The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Germany, the military’s transgender ban, the diversion of military construction funds to build a wall on the Mexico border — all of these controversial policies and others could be history on Day One of Joe Biden’s presidency.
As soon as he’s sworn in, Biden would have the authority with a stroke of a pen to reverse a string of controversial military and national security policies put in place by President Donald Trump’s executive orders or use of his emergency powers. The Associated Press and major news outlets projected Biden the winner Saturday, although the result still must be certified and is expected to face legal challenges from the Trump campaign.
Various advocacy groups are already lining up to hold Biden to his campaign promises to reverse Trump’s controversial military policies.
In a statement Saturday, the Modern Military Association of America, a non-profit LGBTQ advocacy group, said Biden was expected to reverse Trump’s executive order that effectively banned transgender military service.
“Thankfully, President-elect Biden has pledged to quickly take action and reverse Trump’s unconstitutional transgender military ban,” MMAA said. “Every qualified American patriot — regardless of their gender identity — should be able to serve.”
Trump’s surprise decision in July to remove nearly 12,000 U.S. troops from Germany, shifting some eastward and sending others home, could also be reversed rapidly under Biden’s stated objective to shore up NATO and strengthen partnerships with allies.
The early indicator of how far the new president will go in abandoning Trump’s “America First” policy will be “whether Biden will move to reverse Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Germany,” said Christopher Skaluba, director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council.
“Doing so will be a down payment on ensuring adequate resources are available to deter Russia,” Skaluba wrote in an analysis Saturday shortly after Biden claimed victory.
To the end of shoring up alliances, Biden could also immediately end the impasse with South Korea over how much Seoul pays to support the presence of 28,000 U.S. troops on the peninsula.
South Korea currently pays about $900 million and has offered a 13% increase, which has been rejected by the Trump administration.
Biden has also pledged to move quickly to halt construction of the border wall and possibly move to withdraw the more than 4,000 active-duty and National Guard troops the Trump administration has deployed to the border to support Customs and Border Protection, and Homeland Security.
At a joint convention in August of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Biden vowed to halt construction of the border wall.
By declaring a national emergency at the border in 2019, Trump began diverting $2.5 billion in funding from military construction and counter-drug programs authorized by Congress to the border wall. Biden could begin to reverse that by declaring an end to the national emergency.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has allegedly launched a chemical weapons attack on a base used by American military forces to support Iraqi efforts to retake the city of Mosul. The Sept. 21 artillery attack on Qayyara Air Base that reportedly contained a chemical shell caused no casualties, but some American troops underwent decontamination procedures as a precaution.
The attack, which Pentagon chief Gen. Joseph Dunford said is suspected to have used mustard gas, is the first time American troops have faced hostile chemical weapons since World War I. A 1984 paper for the United States Army Command and Staff General College noted that the United States suffered over 70,000 casualties from German chemical weapons in that conflict, of which just over 1,400 were fatal.
A U.S. Soldier with the 76th Army Reserve Operational Response Command decontaminates a vehicle after a simulated chemical weapons attack during a base defense drill in Camp Taji, Iraq, July 23, 2016. This drill is one way Coalition forces maintain readiness and practice security procedures. Camp Taji is one of four Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve build partner capacity locations dedicated to training Iraqi security forces. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson/Released)
Military officials said a massive aerial attack on a former pharmaceutical plant near mosul Sept. 13 destroyed what they believe was an ISIS chemical weapons production facility.
Mustard gas, a liquid that is properly called “sulfur mustard,” is a blister agent that not only can be inhaled, but also takes effect when it contacts the skin. This nasty chemical agent causes large blisters on the skin or in the lungs when inhaled. The agent can last a long time – unexploded shells filled with sulfur mustard have caused casualties in France and Belgium decades after the German surrender in World War I.
Chemical weapons were widely used in the Iran-Iraq War, most notoriously by Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq during the Al-Anfar Offensive. The 1988 attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja, using nerve gas, gained world attention, particularly due to the casualties suffered by civilians. Chemical weapons use was widely feared during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. After Desert Storm, Saddam Hussein’s regime was supposed to end its chemical weapons program, but played a shell game for over a decade.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, concerns about Saddam Hussein’s apparent non-compliance with the terms of the 1991 cease-fire and United Nations Security Council Resolutions lead the United States to launch Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
While no large stockpiles of chemical weapons were found, coalition forces did encounter sarin nerve gas and sulfur mustard that had not been accounted for in pre-war inspections, and a 2014 report by the New York Times reported that over 5,000 shells filled with chemical weapons were found by American and Coalition forces during the Iraq War.
The commander of the US Pacific Fleet and South Korea’s defense minister said they agreed to prepare a “practical military response plan” to what Adm. Scott Swift described as Pyongyang’s “self-destructive” acts, following the country’s sixth nuclear test.
Swift, who oversees 200 ships and submarines, 1,180 aircraft, and more than 140,000 sailors, also said the US Navy plans to deploy strategic assets, including a carrier strike group, to the peninsula, Yonhap reported.
Defense Minister Song Young-moo welcomed the proposal, and requested the Pacific Fleet commander play a pivotal role for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, according to the report.
