Chattanooga shooting victims to receive Purple Hearts - We Are The Mighty
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Chattanooga shooting victims to receive Purple Hearts

Chattanooga shooting victims to receive Purple Hearts
April Grimmett | Twitter


The four Marines and a sailor killed by a gunman during a July mass shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee, will each receive the Purple Heart medal, as will a Marine sergeant who was wounded.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced Wednesday that Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Squire D. “Skip” Wells, Sgt. DeMonte Cheeley and Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith would all receive the award.

The announcement comes the same day the FBI announced that the Chattanooga shooter, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, was “inspired by a foreign terror organization.” It’s not clear what organization Abdulazeez, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Kuwait, might have been emulating.

“Following an extensive investigation, the FBI and NCIS have determined that this attack was inspired by a foreign terrorist group, the final criteria required for the awarding of the Purple Heart to this sailor and these Marines,” Mabus said in a statement, referring to Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

“This determination allows the Department of the Navy to move forward immediately with the award of the Purple Heart to the families of the five heroes who were victims of this terrorist attack, as well as to the surviving hero, Sgt. Cheeley,” he added.

On July 16, Abdulazeez first attacked a military recruiting office in a drive-by shooting, then traveled to a nearby Navy Reserve center, where he shot five Marines, a sailor and a police officer before he was killed by police.

Cheeley, the Marine recruiter who survived a gunshot to the back of the leg, returned to work the same month, Marine Corps Times reported.

The shocking and tragic attacks inspired a wave of concern over the security of military recruiting facilities and prompted Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to call for better training and “physical security enhancements” to protect the military personnel working at such facilities.

“Although the Purple Heart can never possibly replace this brave Sailor and these brave Marines, it is my hope that as their families and the entire Department of the Navy team continue to mourn their loss, these awards provide some small measure of solace,” Mabus said. “Their heroism and service to our nation will be remembered always.”

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VA may close 1,100 underused facilities nationwide

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is mulling whether to shutter more than 1,100 facilities nationwide as the agency moves more of its health programs to the private sector.


Appearing May 3 before the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, Shulkin told lawmakers the VA had compiled a list of 1,165 vacant or underused buildings that could be closed, saving the federal government $25 million annually.

Shulkin didn’t specify which facilities would close and local VA officials didn’t return messages seeking comment that afternoon.

Chattanooga shooting victims to receive Purple Hearts
Dr. David J. Shulkin, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (VA Photo/ Robert Turtil)

Shulkin, a deputy holdover from President Barack Obama’s administration whom Congress then unanimously approved to run the VA earlier this year, said Congress needs to determine how the facilities would be closed. He suggested the Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure — or BRAC — process might be a good model.

But Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R- Nebraska, urged him to never “use the term BRAC because it brings up a lot of bad memories” and sets up the VA “for a lot of controversy.”

Also read: The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

President Donald Trump seeks $78.9 billion in discretionary funding for the VA, a 6 percent increase from the 2017 fiscal year level. Trump’s budget plan requests $3.5 billion to expand the Veterans Choice Program, which enables veterans to receive certain kinds of treatment outside of the VA system.

If enacted, Trump’s proposal also would add $4.6 billion in funding to spur better patient access and greater timeliness of medical services for the agency’s more than 9 million patients.

Shulkin said the VA authorized 3.6 million patient visits at private-sector health-care facilities between Feb. 1, 2016 and Jan. 31, 2017 — a 23 percent boost compared to the previous year.

Chattanooga shooting victims to receive Purple Hearts
A quote from Abraham Lincoln on a sign at the Department of Veterans Affairs Building in Washington, DC. | Photo via Flickr

With more than 370,000 employees, the VA has the second-largest workforce in the federal government. Shulkin said it must become more efficient at delivering services to veterans. Some of the most entrenched problems are in the appeals process for veterans who have lodged disability claims following their military service.

Currently, the VA has nearly 470,000 such cases pending appeal. For cases awaiting action by the Board of Veterans Appeals, the typical wait time is six years for a decision. The ranking Democrat on the subcommittee that hosted Shulkin on May 3, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, termed the appellate system an “absolute mess.”

Shulkin conceded that it “undoubtedly needs further improvements” and urged Congress to legislate reforms and streamline the process into a “modernized” system. The longer Capitol Hill waits to fix the process, he said, “the more appeals will enter the current broken system.”

Articles

US commander sees major progress with Iraqi army after Mosul fight

Gunfire sounds in the background. In an adjacent alleyway, Islamic State snipers keep watch for movement. On the roof above our heads the Iraqi Security Forces are pouring fire into buildings occupied by the terrorists.


Five members of the Iraqi Federal Police sit on chairs and boxes in a street, sheltered from the battle. One of their colleagues is busy trying to pry open a box of .50 caliber ammo, as another man feeds a belt of bullets into the squad’s machine gun. It’s the sixth month of the battle to re-take Mosul and coming up on the third anniversary of Iraq’s war against ISIS.

In the battle for Mosul, the Iraqi Army has deployed a variety of its best units, including the 9th Armored Division, the black-clad Special Operations Forces, and the Federal Police.

The name may conjure up traffic stops and men rescuing kittens from trees, but in the Iraqi context “federal police” is a mechanized infantry unit: thousands of men in dark blue camouflage with Humvees and machine guns. Accompanying them is another elite unit called the ERD, or Emergency Response Division.

Chattanooga shooting victims to receive Purple Hearts
Iraqi special forces are moving closer to the city center of Mosul to knock ISIS out of Iraq. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Together they have done the heavy lifting since January, when the operation to liberate West Mosul began. Street-by-street they have fought to dislodge what remains of the “caliphate.” There are fewer than 1,000 ISIS fighters left, according to the Iraqis and their American-led coalition allies. But these are the hard core — many of them foreign fighters, such as the Chechen snipers who have been dealing death on this front for months.

