How to honor Vietnam veterans - We Are The Mighty
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How to honor Vietnam veterans

The following is an Op/Ed written by Ken Falke. The opinions expressed are his own.


There’s an important day of commemoration on March 29th — or in some U.S. States, March 30th — that goes unnoticed until the nightly evening news or a stumble on social media. This very special day is Vietnam Veterans Day, or in some states, “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.”

In 1974, President Nixon established this commemoration to recognize the contributions of the men and women who served during this unpopular war and tumultuous time in our history.

How to honor Vietnam veterans
Vietnam War memorial. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons | InSapphoWeTrust)

While many will rightly mark the day with speeches, tributes, and celebrations fitting for this great generation, there is a more meaningful way to honor our Vietnam veterans and all veterans. That honor is to provide them new and innovative ways to improve their mental wellness and reintegration into their communities.

Approximately 2.7 million young men and women served in Vietnam — about the same number that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since September 2001. While all serving since 9/11 volunteered, few realize that almost two-thirds of Vietnam veterans volunteered to serve as well.

Even though Vietnam was an unpopular war, 91 percent of Vietnam Veterans said they were glad they served in the war, and one-quarter said they would do it again. What these numbers show is the incredible commitment to service that our Vietnam-era veterans share with the post-9/11 veteran generation.

But there are disturbing similarities as well. The current veteran suicide rate of 20+ per day is well publicized; though that the average age of the veteran is 55 years old is less known. PTSD rates from both generations hover around 30 percent.

How to honor Vietnam veterans
An American Green Beret (right), and a South Vietnamese soldier assist wounded Vietnamese soldier to medivac helicopter following fighting near the Special Forces camp at Duc Phong, 40 miles north of Saigon, Sept. 9, 1969. South Vietnamese spokesmen said government casualties reached a two-month high 502 dead and 1,210 wounded. It was the highest casualty toll since the week ending June 14, which saw 516 dead and 1,424 wounded. (Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS by Shunsuke Akatsuka)

Additionally, Vietnam veterans struggled — and many still do — with the same challenges that today’s veterans face: PTSD, anxiety, drug, and alcohol dependency, and family and work stability. By a percentage comparison, of the 591 Vietnam prisoners of war (POWs) only 4 percent had symptoms of PTSD.

So why did POWs who experience what would be considered the most traumatic experiences seem to fare so well?

Many suggest the leadership of Admiral James Stockdale while a POW in the “Hanoi Hilton.” His leadership provided purpose, mission, and direction as a team to “return with honor.”

Often, the sense of purpose provided by leadership during transitions facilitates growth to occur. While the DOD, the VA, and other organizations work hard to care for our veterans, the element of leadership seems to be lost after service and veterans fall into a “no-man’s land” that lacks wellness, a clear mission, and renewed purpose.

Why have we made so little progress in mental wellness for our returning warriors?

Many experts, including the Journal of American Medical Association, suggest that our reactive approach to combat related stress such as PTSD doesn’t work. Indicators show that our current approach has made little progress since the Vietnam War, and some suggest since World War I.

How to honor Vietnam veterans
Understanding PTSD is critical military veterans and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay)

We are repeating minimally effective practices where veterans are offered medication, which largely attacks symptoms and leaves them as diminished versions of themselves, or talk-therapy provided by well-intended but often ill-equipped therapists, and cased in stigma.

Though the VA has announced plans to hire 1,000 additional mental health professionals, more therapists will not fix the inadequacies of the current approaches.

How can we do better?

First, expand public-private partnerships. The private sector and nonprofit organizations have developed new approaches to veteran wellness and reintegration that could be expanded. These approaches leverage training (which is compatible with military personnel and veteran culture) and new technology that could “triage” veterans and provide skills to facilitate Post-traumatic Growth before the need for medication or therapy.

Second, we need to recognize and address the stigma associated with therapy. While veterans — and civilians — can gain some benefit from talk-therapy and medication, one can only grow by learning the skills associated with growth. This requires a holistic training approach that veterans understand and allows them to thrive, not just survive.

Finally, innovation costs money. The President’s proposed budget has a 6 percent increase to the VA’s budget; much of it to focus on health care. While this is positive, we need to use new funds to create innovative solutions, not further outdated practices. While the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan continue and future threats remain, veteran mental health issues will likely worsen.