“If there’s a desire to have another carrier and there’s a desire to have more ships, more submarines, we have the capability and capacity to support that direction,” Swift said.
The US naval commander described the US-South Korea alliance as “ironclad” and told reporters in Seoul that North Korea’s provocations will not weaken bilateral ties.
“If [Kim Jong Un] is trying to separate the alliances and the allegiances that we have in the region, it’s having the opposite [effect],” Swift said.
Concern had been rising in South Korea after US President Donald Trump tweeted a criticism of South Korea’s North Korea policy, calling the approach “appeasement.”
South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!
Trump later tweeted he is “allowing Japan South Korea to buy a substantially increased amount of highly sophisticated military equipment from the United States,” a day after the White House said the president had approved the purchase of “many billions of dollars’ worth of military weapons and equipment from the United States by South Korea.”
On Sept. 5, Swift dismissed reports of a US-South Korea rift, calling any relationship between two countries “multidimensional.”
Song and Swift said North Korea’s nuclear test was an “unacceptable provocation” that poses a grave threat to peace and security in the Asia Pacific as well as the world.
The provocation also further isolates North Korea and places more hardship on ordinary North Koreans, they said.
“Our working dogs are selfless in everything they do simply to please their handlers and those who work with them,” said Sergeant Major (retired) Jeremy Knabenshue, a veteran who worked as a K9 handler in the U.S. Army. “They give everything they have — to include their lives — without question to protect their pack.”
During a recent interview with Coffee or Die, Knabenshue spoke about his relationship with Weblo, his Military Working Dog (MWD). After a stint as an MP, Knabenshue became a K9 handler for a Special Missions Unit working alongside some of the most elite operators in the world. His work there, particularly his relationship with Weblo, had a profound impact on him. He served with that unit until retirement.
“When I was first assigned Weblo, he was a beatdown dog from Holland that flinched at every sudden move,” Knabenshue said. “I spent every single day for a year going to work to spend time with him and build our relationship until we deployed.”
(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)
On Knabenshue’s first deployment, Weblo was shot. They were working with a squad from 3rd Ranger Battalion, and Knabenshue credits the dog’s actions for saving his life. He treated Weblo, and “that night of saving one another’s lives solidified our bond to one another.”
“Personality-wise he was one of the guys.” Knabenshue said. “He was more than just a dog or a tool. He lived with us and was part of the team.” That relationship extended onto the battlefield as well — they had reached such a strong point of mutual understanding that few words had to be spoken. They moved together, fought together, and hit objectives together — all as one.
One night in Afghanistan, Knabenshue, Weblo, and an assault force of American operators boarded a helicopter and flew toward an enemy position. They expected to make their way to the target building when they landed, but chaos erupted as soon as the wheels touched the ground. People were running erratically, weapons were being fired, and they had to fight just to get to the objective — which should have been a simple 10 minute walk.
(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)
As they made it to the target compound, they began to move along one of the exterior walls. The next step would have been to hit the front door and assault the compound as usual; Knabenshue sent Weblo up front to check for booby traps before breaching.
When Weblo turned left instead of right, Knabenshue said that his first instinct was to become frustrated — now instead of breaching, he had to grab another assaulter and go get this dog who appeared to be distracted or disobedient. However, when they discovered Weblo, his jaws were clenched on a man clutching an AK47, who was lying in wait for an unsuspecting soldier to enter the breach.
This man had not been spotted by anyone on the assault force nor by the air assets circling in the sky — but he was spotted by Weblo.
(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)
This was how it went for six deployments — two to Iraq and four to Afghanistan. When they weren’t in a combat zone, training took them deep into the jungle, over rigorous mountain terrain, and helocasting into the water.
When Weblo came to the end of his military service, he went to live with Knabenshue. No longer under threat of death or permanent injury, their friendship continued to grow. And then Weblo was diagnosed with cancer.
As the dog’s health steadily declined, Knabenshue knew it was time to have him put down comfortably. He contacted a trusted veterinarian to set the date. But one day he took special notice of the airfield near his house, and an idea came to him. Knabenshue knew a truck wouldn’t suffice for Weblo’s last ride — he deserved more.
(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)
On March 8, 2016, everything fell into place. When Weblo and Knabenshue stepped onto the airfield and heard the thundering of the helicopter rotors, the dog’s chest swelled. Knabenshue swears that, for a moment, Weblo once again looked like a young working dog barreling across the Afghan countryside.
Also on the helicopter was the veterinarian. As they circled in the sky, Weblo felt the wind in his fur as he had so many times before among his fellow warriors. Following a painless injection, Weblo quietly, comfortably passed on.
After they landed, Knabenshue carried Weblo back to his truck to say goodbye.
“There will never be another Weblo for me,” Knabenshue later wrote on his blog. “I miss him daily and wish that somehow he could still be here. His death hit me far harder than any of the deaths of friends I’ve lost over the years. He was more than a pet or partner, he was an extension of myself as I was a part of him. His ashes are now placed on a shelf over my bar so that he can still look over and protect us.”