ISIS has burrowed into the Old City of Mosul, into buildings that date back hundreds of years. Here they are making one of their last stands around the Nuri Mosque, where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his so-called caliphate in 2014.

They’ll fight to the death in the basement of the mosque, an Iraqi officer thinks.

Lieutenant Col. John Hawbaker, commander of a combat team of the 82nd Airborne Division, which is advising and assisting the Iraqi forces, served in Iraq during the surge of 2005-2006, when America was fighting the Iraqi insurgency. He says the contrast today is extraordinary.

Ten years ago the Iraqi Army was more limited than today.

“The Federal Police are extremely professional and disciplined and capable, and that’s one of the biggest differences from 10 years ago,” he declares. The U.S.-led coalition that is helping to defeat ISIS stresses that the Iraqis are fully in charge of the operation and they are the ones leading it.

Jared Kushner and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford were in Baghdad on April 3 to illustrate the high priority the U.S. puts on Iraq’s efforts to crush ISIS.

That’s obvious on the ground. Although the coalition provides artillery and air support, there is no visible presence of coalition forces at the front. It is Iraqis carrying the fight.

Chattanooga shooting victims to receive Purple Hearts
A member of the Iraqi federal police stands guard on a street during operations to liberate and secure West Mosul, Iraq, March 2, 2017. The breadth and diversity of partners supporting the Coalition demonstrate the global and unified nature of the endeavor to defeat ISIS. Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve is the global Coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull)

The older Iraqi officers have been fighting ISIS in Fallujah, Ramadi, and other cities for the last two years. They say the battle for Mosul is difficult, because ISIS cannot retreat there and has to fight to the last man. But they’ve seen more serious battles in 2015 when ISIS was stronger.

Their men have been forged in this war. As we crawled through holes smashed in the walls of houses to make our way to the roof of one position, soldiers were in each room. One team was looking out for snipers, another preparing RPGs, and others catching a bit of rest on cots. On the roof, soldiers are unlimbering an SPG-9, a kind of long-barreled cannon on a tripod that fires RPGs through a small hole cut in the wall.

“The ISF have victory in hand — it is inevitable; they know it and ISIS knows it. Everyone can see and knows they will win,” says Hawbaker.

ISIS was like a shot in the arm for Baghdad; it provided the existential threat that has led to the creation of an increasingly professional, stronger army that is more self-assured than it was before 2014. The next years will reveal if Iraq can build on that success.

Articles

WATCH: Vietnam Veteran Captain Dale Dye on life, Hollywood and service

Captain Dale Dye is known for his direct support on Platoon, Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, The Pacific and many more war films. The Marine Corps Entertainment Media Liaison Office recently interviewed Dye to learn about his life, both inside and outside of the service. Dye discusses his experiences, insights and lifelong wisdom. Watch the interview here:

Articles

Sixty years ago the world got its first look at an AK-47

Chattanooga shooting victims to receive Purple Hearts
The dapper young Hungarian revolutionary named József Tibor Fejes holding a captured AK-47 in what is believed to be the first widely distributed photo of the weapon. (Public domain photo.)


Sixty years ago the weapon that became a symbol of Cold War guerrillas and current day insurgents made its debut in a most unlikely way.

The AK-47, arguably the most widely used assault rifle in the world, first appeared in the hands of both Communist troops and Hungarian revolutionaries during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. The revolution against the nation’s communist government began on October 23 but was ruthlessly crushed by Hungarian secret police and Soviet troops by Nov. 10.

In particular, one photo from the revolution gained worldwide attention – and it is arguably the first time the Kalashnikov entered the public consciousness.

C.J. Chivers, former Marine Corps infantry captain and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, wrote in his book The Gun that nobody knows which Hungarian revolutionary first picked up a captured AK-47.

But a LIFE Magazine photographer snapped a picture of József Tibor Fejes – “22-years-old, fresh-faced, sharp-eyed, purposeful, and seemingly unafraid” – whose costume as an insurgent always included a bowler hat. “The Man in the Bowler Hat” was also hefting an AK-47, making Fejes the first known revolutionary carrying what became widely known as a revolutionary’s weapon.

Chattanooga shooting victims to receive Purple Hearts
Fejes with other revolutionaries, still wearing his bowler and carrying a captured AK-47. (Public domain photo.)

“The AK-47 was destined to become a symbol of resistance fighters almost everywhere, a weapon with innumerable spokesmen,” Chivers wrote. “Fejes had nonchalantly assumed the requisite pose and begun to flesh out this historical role. He did so before Fidel Castro, before Yasir Arafat, before Idi Amin. He was years ahead of the flag of Zimbabwe, which would expropriate the AK-47 as a symbol. He was ahead of Shamil Basayev and Osama bin Laden, who would convert the product of an atheist state into a sign of unsparing jihad. József Tibor Fejes was the first of the world’s Kalashnikov-toting characters, a member of a pantheon’s inaugural class.”

Although the Soviet Union had first publically acknowledged the rifle’s existence in 1949, firearms experts and military intelligence analysts in the West knew little about the weapon.

In fact, it was not until 1956 that the Army’s Technical Intelligence Office issued a classified report about the AK-47 – a report that mistakenly labeled the rifle a submachine gun and led to Pentagon brass dismissing the effectiveness of the weapon.

Eventually, the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, and a host of Soviet satellites and licensees manufactured more than 100 million AK-47s. First encountered by U.S. fighting men during the Vietnam War, the robust construction of the weapon and its reliability soon made believers out of Americans who faced it in the hands of their enemies.

To this day, U.S. soldiers and Marines continue to face adversaries armed with some version of the Kalashnikov.

As for József Tibor Fejes, his fate was sealed. Charged with the execution of a State Security Forces officer by gunning him down in the streets of Budapest, a Hungarian court found Fejes guilty and sentenced him to death.