This March 29th and 30th we will stop to honor and welcome home our Vietnam veterans. While speeches, ceremonies, and commemorations will recognize their sacrifice, to truly honor their service — and the service of those that follow — we should facilitate growth and purposeful lives they truly deserve and welcomes them home.

Recognized as one of We Are The Mighty’s 25 veterans to watch in 2017Ken Falke is a 21-year service-disabled combat veteran of the U.S. Navy and retired Master Chief Petty Officer and is the CEO of organizational improvement solutions company Shoulder 2 Shoulder, Inc. He is also the founder and Chairman of Boulder Crest Retreat.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump and Putin plan to meet in ‘not-too-distant future’

President Donald Trump congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin on his re-election during a phone call on March 20, 2018, and the two leaders agreed to hold talks soon.


“We will probably get together in the not-too-distant future, so we can discuss arms, we can discuss arms race.” Trump told reporters before an oval office meeting with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Also read: Russians are making fun of election ballots skewed for Putin

Trump said the arms race is “getting out of control,” but the U.S. “will not allow anybody to have anything even close to what we have.” Other issues that will be discussed during the bilateral meeting will be Ukraine, Syria, and North Korea, Trump added.

During the call, Trump emphasized denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, discussed the state of U.S.-Russia relations and resolved to continue dialogue about “mutual national security priorities and challenges,” according to the White House.

How to honor Vietnam veterans
Russian President Vladimir Putin.

An official statement by the Kremlin on March 20, 2018, said Trump and Putin discussed the importance of working together on international terrorism, limiting nuclear arms, and economic cooperation.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said neither the Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential race nor the recent poisoning of a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom came up during the phone call.

Related: Trump will meet with Kim Jong Un to end the Korean nuclear crisis

Sanders said there are currently no specific details regarding the time and location of the bilateral meeting.

Shortly after Trump’s Oval Office remarks, Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona criticized the president on Twitter.

“An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections,” tweeted McCain. “And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election.”

 

 

Sanders defended Trump saying he “joined other countries in these calls, both Germany and France have reached out, as well as President Obama in 2012.” She said President Trump maintained it is important to have dialogue with Russia, and at the same time “we will continue to be tough on Russia.”

More: Trump’s leaked nuclear report suggests Russia has a doomsday device

When pressed by reporters, Sanders declined to comment on whether the White House believes the Russian election was free and fair.

“We don’t get to dictate how other countries operate.” Sanders replied. “What we do know is Putin has been elected in their country, and that’s not something we can dictate to them, how they operate, we can only focus on the freeness and fairness of our elections, something we 100 percent fully support.”

Putin won his fourth term in the March 18 presidential election with 77 percent of the vote. According to Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), “restrictions on the fundamental freedoms, as well as on candidate registration, have limited the space for political engagement and resulted in a lack of genuine competition.”

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Benefits restored to 4,200 veterans who are less dead than the VA thought

Over the last five years, some 4,200 living veterans were declared dead and had their benefits cut off by the Department of Veterans Affairs. After digging through records, Danny Pummill, the acting undersecretary for benefits at the VA, said the mistake was a function of the way record sharing is done between the Social Security Administration and the VA. When the SSA declared someone dead, the VA would immediately kill their benefits.


Florida Congressman David Jolly had a bone to pick with the VA. Responding to his constituents’ complaints about premature death notices, he headed a Congressional inquiry in 2015. When veterans tried to correct the errors in their mortal status, they found themselves in purgatory between the two agencies. In a written statement, Rep. Jolly remarked on the grave consequences of these kinds of mistakes.

How to honor Vietnam veterans
Rep. David Jolly

“We simply cannot have men and women who have sacrificed for this country see their rightful benefits wrongfully terminated because the VA mistakenly declares them dead,” Jolly wrote. “It has caused needless hardships for thousands of people who had their benefits terminated and their world turned upside down.”

The VA admitted its mistake to the congressman and then revived the affected veterans’ benefits as of May 2016. The VA also overhauled its death notice procedures. Now, a veteran will be notified of his or her death by mail to the last known address. The veteran will have 30 days to prove he or she is not dead. If the VA doesn’t hear from the veteran or their surviving family members, the benefits will be terminated.

 

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Listen to the famed “Rebel Yell” as yelled by real Civil War rebels

The Library of Congress hosts a number of historical treasures, including, as a writer for the Smithsonian Magazine discovered in the library’s archives, a video from the 1930s that shows actual Confederate veterans doing their famed “Rebel Yell.”