On this day 19 years ago, America woke up to unimaginable news. Nineteen members of al Qaeda had hijacked four fuel-loaded U.S. commercial airplanes. One crashed into the Pentagon. Two more hit the World Trade Center. The final plane was destined for the White House, but thanks to the heroic efforts of the passengers and crew, it never made it. That day, a total of 2,977 lives were lost; killed in New York City, Washington, DC and outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
September 11, 2001, showed us the very worst of humanity, but it also showed the very best. Nineteen men set forth to destroy our country, while thousands more stepped forward to heal it. We were reminded of what Americans are capable of; incredible kindness, selflessness and unity. The 11 figures below are just a few of the remarkable individuals who put their lives on the line that day, and gave us exactly what we needed: Hope.
Father Mychal Judge
While thousands lost their lives on that dark day, the first recorded casualty was Father Mychal Judge. The Roman Catholic priest and NYFD chaplain chose to walk into the burning World Trade Center to bring comfort to wounded firefighters and others injured in the attack, listening to their final confessions and blessing them in their last moments. He gave his life just to bring others peace.
Flight 93 passengers Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick
What would you do if your flight was hijacked? We’d all like to think we’d be as brave as these four men who fought their hijacker and helped prevent an even greater tragedy. When Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick boarded United Airlines Flight 93 that morning, they had no idea what was about to happen. In a stroke of “luck,” the flight was delayed slightly. Because of this, when the hijackers took over the plane at 9:30, the other attacks had already taken place. When the four passengers called their loved ones, they learned of the hijacker’s intentions for the plane — to crash directly into the White House.
To prevent this from happening, they worked with members of the plane’s crew to fight back against the terrorists. When the hijackers realized the passengers might successfully breach the cockpit, they opted to crash the plane into a field in Pennsylvania, killing all on board. The efforts of Beamer, Bingham, Burnet and Glick saved hundreds of lives that would have been lost had the plane reached its intended target.Before the plane went down, Burnett spoke to his wife on the phone, saying calmly, “I know we’re all going to die. There’s three of us who are going to do something about it. I love you, honey.”
Betty Ong and Amy Sweeney
One thing all these stories have in common is quick thinking and calm resolve. Two flight attendants on American Airlines Flight 11 could easily have panicked when the plane was hijacked. A passenger had already been stabbed, some crew members were murdered, and the air was filled with something similar to mace, but they calmly notified their colleagues on the ground of the scene unfolding.
Those on the receiving end were astounded by their unwavering professionalism, listening carefully as they provided details about the hijackers throughout the flight. The information they shared helped the FBI uncover their full identities.
Wells Crowther, a 24-year-old equities trader, was working on the 104th floor of the South Tower when it was struck by Flight 175. He called his mother and left her a voicemail, calmly telling her, “Mom, this is Welles. I want you to know that I’m ok.”
He had no obligation to help anyone escape other than himself, but the former volunteer firefighter chose to anyway. He helped over a dozen people get out before running back into the building alongside firefighters to save even more. He carried one injured woman out on his back, directing disoriented and terrified office workers to the ground floor. Survivor Ling Young told CNN, “He’s definitely my guardian angel — no ifs, ands or buts — because without him, we would be sitting there, waiting [until] the building came down.”
His body was recovered in a stairwell, his hands still holding a “jaws of life” rescue tool. He is remembered as “the man in the red bandana,” a commanding, brave figure who worked to save all he could.
Stanley Praimnath was trapped on the 81st floor of the South Tower when the second plane, Flight 175, struck. He was close enough to see the plane approaching, yet he survived the impact. Terrifyingly, he still had no way to escape the teetering tower. Luckily, Brain Clark heard his calls for help and talked him through a challenging escape route. As it turns out, by stopping to help Stanley, Brian also saved himself. Before he heard Stanley’s cries, he was headed to the upper floors to wait for help. The building collapsed within the hour. Those who had continued up the tower never made it out.
Michael Benfante and John Cerqueira
Two colleagues, Michael Benfante and John Cerqueira, were in the North Tower when the planes hit. Most people would be desperate to get out, but when the two men ran into a woman in a wheelchair on the 68th floor, they didn’t hesitate to stop. Together, they strapped Tina Hansen to a lightweight emergency chair and carried her down endless flights of treacherous stairs. Thanks to their selflessness and determination, all three of them survived.
Frank De Martini and Pablo Ortiz
Construction manager Frank De Martini and construction instructor Pablo Ortiz were both in the North Tower when it was hit. Instead of scrambling to safety, they took it upon themselves to rescue as many people as they possibly could. Many were trapped on the tower’s 88th and 89th floors, so the two men went into action. They opened jammed elevator doors, cleared debris, and directed people to safe escape routes. The North Tower collapsed while they were still inside. Before it did, however, they saved over 50 others.
Jason Thomas and Dave Karnes
Although members of the military eventually retire, their dedication to their country does not. Former Marine sergeants Jason Thomas and Dave Karnes had both been out of the military for some time. Yet, when they heard about the attack on the World Trade Center, they put their uniforms back on. Karnes was all the way in Connecticut when he sped off to New York at 120 mph to help.