Despite an appeal, authorities hanged Fejes on April 9, 1959, his punishment for what the court said was an attempt to overthrow the Hungarian people’s republic, the murder of a police officer, and the theft of state property – namely an AK-47 assault rifle.

MIGHTY CULTURE

You love watching military reunions. We wish you could see the goodbyes.

On Tuesday night, the nation watched as President Trump praised a military spouse for her sacrifices and efforts, and then surprised her and her children. “I am thrilled to inform you that your husband is back from deployment. He is here with us tonight and we couldn’t keep him waiting any longer!” The woman looked genuinely surprised.

She gathered her two young children close and they watched as her husband, handsome in his dress uniform, walked down the stairs toward them, as members of Congress and millions of television viewers cheered.

But some of us in military families saw something different.


As pleased as we were for that family, and we were very pleased, we were also cringing. We knew more, much more, was happening under the surface, and would be happening for many days to come. I’ve been married to a soldier for 17 years, and he has deployed nearly every year of our marriage. I know this subject well.

Some of us call these public homecomings “reunion porn” because they’re shared for the entertainment of the spectators, not for the health of the family. Surprise public reunions are such a part of our culture now, after 18 years of war have overlapped with 15 years of YouTube, that in the later weeks of a deployment, well-meaning friends and family members will start asking us what our plans are for the reunion. They look on expectantly, hoping for details of jumbotrons — like we’re supposed to be organizing a flash mob on top of taking care of absolutely everything else. For them, these are grand milestones that should be celebrated en masse, like over-the-top engagements and increasingly complex gender reveals.

But a deployment reunion does not have the unfettered joy of an engagement or a birth announcement. It’s a complicated stew. There is joy, undoubtedly, but there is also trauma. There is survivor’s guilt, and resentment, and weeks of awful reintegration that loom, in sleepless nights after endless fights. On some level, I wish that every reunion video was paired with a deployment video, bookends of the war experience, and that you didn’t get to celebrate the hello until you had agonized through the goodbye. I wish people saw that many months before that child was surprised by a smiling, uniformed parent in an elementary school classroom, he had to be peeled and pulled off that deploying soldier by the parent who was staying home. I wish people saw that service member gulp, blink back tears, and force him or herself to turn and walk away. Not out of indifference or cruelty, but out of duty.

I wish people could hear the screams – the actual screams – military teens and tweens make when they are told their parent is deploying. Again. I wish the cheering crowds knew what it feels like to give birth alone, in a town where you know no one, and to take that baby back to an empty home without a clue of what to do, but having to do it anyway.

I wish they knew what it feels like for a service member to meet his own child on Skype, and not get to hold her in his arms until the baby is already crawling. Or to not be at the bedside when their child goes into surgery. Or to miss a graduation, and every game, recital and play.

I wish they saw me, sitting in a patio chair in the July heat, trying to hear my husband over a spotty satellite phone connection, with gunshots and mortar rounds perforating the conversation. Then hanging up and putting on a brave face to go back inside the house, because it was time to give my dad more pain medicine so that he wouldn’t feel the cancer that killed him.

I wish they heard the three volleys. I wish they watched the flag being crisply folded. I wish they hugged strangers at military funerals because it was obvious those strangers needed hugs. I wish they pushed the wheelchairs and suffered through the night terrors and witnessed the humiliation of a brain-injured warrior trying to remember his own address.

But, of course, I don’t actually wish everyone could see all of these raw moments. No one should have the worst days of their lives televised. I suppose what I really wish is that the same good-hearted, well-intentioned people who are sincerely happy to see our military families reunited would pay more attention to the war. I wish they knew where our service members were deploying to, and why.

I wish they knew our lives, even when the scenes aren’t pretty or heartwarming, so it wouldn’t feel like we were carrying these burdens alone.

MIGHTY CULTURE

New bill would cover cost of service dogs for veterans with PTSD

Lawmakers and veterans advocacy groups are ready for change after waiting nearly a decade for the Department of Veterans Affairs to change its policy on not reimbursing service dogs for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers, or PAWS, Act would require the VA to offer $25,000 vouchers to veterans suffering with PTSD for use at qualifying nonprofits. Currently, the VA only supports service dogs for use in mobility issues, not in cases that only involve mental health conditions.


In 2010, Congress mandated the VA study the use of service dogs for PTSD and other mental health problems. But the pilot was suspended twice when two service dogs bit children and some dogs experienced health issues. The department has since started the study back up, but the results won’t be published until next year.

Chattanooga shooting victims to receive Purple Hearts

K9s for Warriors is the nation’s largest nonprofit connecting veterans to service dogs. Its program trains rescue dogs to be service dogs for post-9/11 veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and/or military sexual trauma.

(K9s for Warriors)

Now with an estimated 20 veterans committing suicide a day, bill authors Rep. John Rutherford, R-Florida, and Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska, are hoping service dogs help reduce the tragic numbers.

“Veterans with PTSD may have left the battlefield, but they are still in a tough fight,” Fischer said in a news release. “Service dogs can provide support, peace, and joy to these Americans as they confront the invisible scars of war.”

These grants would help expand the reach of nonprofits currently training and connecting service dogs to veterans with a mental illness, often for free.

The act so far has a bipartisan group of 37 cosponsors. But a similar bill introduced three years ago didn’t get out of committee.

For Rory Diamond, CEO of one of the K9 for Warriors, one of the largest nonprofits that would be affected by this legislation, it’s taken the VA too long to change its policy that “there is not enough research to know if dogs help treat PTSD and its symptoms.”

Chattanooga shooting victims to receive Purple Hearts

K9s for Warriors is the nation’s largest nonprofit connecting veterans to service dogs. Its program trains rescue dogs to be service dogs for post-9/11 veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and/or military sexual trauma.

(K9s for Warriors)

“People are always asking me what is it the dogs actually do,” Diamond said. “The genius of the dog, or the magic, is it gets the warrior out the front door. You have a reason to get up in the morning because the dog needs to be fed and walked.”