The yell was used as a battle cry by Confederate soldiers, usually during charges. It was never recorded during a battle because audio recording technology was in its infancy during the war. The first known recordings were created in 1859 and 1860, just before the Civil War started. The first popular audio recording device wasn’t invented until 1877, 12 years after the war ended.

So, recordings of Civil War veterans from the early 1900s are likely the closest modern people can come to knowing what Union soldiers heard as a Confederate charge barreled at them. Listen to the yell in the video below:

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This Army mother and son duo deployed together

One of the most challenging parts of deployment for many soldiers is being away from friends and family. Soldiers and family members alike often lean on others who share a similar experience during long periods apart.


But one family in the 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team is sharing an experience here to make deployment just a little bit easier.

Army Capt. Andrea Wolfe and her son, Army Spc. Kameron Wideman, both assigned to Brigade Support Medical Company, 215th Brigade Support Battalion, deployed to Kuwait recently from Fort Hood, Texas, for nine months in support of U.S. Army Central.

How to honor Vietnam veterans
Army Capt. Andrea Wolfe, senior brigade physician assistant, and her son, Army Spc. Kameron Wideman, a behavioral health technician, both assigned to the Brigade Support Medical Company, 215th Brigade Support Battalion, are deployed for nine months to Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Leah R. Kilpatrick)

Wolfe, a native of Kingston, Jamaica, began her Army career as an enlisted lab technician 24 years ago.

“I had two sisters who were in the Army,” she said. “I followed them in. In a family of nine, we couldn’t afford college, so I had to do something to be able to get some kind of college education, and that was the way.”

As far back as she can remember, she said, she wanted to be a nurse. “It’s just something I wanted to get into to help people,” she added.

Educational Opportunities

That aspiration propelled her through her career, taking advantage of educational opportunities in an effort to make her dream a reality. “I tried to get into the nursing program,” she said. “When I was a lab tech instructor in San Antonio, I put in my packet three times for the nursing program.”

After 17 years of enlisted service and multiple attempts, the frustrated sergeant first class decided to try something different.

Related: 10 brothers who received the Medal of Honor

“So I put in a packet to the [physician assistant] program, got picked up the first time, so I figured that was my calling, and I’ve been doing that since 2009,” she said.

Meanwhile, Wolfe was raising a family. Her son, Kameron Wideman, was born in 1996 at her first duty station in Fort Lewis, Washington. Brought up in a devoted military household, it was no surprise when he enlisted in the Army, Wolfe said.

“I was good in school, but I didn’t take it seriously enough, but the Army was always my fallback plan,” said Wideman, a behavioral health technician. “I initially wanted to join just so I could help people. That’s why I got into the medical field.”

How to honor Vietnam veterans
Army medics unload a mock casualty from a UH-60 Black Hawk medevac helicopter during a training exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center. | U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

What started out as just a potential option won his heart, Wideman said, and now he plans on taking classes and completing the prerequisites to submit a packet for the Army Medical Department Enlisted Commissioning Program, as his mother did.

Meanwhile, Wolfe and Wideman are tending to the physical and mental well-being of the soldiers deployed to Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Wolfe said that while her focus is on her job and taking care of the soldiers, the mom in her can’t help but feel some of the same concerns stateside parents feel about having a child deployed.

Important Mission

“As a mother, you still have that deep-down concern of ‘What if something happens to my baby? What am I going to do?'” she said. “But I can’t let him see that, because I need him to focus on his job and what I need him to do, and that’s to provide mental health, which is something that is very much needed in this day and age.”

Wideman said he enjoys having his mother right down the road. “I’m blessed,” he said. “I’m blessed to have her with me.”

Although Wideman has served only two years in the Army, he is no stranger to the deployment experience from a family member’s perspective. His mother, father, and stepfather all serve on active duty.

Also read: Watch Jimmy Fallon and The Rock beautifully reunite a military family

“All three of my parents have deployed at some point,” he said. “It was tough as a little kid saying goodbye to your parents. When you’re little, you tend to have a big imagination. You’re thinking, ‘Oh no! I’m probably never going to see my parents again,’ because you’re little, and you’re in your own head about it.”

But the experience of being the kid who was left behind didn’t prepare him to actually be deployed himself, he said.