He ran into Thomas at the site of the collapsed towers and together they began searching through the rubble. They identified two New York Port Authority police officers, William Jimeno and John McLoughlin, trapped 20 feet below the surface. Both men were seriously injured, but after a total of 11 hours they were both successfully rescued. Karnes later reenlisted, serving two tours of duty in Iraq.
Cyril Richard Rescorla was born in Britain, but his dedication to the United States is unmatched. A Vietnam Vet with a Silver Star, police officer, and private security specialist, Rescorla had frequently warned the Port Authority that the World Trade Center was vulnerable. At the time of the attack, Rescorla was working as head of corporate security for Morgan Stanley in the South Tower, and when his fears were realized he dove in to help.
When the first plane hit the tower across from his, Rescorla was directed to keep his employees at their desks, but he ignored this order. Instead, he issued an evacuation order, walking employees through the emergency procedures he had made them rehearse time and time again. He had evacuated over 2,700 employees and visitors in just 16 minutes when the second plane struck the building they had just escaped from. Throughout the tense evacuation, his steady voice singing “God Bless America” and “Men of Harlech” rang out through a bullhorn, giving people strength and calm.
According to The New Yorker, he called his wife during the evacuation to tell her, “Stop crying. I have to get these people out safely. If something should happen to me, I want you to know I’ve never been happier. You made my life.”
He was last seen on the 10th floor of the South Tower on his way to find any who had been left behind.
Maj. Heather Penney and Col. Marc Sasseville
When Major Heather Penney and Colonel Marc Sasseville learned of the initial attacks, the two National Guard pilots prepared to intercept United Flight 93, the fourth and final hijacked plane. They aimed their two F-16s directly at the wayward Boeing 757…except they were completely unarmed. The only way for them to stop the plane would be to ram into it- essentially a suicide mission.
“We had to protect the airspace any way we could,” Maj. Heather Penney told The Washington Post in 2011. “We wouldn’t be shooting it down. We’d be ramming the aircraft. I would essentially be a kamikaze pilot.”
Fortunately, the passengers and crew of Flight 93 took on the job themselves. While Penney and Sasseville never had to complete their death-sentence mission, they were fully prepared to go down with their aircraft to protect others from harm.
Army Spc. Beah Doboszenski
On September 11, 2001, Army Spc. Beah Doboszenski was just a tour guide at the Pentagon. He was working on the opposite side of the building, so far away that he didn’t even hear the plane hit. The former volunteer firefighter and EMT didn’t hesitate to volunteer his services, however, racing to the site of the crash. He had to evade police officers and go around barricades to find a medical triage station and begin giving medical care to countless victims.
He then voluntarily ran back into the building to search for survivors while the building was still in flames. He gave medical aid to the injured outside, then went back into the building while it was still in flames. Former Vice President Joe Biden said of Doboszenski’s heroic act, “When people started streaming out of the building and screaming, he sprinted toward the crash site. For hours, he altered between treating his co-workers and dashing into the inferno with a team of six men.”
Last but not least, Roselle
Some heroes have two legs, but some have four. Roselle, a guide dog, was on the 78th floor with her blind owner, Michael Hingson, when the plane hit. She guided him all the way down to safety. Without her, he most likely wouldn’t have made it out alive. The heroic pup lived a long, happy life until her passing in June 2011, and her owner has since written a book in her honor.
These are just a few of the innumerable heroes of 9/11. To the police officers, firefighters, military personnel, and ordinary citizens who brought light to one of America’s darkest days: We humbly thank you.
Those possible responses include destroying a launch site before North Korea could test a missile and targeting a stockpile of weapons, according to The Telegraph.
“The Pentagon is trying to find options that would allow them to punch the North Koreans in the nose, get their attention and show that we’re serious,” a former US security official briefed on policy told The Telegraph.
Attacking North Korea would make the Syria strike look easy
When US Navy ships fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield, President Donald Trump had the world’s support in attacking a nation accused of using chemical weapons on its own people.
Syria’s military was already stretched thin fighting a civil war and multiple Islamist terrorist groups. The strike went virtually unpunished.
But that most likely wouldn’t be the case with a US strike on North Korea, which has a massive standing army and a military posture geared toward offense.
And there are practical reasons the US can’t just blow up a North Korean missile launch site. As Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said on Twitter, “Mobile missiles don’t need launch sites, Donald.”
Instead of using designated launch sites, North Korea puts its missiles on mobile launchers, some of which have treads to launch from off-road locations.
Lately, North Korea has varied its launch sites, most likely to make it harder for the US to track and possibly intercept missiles.
If the US wants to give you a bloody nose, nothing can stop it
The US does have tools to give North Korea a “bloody nose.”
Short of blowing up a launch site, which could kill launch officers — and possibly Kim Jong Un, as he usually watches launches from close by — the US could attempt to intercept North Korea’s next missile launch.
The US and allies have not only increased missile-defense deployments to the region — they’ve also deployed F-35 stealth fighters that have some capability to shoot down missile launches.
Submarines like the USS Michigan, which has frequently visited South Korea in recent months, could send a volley of cruise missiles at any military site in North Korea without ever surfacing.
Forward-deployed Aegis guided-missile destroyers in the US Navy could intercept the missiles as they launched, Sid Trevethan, a former US Navy specialist in ballistic missile defense and electronic countermeasures, told Business Insider.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis recently said that though North Korea’s last ballistic missile test demonstrated a very long range, he’s not convinced the entire missile system works. US policy on North Korea explicitly calls for denying it the means to perfect its missile program.
Destroying North Korean missiles during launch would rob Pyongyang of valuable testing and could ensure it never tests an ICBM at full range, meaning it could never be fully confident in its ability to hit the US.
Calling Kim’s bluff risks nuclear war
The US knows what capabilities it has to counter North Korea, but not how North Korea would respond.
If the US were to send Tomahawk missiles toward a launch site, North Korea might interpret the incoming salvo as targeting its supreme leader and being an outright act of war.
The bloody-nose scenario comes down to a gamble on whether North Korea is ready to enter all-out war over a limited strike.
North Korea has sunk US and South Korean ships without proportionate punishment in the past. It has shelled South Korean islands, captured Americans and South Koreans, and killed civilians without US retaliation.
North Korea, despite having the weaker hand militarily, has often gambled that the US and South Korea value prosperity and peace — albeit an uneasy peace — too much to respond tit-for-tat to its military provocations.
A US attack on North Korea might just call a long-standing bluff and show that Pyongyang’s bark is worse than its bite — or it might unleash nuclear war.
It was Nov. 10, 2010 — the Marine Corps birthday. I was sound asleep and having another nightmare. I’d been having them randomly for years; PTSD does that to a person. Lately, the nightmares seemed real and more consistent.
My husband had recently deployed for his 4th combat deployment. A Platoon Sergeant with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, Mike was in what was considered at the time to be the deadliest place in the world: Sangin, Afghanistan.
I was about to be diagnosed with some serious medical issues. While I waited for test results, I spent my days and nights in those early stages of deployment hiding that from everyone. I was alone with three children under 6-years old, and 50+ wives and mothers and families, all of whom depended on me to be strong and healthy.
Of the 50-something man platoon my husband was with, none but three had ever been in combat aside from him. Not even his lieutenant.
The wives were having issues with the Family Readiness Officer, and so the saltier wives took over helping the less experienced ones. It was very much like the beginning of the Iraq war for us — unreliable contact, unreliable information, unreliable family readiness program, unreliable EVERYTHING.
In short, it was a sh*t show just shy of becoming a sh*t storm.
So, I was having another nightmare. Somewhere in the distance I could hear knocking. A phone ringing. Was someone saying my name?
In my dream, Mike was whispering “Katie, answer the phone. Katie, get the door.” He coughed, his face contorted in pain. “Katie… Katie… Katie…”
I pulled out of a groggy, medication-induced sleep, and picked up my phone.
“Uh huh,” I muttered into the phone.
“Katie!” the frantic screaming felt like a bucket of ice water being thrown over me. “Katie, they’re at the door and I don’t know what to do!”
I jumped out of bed. “Who’s at the door,” I asked the young wife on the phone, my mini-me. At barely 19 years old, Katie Stack was my overly dramatic, neediest Marine’s wife, and she was a GD headache. I loved her, but I really wanted to knife hand her most days.
“The- the men! In blues! A chaplain!” I could tell that Katie was on the verge of outright collapse. Her voice was near hysteria. I could hear her movements; she was practically rushing around in a circle halfway through the house, screaming mostly incoherently, trying not to look at the men standing, knocking on her door.
“Sweetheart,” I said softly, “Is Joanne home?” Joanne was Katie’s little sister, and I knew that Katie was home in Chicago visiting family. I’d had to update the FRO just days prior in case something happened. In case she needed to be notified of…
“She is, but she’s just a kid!”
“Sweetheart, put your sister on the phone and go answer the door, you have to.” I waited for Katie’s little sister’s voice to greet me.
“Hello?” came the tiny, terrified, barely-a-teen, voice. In the background I could hear a sob, a wailing. Men talking gently.
“Joanne, honey. Where’s your mom?” Katie and Joanne’s mom, a school administrator, would’ve already left for work, I assumed.
“She’s at work. Miss Foley, there’s men at the door named CACO and they’re saying scary stuff about James…”
“I need you to go hand the phone to the men at the door, go upstairs and get your phone, and call your mother right now.”
“What’s going on Miss Foley?”
“Hon, I need you to do this right now and then you have to come back down stairs and sit with Katie until your mother gets there. Tell your mom it’s an emergency, and that CACO are at the door. Run now.”
The next voice I heard was deep and somber.
“Mrs. Foley, are you near Chicago that you could get here within the next few hours? Mrs. Stack is going to need you.”
“I’m in California. I’ll take the next plane, but her mother is en route now. Do you guys stay with the widow? She has stress related seizures, she can’t be left alone like this. There’s a baby in the house…”
My mind was running a mile a minute-
Get to Chicago, get childcare for my three kids, reschedule my upcoming doctors appointments, shoot an email to Mike- God is Mike okay? No time for that. Someone will come to my door if he isn’t.
I hung up and went to my kitchen, rushing around, pushing dishes into the sink, starting a pot of coffee, pulling my V-neck tee all the way on as I’d run out of my room with just one arm in the sleeve. Suddenly, I stopped moving.
“Katie, something’s happened to James! I can feel it. Something terrible, I just know it.”
The conversation from just the day before replayed in my mind as if the two of us were standing in front of me in my kitchen.
“Katie!” I’d angrily snapped at her. “God! James is fine. You’re fine. Everyone is FINE! Sh*t! Calm down.”
The scene played over and over until I leaned against my wall and slowly slid to the cold kitchen tile.
She’d called me multiple times a day, every day, from the moment our husbands had left. She’d wailed and cried and complained. She’d tried to send a Red Cross message when he was in pre-deployment training because she’d gotten a headache one night.
I’d finally lost my freaking mind and hollered at her.
“James is fine.”
The words repeated over and over.
“Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.”
Over and over.
“James is fine.”
Every time the words played again, I could feel my heart tighten. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. My chest hurt. I couldn’t feel my arm. My vision was going out.
“Mama?” a tiny voice called out from the top of the steps.
I crawled across my kitchen floor and peered around the bottom of the steps.
“Yeah?” I smiled up at my son at the top of the stairs, his pudgy little fingers gripping the baby gate.
“Lub you. I go back to bed now,” the 3-year-old ginger smiled at me from the top of the steps before skittering back to his bed.
I laid down on the tile right there between my kitchen and dining room and just sobbed.
“Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.”
James Bray Stack was killed in action by a sniper on Nov. 10, 2010, in Sangin, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
“James is fine.”
He left behind a wife and baby daughter, Mikayla.
“Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.”
He competed in the Junior Olympics in 2008, taking the Gold.
“James is fine.”
His daughter was 1 year and 7-days-old, and it was one year and four days after my father died.
“Everyone is FINE…”
Everyone is not fine.
I have, since that morning in 2010, been both wracked with guilt and rattled to my core. I’d never experienced combat deaths from the wife side of the field. When Marines died, it was Marines I knew. I didn’t know their wives. I knew them because I’d served with them. I’d ridden to boot camp with them or worked with them in an S3 shop somewhere or left Camp LeJeune on a bus with them at some point.
When Marines I knew died, I simply felt bad for their wives. But then again… I didn’t yell at them.
“Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.”
Years later, Katie would tell me what she remembered from that day. “It was November,” she’d tell me. “The Marine Corps birthday. James would’ve liked that.”
That’s all, really. She doesn’t particularly remember me yelling at her the day before. She doesn’t really remember most of it.
We are closer friends than most of either of our friends. She calls me out of the blue sometimes, and I text her every few random months to check in. But she isn’t far from my mind, ever. I stalk her on Facebook to make sure she’s okay, and she stalks me on Facebook to make sure I’m still married.
I haven’t seen her in five years. Sometimes I hear my words “Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.” in my mind and I feel like I’m being crushed. I might never stop feeling guilty about that.
“Is there such a thing as survivor’s guilt when the other person survived as well?” I asked my therapist one day.
“Yes. All that is required for survivor’s guilt is that you be dealing with some level of PTSD, and that the thing that happened did not happen directly to you. Stack’s death happened to his wife, not to you.”
“How effed up does that make me?” I asked her, laughing a bit at myself because it’s frowned on to laugh at other people.
“It makes you normal.”
“Other spouses feel like this?”
All these years, all this time, I thought I was alone in that. I thought I was some weird Marine/Marine wife hybrid that had gotten caught in the middle and was just short circuiting or something. But no. It’s normal.
We feel survivor’s guilt, too.
I wish I’d known that six years ago. I wish I’d known that it was normal, that there were other people who felt like I did. I could’ve been of far more use to other spouses, Gold Star and the others.
But most of all, I wish I’d known it was normal because maybe I could’ve helped Katie more.
With each passing day, tensions flare anew on the Korean Peninsula. By now, we all know that North Korea’s been hard at work dong what they do best: Launching test missiles and fiery rhetoric.
On Dec. 4, the U.S. and South Korea kicked off their largest joint air exercise yet, dubbed Vigilant Ace 18, involving hundreds of aircraft and tends of thousands of troops on the ground. As you might expect, Pyongyang wasn’t too happy about the drills, going as far as saying Dec. 2 that Trump’s Administration is “begging for nuclear war.”
While we’re at a point now where North Korean threats are as routine as the sunrise, China has sent an aggressive message in passive support of the belligerent state that warrants more serious attention.
People’s Liberation Army Air Force Spokesman Shen Jinke announced Dec. 4 (the same day as Vigilant Ace 18 kicked off) that China would be running drills through “routes and areas it has never flown before.” These new routes are expected to cover airspace over the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan. The exercises will involve all variety of aircraft, from reconnaissance planes to fighter jets, in joint operation with surface-to-air missiles. Simultaneously, China launched drills Dec. 2 that involve sending new Shaanxi Y-9 transport aircraft over the South China Sea, simulating an airdrop over an island in contested waters.
Though Chinese military officials will likely claim that the new drills are not in direct response to U.S. and South Korean actions, military experts agree that this show of force warns against the continued provocation of North Korea.
The U.S. and China have a rocky history, but are far from going to blows. That being said, should conflict erupt on the Korea Peninsula, we’ll quickly see how the chips fall.
Ethiopian Emperor Tewodros II spent his last hours holed up in a fort near the Red Sea town of Maqdala. He was under siege by British troops who had just routed his numerically superior force and tore through his lines. With the British storming his fortress, the Emperor shot himself in the head, ironically using a gun gifted to him from Queen Victoria.
British forces had a field day with the fort. They would eventually destroy it before heading back to England, but first, they had to plunder everything of value from the captured prize. Their victory train required 15 elephants and 200 mules to carry all the gold, gems, and artifacts back to where they came from. But the British took more than that, they presented the Emperor’s seven-year-old son to Queen Victoria and kept locks of Emperor Tewodros II’s hair as a prize.
Not my first prize choice, but whatever.
Tewodros’ legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of Ethiopians to this day. More than 150 years later, the defiant Emperor’s spirit of independence inspires some of Ethiopia’s finest writers and artists. He is now a symbol for the potential of the country, a forward-thinking leader that would not bow to outside pressure or simply allow his people to be colonized. His star was on the rise as he worked to keep his country away from the brink of destruction, only to be brought down in a less-than-glorious way.
The Christian emperor was busy reuniting Ethiopia from various breakaway factions as the power and force of Islam and of Islamic nations put pressure on him to push back. Tewodros expected help from the Christian nations of the world but found none was forthcoming. He tried imprisoning British officials to force an expedition to come to Ethiopia’s aid. He got an expedition, but the 12,000 troop-strong force was coming for him, not his enemies.
The fort at Maqdala overlooks a deep valley. The British did not have an easy time of it here.
The Emperor imprisoned those officials at Maqdala, where he himself was holed up, along with 13,000 of his own men. The British force coming to the fort was comprised of only 9,000 men, but they were carrying superior firepower with them. When the redcoats completely tore up the Abyssinian army, Tewodros decided to take his own life, rather than submit to the humiliations that the British would surely subject him to.
That small act of defiance earned him immortality in Ethiopia, who remembers Tewodros today as one of the country’s most prominent cultural and historical figures.
And for decades, the Ethiopians have demanded the return of Tewodors’ hair. Only now, after decades and a French push to restore captured colonial artifacts to their home countries, has England ever considered giving in.
US and European intelligence agencies discovered Russian military intelligence members to be working from the French Alps, according to an NBC News report published Thursday. News of the operation was first reported by French newspaper Le Monde.
Up to 15 members of the GRU, the Kremlin’s military intelligence agency, had lived in the French Alps, where they established their base for European covert operations, according to the reports. Some of the alleged officers’ names were previously published by Bellingcat, an independent investigative group.
Two of the Russian agents, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Roshirov, were accused of poisoning defected Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the UK in 2018. The two Russian agents reportedly used aliases and a military-grade nerve agent to poison the Skripals. Both of them recovered after being hospitalized.
Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov during an interview, Sept. 12, 2018.
The Russian government denied involvement and said it did “not understand why that was done and what signal the British side is sending.”
“We heard or saw two names, but these names mean nothing to me personally,” Russian diplomat Yuri Ushakov told reporters at the time, according to Russia’s Tass news agency.
The French Alps’s roughly 620-mile-long chain of mountains is the longest in Europe. It includes a number of hiking trails, natural parks, and skiing destinations.
The GRU has been accused of orchestrating cyber operations against the West. In 2018, it was accused of a global hacking campaign against anti-doping agencies, a nuclear power company, and a chemical-weapons watchdog, according to Reuters.
Head of the Russian General Staff’s Main Intelligence Department Igor Kostyukov.
In addition to cyber operations, the GRU also reportedly has a special operations unit composed of Russian military service members. The agency also recruits sleeper agents “reserved for the most sensitive or deniable tasks across the spectrum of GRU operations,” according to a Western report acquired by Reuters.
Several of the agency’s leaders have been sanctioned by Western countries, including the US, UK, and the Netherlands.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
With the first of the month comes a whole new promotions list across the board. To each and every one of you who made it, bravo zulu. You’re going to take the next step in your career. May your slight increase in pay help soothe over the mountain of sh*t that comes with the added responsibility.
And let’s be honest. When you’re the lowest guy on the totem pole, it seems like it sucks, but there’s nothing really demanded of you — outside of performing your assigned duties, cleaning the company area, and keeping out of trouble that is. No one is calling you into the MP station at 0300 on a Sunday night because someone you assumed was an adult did something you never thought to add to a safety brief. No one bothers seriously chewing your ass out for something someone else did.
So if you didn’t get promoted today, don’t sweat it. It could be worse. Regardless, one thing’s for sure: the memes have arrived.
Over the years, the varied iterations of the Star Trek franchise have inspired countless young men and women to pursue careers in cutting edge technologies, space sciences, and the like. As a kid growing up on a steady diet of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” however, I saw something else that spoke to me: a command structure that each and every crewmember had the utmost faith in.
The crew of the Enterprise each knew where they fell within the decision-making hierarchy, what their role and responsibilities were, and most importantly, who to look to when it came time to make hard decisions.
Breaking the chain of command or violating direct orders, of course, played a pivotal role in a number of episodes and movies–but in my young mind, that only further emphasized the importance of command: where starship captains were forced to decide between their orders and what they knew to be right. Almost universally, the captain that erred on the side of ethics got off scot-free, no matter how egregious their crimes. Good leadership, I learned, is about looking failure in the eye, accepting the consequences, and doing what has to be done.
Leadership in Starfleet, like in today’s real-world military, is a near constant life-or-death matter. Fortunately for the Star Trek universe, they have a test to see if you have what it takes to lead in such an environment.
The Kobayashi Maru test was first shown on screen in 1982’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” The premise is simple: a cadet is placed in command of a starship simulator and tasked with responding to the distress call of a damaged fuel carrier: the Kobayashi Maru. The stranded vessel is adrift in the neutral zone dividing Starfleet’s Federation Space from the Klingon Empire. The cadet-turned-captain has to make a hard decision: do you risk war with Star Trek’s Cold War Russian stand-ins, the Klingons… or do you allow the civilians to die?
The right thing to do, of course, is rescue the civilians–but the moment a cadet issues that order, things go bad. Communications with the civilian vessel are immediately lost just as multiple Klingon warships appear in pursuit. In clear violation of the treaty between their peoples, the cadet-in-command can try to talk their way out of trouble, turn and fight, or leave the civilians to their fate and run, but it doesn’t matter. The cadet’s ship is invariably destroyed. All crew members are lost. It’s a failure that’s spectacular in measure, both in terms of the lost vessel and in terms of lost lives. For an aspiring Starfleet captain, it’s a living nightmare… and that’s the point.
Kirk didn’t learn from the Kobayashi Maru, so he went on to learn the hard way.
The “no win scenario”
No matter how long you serve in the military or how competent a leader you are, failure comes for us all. If you’re fortunate, your most egregious failures will all come in training environments, and you’ll never have to go home with the weight of lost brothers or sisters on your conscience. In the worst of scenarios, victory or failure may be entirely outside of your control, but the burden of loss remains. When someone dies under your command, be it in combat or otherwise, it sticks with you.
You’ll keep moving, you’ll keep working, but late at night, when you’re alone with yourself, you can feel the weight of it bearing down. Good leaders know they’re going to hurt, but importantly, know how to get the job done anyway. They know that sometimes failure is unavoidable… often because they’ve faced their own Kobayashi Maru somewhere along the way.
(Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Melissa Wenger)
The measure of a good leader
I lost a Marine to suicide only weeks after being given my own squad. It tore our team apart and reshaped my approach to leadership and service. If I could be called a good leader after that, it wasn’t because I was born with an innate ability to rally the troops or because I had the decision making prowess of Jean Luc Picard. It was because I’d already felt the crushing weight of failure pulling me down into the darkness. I’d already been up at night, assessing what I did wrong. I’d already looked a grieving mother in the eyes and choked as I stammered an apology.
Failure is an unavoidable part of any military operation, but good leaders know how to roll with even the most crushing of punches. Some may come to the table with that ability, others, like me, have to learn it the hard way–by failing. The measure of a leader is their ability to recover from those failures, their ability to lead in adverse conditions, and their ability to shoulder the weight of their conscience without compromising the task at hand.
Every military leader needs to face the Kobayashi Maru sooner or later. Starfleet is just smart enough to add it to the training schedule.
Pennsylvania State Rep. Rick Saccone’s bill that would make it a misdemeanor for someone to benefit from lying about military service or receiving decorations or medals unanimously passed the state Senate on June 20th and now heads to Gov. Tom Wolfs desk to be signed into law.
House Bill 168, introduced by Saccone, R-Elizabeth Township, in January, bans anyone from economically benefiting from lying about their service or decorations. Violators could be charged with a third-degree misdemeanor for doing so.
“Our men and women of the armed forces and their families deserve the utmost respect and praise, and criminals who disguise themselves as illegitimate veterans demean our true American heroes,” Saccone said.
Some people have actually tried to make money by falsely claiming veteran status, said Saccone, an Air Force veteran and a 2018 US Senate candidate. They will now be brought to account.
Saccone said lying about military service or medals to make money is truly an insult and discredit to the men and women who have selflessly sacrifices their lives on the battlefield.
Saccone introduced the same legislation in May 2016, calling it the Stolen Valor Act. It unanimously passed the state House in June 2016, but did not advance out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
When the new legislative session started in January, Saccone re-introduced his bill and it passed the House 190-0 in April.
In 2013, Congress passed the federal Stolen Valor Act, which addressed those who might lie about having military decorations and medals, such as the Congressional Medal of Honor or Purple Heart, in order to obtain benefits.
Those convicted of violating the federal law can face fines and up to a year in jail.