The service dog can also help a veteran feel secure in a crowd, he added, and help them get a better night’s sleep by waking them up at the first sign of a nightmare.

Dogs alone do not necessarily cure veterans, but recent studies from the Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine and the National Institutes of Health showed service dogs have had a positive effect.

“Now we have a growing body of research that says the VA needs to do this. That the dogs are working,” said Diamond, whose organization helped with one of the studies. “We did rigorous studies on our warriors, and it was published in a prestigious journal, peer reviewed. It’s not made-up monkey science. It’s just real science.”

Chattanooga shooting victims to receive Purple Hearts

K9s for Warriors is the nation’s largest nonprofit connecting veterans to service dogs. Its program trains rescue dogs to be service dogs for post-9/11 veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and/or military sexual trauma.

(K9s for Warriors)

A VA spokesman said via email the department does not take positions on research done by groups outside of their purview.

“We strive to complete research at VA according to the highest ethical and scientific standards with a focus on the safety of Veterans and their families,” the official said.

The VA’s first report will be released early summer 2020 and will address whether service dogs or emotional support dogs helped veterans with PTSD. The second part, to be released about six months later, will report whether the kind of dog factored into “health economics savings,” which would be factors like reduced hospital stays and reduced reliance on medication.

The VA has not yet taken a position on the PAWS Act.

“The need is so high,” Diamond said, “and these dogs are saving lives in the face of a veteran suicide crisis.”

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

4 steps you need in your battle plan for marriage resiliency

If you’re not walking forward into your military marriage with the tactical proficiency of any well-planned operation, it’s time to revisit the field guide.

It’s been one helluva make or break year so far with thousands stranded in PCS limbo and plenty of others facing even longer deployments. The recent Blue Star Families survey noted both family stability and time away from family as the two of the top issues, so there’s nothing like making hard things even harder.


While we’re no experts, we’re guessing talks between you and “Household six” might need a full set of EOD gear to survive the unforeseen schedule bombs without casualties. Luckily for you, there’s plenty of similarities between navigating marriage and planning a flawless mission. Here is your field guide to military marriage.

1. Understand your mission 

Troop leading procedures (TLP) requires the receipt and understanding of a mission. The mission for marriage is to accomplish your mutual goals with as few friendly fire incidents as possible. Unlike the military where a single commander dictates the plans, the role in marriage is shared. Creating operation orders with both points of view is how successful couples see the entire picture and arrive at the many battles in life fully prepared.

Each move, each deployment or change in life requires a new look at the mission.

2. WARNO

The WARNO issues a set of parameters, expectations and what is minimally acceptable. Applied to marriage, clearly outlining your own WARNO for situations like the grocery shop, the family vacation or simply a Saturday full of to-do lists.

“Go to this grocery store, not the other where the selection is not up to standard. You are to secure the following list of items. Should the brand names (listed in detail) not be available, you have clearance to initiate the following protocol. If the children become hostile, employ this tactic. If you reach this status with said children, abort the primary mission and begin digital reinforcements. It is unacceptable to return to base without the minimum requirements as stated below. Good luck.”

In theory, if a service member is used to working within the left and right barriers, a clearly defined home front mission should be successful.

3.  Identify obstacles

A good leader identifies the existing and potential threats to his troops to ensure the success of the mission. If you find yourself walking into contact daily, you clearly need to revisit this point. No one would walk into any mission without this step, so why not do the same for your marriage? Ask yourself the following.

“How will obstacles affect the success and forward movement of my marriage?”

“How can I use weapons within my arsenal to force the enemy where I want him and disrupt his movement?”

What is all too often forgotten in marriage is that your spouse is your battle buddy. Your spouse is and always will be on the same team for the same mission. If a snake is wrapped around the leg of your battle, you wouldn’t attack the man, you’d attack the snake. The same goes for your spouse in marriage.

If there is an enemy, attack it. If you foresee obstacles, plan for them. If you encounter them, work together not against each other.

4. Call for support if necessary

Your marriage team is in danger of being overrun. To call in support and save yourselves you need to know the following- where you are, where (or what) the enemy is, and what type of support you’re calling for.

Every marriage occasionally walks into battles that despite plans or preparation, can become too much to handle. Your options are to walk away or call in support. Unfortunately, in marriage, people often refuse support out of pride or stubbornness resulting in the complete failure of the mission and dissolution of the team. No good leader would let his team go down without deploying every single option available, so don’t do the same to your marriage.

Marriage in the military is one of the longest and toughest battles service members and their spouses will fight. It takes consistent training, plenty of planning and the unwavering dedication to the team to succeed. Luckily for all of us out there, the military has provided these skills, we all just need to deploy them.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19

Six of the leading veterans organizations are joining forces, forming a coalition to combat COVID-19. Team Rubicon is at the helm.

The Veterans Coalition for Vaccination (VCV) includes Team Rubicon, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Student Veterans of America, Team Red, White & Blue, The Mission Continues and Wounded Warrior Project. All are united in the commitment to aid local and state officials in distributing the COVID-19 vaccine to American citizens across the country.  

Veterans coalition for COVID-19 vaccination ad

Navy veteran and Team Rubicon President and Chief Operating Officer Art delaCruz is deeply familiar with tackling disasters and challenges, something many veterans have experience in. It’s for this reason that delaCruz believes veterans are uniquely positioned to make a tangible difference in fighting the invisible enemy that is COVID-19, and winning. 

Team Rubicon has been in the fight against Coronavirus since March 2020 and the VCV is what delaCruz feels is the next vital mission. “In 2019 we ran 119 operations and we ran close to 380 last year,” delaCruz shared. In 2020 TR was on the ground distributing personal protective equipment, administering COVID-19 tests, handing hurricane disaster relief and supporting neighbors in need. “Even with 140,000 volunteers we began to stretch our capacity,” he said.