“I still didn’t really know what deployment was,” he said. “It was like this random place that my parents were going to for like a year and then coming back. I didn’t really know how to picture where they were.”

Thankfully, he said, he had a source close to home to answer his questions.

“I had the normal questions like, ‘How are we going to be living?” and me being a millennial, ‘Is there going to be Internet?’ and things like that,” he said.

Wolfe and her husband, Army 1st Sgt. Andrew Wolfe, a company first sergeant at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood, Texas, help mentor Wideman through his Army career with advice and guidance.

Drive, Motivation, Discipline

Echoes of the same drive, motivation, dedication and discipline that exemplify Wolfe’s career path are evident in Wideman’s.

“We cross paths every now and then,” she said. “I don’t see him all the time. I let Kameron be Kameron. We are passionate about the military. This is our Army. My husband is a first sergeant, and I used to be an E-7 before I switched over, so that leadership is instilled in both of us, and that comes out in the way we raise our kids — the leadership, the discipline, the morale, the ethics, everything. This is the way you’re supposed to live.”

Wolfe said she often finds herself giving the same advice to her soldiers that she gives to her son.

“Get all you can out of the military, because it’s going to get all it can out of you, and that was my insight coming up,” Wolfe said.

“I don’t know how many colleges I went to, because I needed classes. I went to school all the time, and I was just taking advantage of the opportunities that were out there. That’s what I tell all my soldiers coming up in the military. You have to take advantage of it. No one’s going to give it to you. You have to go and get it.”

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The 82nd Airborne deploys more troops to ‘brutal’ ISIS fight

Several small groups of soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division have deployed in early 2017, bound for the Middle East and the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.


That fight, according to U.S. officials, includes the “most significant urban combat to take place since World War II.”

“It is tough and brutal,” Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend said from Baghdad late March, describing the ongoing operation to liberate Mosul, Iraq, from ISIS.

“House by house, block by block fights. Despite that, the Iraqi Security Forces continue to press ISIS on multiple axes, presenting them with multiple dilemmas. We know the enemy cannot respond to this. Tough fighting in one sector provides the opportunity for other elements to advance in other areas, and that’s what the Iraqi Security Forces have been doing.”

Townsend is the commander of the anti-ISIS coalition, known as Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve. He’s also the commander of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg.

How to honor Vietnam veterans
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Branden Quintana and Sgt. Cory Ballentine, both 82nd Airborne Division, pull security with M4 carbines on the roof of an Iraqi police station in Habaniyah, Anbar province, Iraq, July 13, 2011. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kissta Feldner/Released)

The coalition he leads includes dozens of countries making varied contributions to the fight. The 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team is a key contributor among U.S. forces, with more than 1,800 paratroopers deployed in support of an advise-and-assist mission, training and equipping Iraqi forces before battle and providing intelligence, artillery support and advice during combat.

The latest 82nd Airborne troops to deploy in support of the fight are also from the unit, known as Falcon Brigade. Although they are not expected to remain in country for the entirety of what’s left of the nine-month deployment.

Army leaders first discussed the additional deployments last month, when a three-star general told members of Congress up to 2,500 soldiers from the brigade could join the rest of their unit on the deployment.

But officials have said more recently that it’s unclear if that number will be called forward. Instead, smaller groups — such as the two companies of about 200 soldiers who left Fort Bragg last Tuesday — have been deployed.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon via telephone last week, Townsend said ISIS was causing massive human suffering and would continue to do so if the Iraqi forces and their coalition partners do not prevail.

“Our enemy, ISIS, are evil and murderous butchers, engaged in purposeful and mass slaughter,” he said. “There are countless mass graves surrounding Mosul. ISIS put those bodies in there…the savages that are ISIS deliberately target, terrorize, and kill innocent civilians every day. The best and fastest way to end this human suffering is to quickly liberate these cities and Iraq and Syria from ISIS.”

Townsend said officials have observed civilians fleeing ISIS-held buildings. They’ve heard reports that ISIS was shooting civilians trying to leave Mosul. Iraqi forces have reported houses filled with hostages and rigged to explode.

“This is a difficult and brutal fight on multiple fronts,” he said. “…it is the toughest and most brutal phase of this war and…the toughest and most brutal close quarters combat that I have experienced in my 34 year of service.”

“ISIS is slaughtering Iraqis and Syrians on a daily basis,” