ‘Military’ for each passenger as appropriate to receive the discount.

Additionally, Amtrak supports and thanks troops by welcoming uniformed military personnel to the head of the ticket line.

  • The veteran/military discount is not valid with Saver Fares or weekday Acela trains.
  • The veteran/military discount does not apply to non-Acela Business class, First class or sleeping accommodation. Veterans can upgrade upon payment of the full accommodation charges.
  • The veteran/military discount is not valid for travel on certain Amtrak Thruway connecting services or the Canadian portion of services operated jointly by Amtrak and VIA Rail Canada.
  • The veteran/military discount may not be combined with other discount offers; refer to the terms and conditions for each offer.
  • Additional restrictions may apply.

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

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Why the unrest in Nicaragua is more important than you’d think

News about the civil unrest in Nicaragua has been under-reported in recent days as one of the last true Marxist-Leninist dictators is at the center of the killings of student protesters and journalists. And it could spark another Central American civil war.


The leader and chairman of Nicaragua’s ruling Sandinista Party, Daniel Ortega, announced a tax increase on Apr. 18. Along with the tax increase, pension benefits are to be greatly reduced. What started as a peaceful demonstration against these changes turned deadly when authorities and pro-Sandinista groups used live ammunition on the protesting crowds.

Ortega first rose to power as a Communist revolutionary in 1978. His Soviet backing and strong anti-American views grabbed the attention of the Reagan Administration in 1985 which lead to America backing the Contras, an anti-communist counter-revolutionary group. After the details of the Iran-Contra Affair were made public, however, the U.S. backed out of the region — but the Nicaraguan Revolution had already claimed 30,000 lives.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, so, too, did Ortega’s control over Nicaragua. Still, he vowed that he would lead from the shadows. He ran for president in every election that followed. Herty Lewites, the more popular candidate in the 2006 election, was threatened, told that he “could end up hanged” if he continued to run. Lewites died of a sudden heart attack shortly before the election. Ortega became president again when he won with 36% of the vote that year.

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A totally legitimate election…
(Courtesy Photo)

He then abolished Nicaragua’s presidential term limits to remain in power indefinitely.

However, since Ortega became president, Nicaragua has actually been relatively stable. The U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua even lists the country as the safest in Central America for U.S. tourists.

Ortega seemed to have changed his stripes and had relabeled himself as a Democratic Socialist who was very eco-friendly (despite highly advocating a new canal to rival the Panama Canal that would devastate the countryside). He claimed that he was embracing his Catholic faith (despite ignoring Pope Francis’ recent denouncements against the violence in Nicaragua). He also claimed to be anti-Capitalist and insisted that was there for the people (despite being the country’s fourth richest person and slowly making a fairly obvious power grab).

The current death toll of protesters and journalists at the time of this writing is 63. Protesters who have been arrested allege the use of torture and report having their heads shaven and being left barefoot in the outskirts of Managua. There are calls for the United Nations Human Rights Office to investigate human rights abuses.

The country is dependent on outside trade and tourism and the people are still reeling from the effects of the last civil war almost 50 years ago, so nobody wants a violent answer to this problem. Currently, the tumult is contained within Managua, but there’s no denying that Nicaragua is at a turning point. Either Ortega will be removed from power peacefully or this will spark a bloody revolution. It’s a situation that echoes the economic unrest and political dissatisfaction that characterized the Arab Spring of 2011.

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