“We were staring at this national problem where we knew that 350 million or so citizens needed to be vaccinated. We knew that the people who were really on the front-line, the true warriors, these nurses and doctors had been at it for 10 months and we thought ‘how can we help?’” delaCruz explained. 

In November 2020, hope was on the horizon. Vaccines were receiving their emergency approvals after successful trials, and, “This,” delaCruz said, “was the answer.” One of the Special Forces doctors in a TR strategy meeting said, “Vaccines don’t save lives, vaccinations save lives,” delaCruz shared. It was this striking realization that led TR to forming the VCV. 

Veterans coalition for COVID-19 vaccination

With over 18 million veterans throughout the country, TR knew they needed support to activate them all. So, they brought the big guns. “We made a decision to see if we could collect everyone together and get them aligned around this mission. Come late December we started this scaffolding and framework. We had our first meeting on December 17… and we launched,” delaCruz said. 

On December 15, TR was in the Navajo Nation giving their first vaccination. “They were the most devastated community in the country. Their hospitals only staffed at 5% of normal,” delaCruz shared. Soon, they received a call from Chicago’s Emergency Management team, requesting their help. “By December 28, our volunteers were training with the city personnel and they are now at seven distribution points of Chicago… and that’s just the start.”

By providing resources of a million-strong veteran coalition, the VCV will assist in ensuring access to vaccinations. When President Biden announced his COVID-19 national strategy for response, five of his pillars were identical to what VCV had identified for their mission. Addressing trust, opportunity and equity were among the most important, according to delaCruz.

“A man or woman who’s been off to combat or served, they have legitimacy and a voice. Now we are using that voice to build trust. Military veterans also come from every culture and community across the country so it’s probably the most diverse organization in the US, so who better to bring the message that vaccination is something the nation should do to move forward,” delaCruz said. 

It is the hope of TR and the VCV that the country will come together to unite in this fight. DelaCruz explained that it’s not unlike the victory gardens or rationing for the needs of the military during World War II. This is a new, pivotal moment where that same urgency and sacrifice is needed. 

The VCV is not only battling the virus, they are attacking false and misleading information. “It’s combat against misinformation … It’s about demonstrating leadership upfront that we believe in science and vaccinations, which are important to get the nation back on its feet ,” delaCruz stated. 

To help with tackling misinformation, VCV is being supported by the global advertising technology company Amobee and AdTechCares, which has over 50 partners. These organizations are committed to developing ongoing Public Service Announcement campaigns to ensure credible information is distributed about vaccine efficacy. 

“Vaccinations may be an individual act but that individual act has tremendous, tremendous societal value. Just like the collective self-sacrifice in World War II, this act of vaccinations or supporting vaccinations in any way possible, it touches everyone,” delaCruz said. “Americans have traditionally risen to the occasion during the hardest of times … we have an opportunity here to make it happen again.”

Team Rubicon and the VCV is imploring veterans to put on a new uniform and continue to serve this new and vital mission. It may be one of the most important fights to date. 

To learn more about how you can support the efforts against COVID-19 and vaccinations, visit www.TheVeteransCoalition.com

Articles

The US just tested an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile

An unarmed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile has been launched from a U.S. Air Force Base in California on a flight to a target in the Pacific Ocean.


The missile lifted off at 12:03 a.m. April 26 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

An Air Force statement said the mission was part of a program to test the effectiveness, readiness, and accuracy of the weapon system.

Chattanooga shooting victims to receive Purple Hearts
Another unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched during an operational test Dec. 17, 2013 and again on Sep. 5, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Yvonne Morales)

The 30th Space Wing commander, Col. John Moss, said Minuteman launches are essential to verify the status of the U.S. nuclear force and to demonstrate the national nuclear capabilities.

In a Minuteman test, a so-called re-entry vehicle travels more than 4,000 miles downrange to a target at Kwajalein Atoll near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

“Team V is once again ready to work with Air Force Global Strike Command to successfully launch another Minuteman III missile,” Moss said. “These Minuteman launches are essential to verify the status of our national nuclear force and to demonstrate our national nuclear capabilities. We are proud of our long history in partnering with the men and women of the 576th Flight Test Squadron to execute these missions for the nation.”

The 576th Flight Test Squadron will be responsible for installed tracking, telemetry, and command destruct systems on the missile.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army finds a fix for safety failures in M4 and M4A1 rifles

U.S. Army weapons officials have figured out the cause and ginned up a fix for a dangerous glitch in the selector switch of M4 and M4A1 carbines that could cause the weapon to fire unintentionally.

In June 2018, Military.com reported that about 3,000 Army M4 and M4A1s had failed new safety inspections begun after the service’s Tank-automotive and Armaments Command sent out a safety-of-use message in March 2018 to all branches of the U.S. military, advising units to perform an updated functions check on all variants of M16s and M4s after a soldier experienced an unexplained, unintended discharge.

After more than 50,000 weapons were checked, TACOM officials discovered the cause of the glitch and halted the inspections, TACOM spokesman R. Slade Walters told Military.com.


“After receiving a significant number of reports from the field and an average failure rate of about 6 percent of the weapons inspected, we ended the inspections and have determined that the cause of the problem is a tolerance stack of the internal firing components,” he said in an email. “The problem is fixed by modifying the selector to remove the tolerance issue and the fault. TACOM is working on an Army-wide directive to repair weapons with the issue that will be released when it is approved at the appropriate levels.”

During a follow-up phone interview, Walters said, “Each individual part conforms to the tolerance requirements, but when the multiple parts get stuck together in 6 to 9 percent of the weapons, depending on which models you are looking at … those tolerances create that condition.”

“So in some weapons it’s not a problem and in others it is,” he said, explaining that the lower receiver’s internal parts need “some machining and or grinding to slightly modify the internal components.”

“When they do that, it fixes the problem … and when they have done it and repeated it, they have been able to correct the problem in weapons showing the issue,” he added.

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The receiver of a former M4 carbine shows laser etching to reflect it is now an M4A1 capable of firing on full-auto.

(U.S. Army photo)

Most failures occurred in M4A1s. The M4A1s that had been converted from M4s suffered 2,070 failures out of 23,000 inspected, a 9 percent failure rate. Out of about 16,000 original M4A1s inspected, 960 suffered failures, a 6 percent failure rate.

Less than one percent of the 4,000 M4s checked failed the updated functions check. And less than one percent of the 8,500 M16A2s checked failed the test as well.

About 500 M16A4s were also checked, but no failures were reported.

The Marine Corps also uses the M4 carbine, but the service said in June 2018 that its weapons were passing the new functions check.

The glitch-testing started when a Fort Knox soldier’s M4A1 selector switch became stuck in-between the semi and auto settings. When the soldier pulled the trigger, the weapon failed to fire. The soldier then moved the selector switch and the weapon fired, the TACOM message states.

The M4A1 is now the Army’s primary individual weapon. The service is converting M4 carbines to M4A1s through the M4 Product Improvement program. The M4A1 has been used by special operations forces for about two decades. It features a heavier barrel and a full-automatic setting instead of the three-round burst setting on standard M4s.

The Army said that all new M4A1s being issued are being checked for the selector glitch and corrected as needed, Walters said.

“Anybody who has gotten a new weapon in the last month or two has gotten weapons free of this error,” he said. “It’s not a small number; it’s like several thousand. It has already been implemented in the supply chain.”

It’s unclear if TACOM will have unit armorers fix the weapons that showed the glitch or if TACOM technicians will do the work, Walters said. He added that “this is still pre-decisional.”

TACOM officials also could not explain why the glitch had not shown up in the past.

“It was just a weird fluke,” Walters said. “In the number of rounds that have gone through those models in the number of years those models have been available, it’s like a winning-the-lottery kind of fluke. And the fact that we discovered it is just one of those things.”

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

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A Marine explains why people love the film ‘Full Metal Jacket’ so much

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The first time I watched Full Metal Jacket, I was in a tent in Kuwait on my computer, waiting for a plane to take me to Iraq for the next seven months. As a Marine, I felt like it was one of those movies I was supposed to have seen by this point, and the lull directly before going off to war seemed like a good time to do it. It left me very confused, in part, because the movie is famous for its actual depiction of war and warriors, but also because it was so very, very incorrect with my own experiences of being a Marine. It was only years later that I began to realize exactly why so much of the movie seemed off to me. It wasn’t a movie about warriors or even about a war; it was a movie trying to make a point, which stuck with the film’s target audience.

Full Metal Jacket was a movie for people who would never see war. It’s an anti-war movie about Vietnam where absolutely every element of war, warriors, the whole military experience, is shown as being something terrible, dehumanizing, and a pointless endeavor to the detriment of all mankind. In 1987 at the film’s debut, such a message was exactly what people wanted to see from a war movie, because that narrative held true for millions of people.

FMJ does many things differently than most other war movies, namely because of the time period it was filmed in. If we look at different eras of the genre we see very different themes. Look at the John Wayne “Sands of Iwo Jima” or anything staring Audie Murphy, especially the one where he played himself, and you will probably be left with a very different feeling than if you were to watch something like Platoon, or even American Sniper. The early era focused on the heroism and unfortunate necessity of war due to the incontrovertible existence of evil in this world. The Nazis’ and Japanese murderous attempts at world left much of the world knowing very well the existence of such evils. For that reason, their movies depicted warriors as heroes and the world as black and white where there were definite evils needing definite heroes to rid the world of them.

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Following this, the second major era attempts to break that trend in a sort of genre revolt. War movies began showcases war as a pointless affair, having no meaning than to make people suffer, both the participants and the victims. They go further into personifying the warriors, namely our own, as being universally deeply flawed to the point of being the villains themselves. I’ve heard this was in efforts to make the genre more “realistic” and gritty. It’s noteworthy to also point out that this was the point when war movies were no longer being made by military veterans, and veterans were consulted less and less often in ensuring accurate tellings of their stories. They simply became a medium for artists to tell stories and share their views. Many stories from this period don’t even depict actual events, but only place them within actual time periods, such as the Battle of Hue City. Perhaps this was due to peace activists not involved in the war taking up degrees in liberal arts and film and entertainment. I can only really guess as to why the dramatic shift in war movies, around this time.

The third (the modern era) which I will say started around Saving Private Ryan, is the war epic. Your Black Hawk Downs, American Snipers, even the detestable Hurt Lockers, fall into this category. During that era, all war movies center around 1) Paying at least token respect to the individual troops, while 2) ironically showcasing each as deeply flawed because of the war, be they physically or psychologically broken and 3) never giving credibility to how war may benefit anyone , for example the Jewish people in Germany, the liberated France, or the empowered Kurds of Iraq. Modern war movies are themselves inheriting a stance of only being allowed to say something along the lines of “war is bad” and never veering from that rhetoric, while not socially being allowed to showcase the warriors as the deranged, murderous, barbarians depicted in Kubrick’s film. I guess that’s an improvement. This may be because in the modern era people felt more vulnerable after 9/11 and no longer accepted this view of veterans. It may be that more veterans have more social power to influence the way they are viewed via Social Media, as I am doing now. All that I can say for sure, is that something happened that broke from the way that second era war movies showcased us, from the way modern era movies do, which I am honestly thankful for in spite of many failures still existing in modern movies where veterans issues are concerned.

Having said that, no era is perfectly honest in their depiction of the military or of war. Take for example Black Hawk Down. I liked the movie, but it is filled with much of the spectral of the era while itself being the cinematic telling of one of the greatest modern military research projects in history. To make my point, my favorite line was when one soldier is given an order by a commanding officer, and replies, “But Sir, I’m wounded.” and the Officer replies back nonchalantly, “Everybody’s wounded.” I loved that line, but nothing like it happened in the book, which like I said, is one of the most factual retellings of events in modern history there is, so much so that the Army and Marine Corps have adopted it as part of their reading programs for all non-commissioned and commissioned officers. All that to say, dramatic license for some is embellishment; for others, outright fiction and rarely is it priority to get the story right for history’s sake or to show respect towards the participants.

The honest truth is that all three, the military, war, and the individual warriors are extremely complex, but that complexity is too much for the average movie goer to be entertained in only a two hour sitting. It is far easier to think of the average warrior as either a faceless bad guy, or a broken human because war is so bad, or keep overall ideas simple “War=bad, peace=good” and all things relating to one or the other falling into only one of those two categories. We’ve been made to think that war is some unsurvivable event, either physically or psychologically and that no normal person would be able to endure it, much less that some may see war as necessary and gain satisfaction from being part of one because they know their efforts provided some measure of good to others. (This sentiment in films correlates with the start of the Vietnam War and the end of the first era of war movies). Now, it is very hard for moviegoers to accept a purely heroic, purely rational, purely normal war hero figure because to do that, they have to think of him as an average person, like us who goes for a little while to do something important, unpleasant or not, and then going home to be normal again. Movies like that first present a false view of war and warriors based on stereotypes and tropes, one filled only with suffering and atrocities and with no good reason motivating thousands of rational people at all, then disturbs viewers a second way by making them uncomfortable with the thought, “Could I do those terrible things?” People don’t like that. They don’t want to identify with the common warrior that most of these movies depict. Part of them feels like the bad guy. This was the era in which Full Metal Jacket made its debut.

Having said all this, we can start to get into our conversation on Full Metal Jacket itself.

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Full Metal Jacket is the perfect film to showcase second era war movies and the values they were meant to communicate. I am not saying that Kubrick told the truth in the least with the film, nor am I saying his goal was to try to lie to viewers. I think he is just trying to sell movies. He has to make a movie that doesn’t lead viewers into his way of thinking, whatever that may have been, but plays into their already existing biases and beliefs. That is how they identify with characters they know so little about and how they become emotionally involved. Movies don’t make money by correcting people’s notion of how the world really is. They make money by amplifying their beliefs to the point that viewers will tell their friends, “This is the truest thing in history of things and if you don’t watch it, you’re an idiot.” In 1987, no one was viewed anything that happened in the Vietnam War as anything similar to WWII and the general consensus was that there was no point to it at all. With a legacy such as My Lai and the many thousands for a war more than 13 times more than were lost in Iraq, people wanted nothing to do with a “Sands of Iwo Jima” film depicting anything favorable about Vietnam, a heroic film depicting the period well wasn’t the type of movie that would have reached audiences. They were tired of the Cold War (which hadn’t yet ended) and had no sense that anything since 1945 having had any real value. Boil it all down, and FMJ depicts that belief. Note that it might not tell the truth that well, but it perfectly captures the mentality of the people of the time.

Take a look at the film’s hero/victim/protagonist, Pvt. J.T. ‘Joker’ Davis. He is symbolic on many levels which are meaningful to the time in which FMJ debuted. From before he is physically even seen on the screen, he is shown as a rebel, during the iconic introduction of the Drill Instructor played to near perfection by an actual Marine Corps Drill Instructor, R. Lee Ermey, where he outright mocks the Drill Instructor to devastating results. From that moment on, we sympathize with the character who obviously doesn’t belong here. Throughout the movie he is portrayed as not fitting in. He stands out from the brutish, womanizing, cruel or ignorant Marines, as most of them are depicted in the film. Davis instead is an intellectual, symbolized by the non-military regulation eyeglasses and the fact that his Military Occupational Specialty wasn’t infantry, but as a writer. He both stands for intelligence as well as truth, morally setting him above and opposed to the rest of the other “lower” infantrymen. Once he actually does deploy, he stands out as a continued rebel (remember he is morally and intellectually superior to all the other troops) by brandishing proudly the “Born to Kill” label sarcastically graffitied on his helmet and a peace sign on his flak jacket. Given that during the 70’s the symbol had more to do an anti-military sentiments than actual peace, Joker was Stanley Kubrick’s very deliberate attempt to make viewers see the character as being little more than the only rational, non-barbarian militant in the show, who is more a victim of circumstance than someone who wants to be a part of the war at all. All this combines to help viewers of a certain ilk, Kubrick’s target audience, identify with what the protagonist’s presumed views of what the war should be, when really, the truth is that the protagonist was written to personify the average viewer’s perception: “This is barbaric, this is senseless, this is wrong.”

Looking at the rest of the movie and you see a series of messages tailored for a moment in time, and that subgroup of Americans in 1987.

“War will utterly destroy the minds of good and innocent people.” Private Pyle was, to me, the worst part of the best part of the movie. He was over the top in personal treatment in how troops are treated in training, and major elements of his plot could not possibly have happened exactly because of the fate he met in the most acclaimed scene of the movie. Regardless, while the depiction of boot camp was novel for all war movies before or since, Pyle’s presence detracted from the film in a way that, for me, was little more than over the top sensationalism.

“War creates barbarism in American Warfighters where murdering innocent people is acceptable.” I’ve honestly never been able to deal with this scene, given what I have known and experienced in countless hours on the law of war, code of conduct, rules of engagement, and escalation of force training during my own time in the Marines. Honestly try to watch this scene and imagine your nephew or neighbor down the street being this evil, and also try to imagine everyone in the military just looking the other way as it happened.

Then there is the theme that “incoming warriors can only degrade the population of a region through their corruption and immorality.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12tce-THLUE

And finally, that the enemy that has been causing us so much harm is a much more impotent, underwhelming force than we had ever imagined, personified by nothing less than a little girl, making the American military machine appear, in retrospect to be the bullies and the aggressors.

Rob Ager, a Youtuber who has made a side profession of analyzing films, has even made a very potent argument for the numerous ways in Kubrick used metaphor to convey how military indoctrination forces young men into becoming rapists and killers through psychological rewiring of mind’s inner workings.

“Kubrick is acknowledging the universal truth about military brainwashing, soldiers who can’t be turned into brutal psychopaths by their Drill Instructors, can certainly be persuaded in the battlefields by the overbearing peer pressure of their lesser minded friends.”

If you’re curious, I must add at this point before watching, that the training that the Ager’s analysis and Kubrick’s film depict taking place in the first half of the FMJ, which is necessary for the following analysis and FMJ’s second half narrative to make sense, was nothing like what I experienced in Marine Corps boot camp. We never named our rifles girl’s names, we never slept with our rifles, there were no sexual connotations with them and the “This is my rifle, this is my gun” thing was never uttered in my tenure either. As a Marine Corps rifle instructor, I never even met anyone could explain to me what that meant. One can’t know if boot camp has changed and my experience is just because of reforms, or simply that Kubrick took a great deal more dramatic license than seems in hindsight unjustifiable.

In the end, Kubrick’s film does one thing exceptionally well, it tells the story many people wanted to believe to be the way it was. Was Vietnam hard? Yes, it was. Was it traumatic for many? Yes, it was. Was boot camp filled with mind altering psychopath building brainwashing? Umm… No. What Kubrick’s piece on Vietnam was can simply be called propaganda. It wasn’t the type of propaganda that encourages youth to join up or to make people support a war of one kind or another. It was quite the opposite, but still propaganda. It was a war film that used just as many inaccuracies to promote all the values of the anti-war movement prominent in the late sixties and early seventies and into the eighties, as the Nazi half truth films depicting the virtues of the German Third Reich. That said, it was filled with all the spectacle that makes a war movie entertaining, right down to the incredibly odd and ill fitting Mickey Mouse Club ending to the film.

So, to answer the big question, why did so many people like it? If I really had to guess, I would say it is because the movie boils down into under two hours everything they already believed about war. It supports their stereotypes, reenforces their biases, and conveys a message they have already accepted in their hearts and which society has generally accepted to be true, whether it actually is or not. When you stumble on something that so many people agree with, though few have experienced first hand, and which you yourself find inline with your own beliefs, you tend to declare it as the greatest thing ever made. I don’t know a lot of veterans who think that the Full Metal Jacket is the greatest movie ever made. Everyone laughs at the first half because, frankly, we all had scary drill instructors. Beyond that, I don’t agree that this is a very good film. It’s great propaganda for a certain viewpoint, or at best, a very good story about one very fictitious man’s journey, which unfortunately ended up misrepresenting the factual experiences of a whole generation of war-fighters. That being the case, it really doesn’t surprise me that a democratic ranking forum would skew the results of an OK movie, when it has many moral and political undertones not obvious to many viewers.

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These are the best military photos for the week of August 26th

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


Air Force:

A U.S. Air Force F-16 “Thunderbird” sits on the flight line during sunrise at the 177th Fighter Wing, Air National Guard Base in Atlantic City, N.J., Aug. 23, 2017. The Thunderbirds, an Aerial Demonstration Squadron, performed at the Atlantic City Air Show, Thunder over the Boardwalk, in Atlantic City, N.J., Aug. 22-23, 2017.

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U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Cristina J. Allen

The propellers of a WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft spin in the center of Hurricane Harvey during a flight into the storm Aug. 24, 2017 out of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi.

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U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Heather Heiney

Army:

U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, and Italian Army Paratroopers Folgore Brigade, descend onto Juliet Drop Zone in Pordenone, Italy, August 23, 2017. The combined exercise demonstrates the multinational capacity building of the airborne community and the airborne allied nations collectively. The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, capable of projecting ready forces anywhere in the U.S. European, Africa or Central Commands’ areas of responsibility within 18 hours.

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U.S. Army Photos by Visual Information Specialist Paolo Bovo

Soldiers selected by 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment, as Soldiers of the month while deployed with the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa in Djibouti, were offered the opportunity to participate in a limited AT4 live-fire exercise at a range along the southern coast of the Gulf of Tadjoura, Aug. 22, 2017. The AT4 is a shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon which is disposable after just one use, making it a special opportunity to fire one.

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U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Joe Harwood

Navy:

USS Constitution fires off a 40 mm 200 gram round from one of her saluting batteries. Constitution fires one round from her saluting battery twice a day to signify morning and evening colors.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua Hammond

Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians, assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Five (EODMU 5), dive in Apra Harbor, Guam, Aug. 20, 2017. EODMU-5 conducts mine countermeasures, improvised explosive device operations, renders safe explosive hazards, and disarms underwater explosives such as mines.

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U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Arthurgwain L. Marquez

Marine Corps:

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Matthew Flanagan, a cannoneer, attached with 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, Kilo Battery, Gun 3, fires the M777A2 Howitzer at Yausubetsu Training Area, Japan, August 23, 2017. The purpose of the Northern Viper training exercise is to maintain interoperability and combat readiness within the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by MCIPAC Combat Camera Lance Cpl. André T. Peterson

Marines with 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO) rappel from a Bell UH-1 Iroquois on Camp Pendleton, Calif., August 24, 2017. 1st ANGLICO is conducting training to prepare Marines for future deployments.

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U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Pfc. Dalton S. Swanbeck

Coast Guard:

An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew medevac a man experiencing symptoms of heart failure approximately 60 miles south of Grand Isle, Louisiana, August 24, 2017. The helicopter crew arrived on scene at approximately 11:30 a.m., hoisted the man and transported him to West Jefferson Medical Center in Marrero in stable condition.

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U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans

Three people were rescued by a boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook near Highlands, New Jersey, on August 19, 2017. Their nine-foot John boat capsized sending them into the water.

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U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Station Sandy Hook

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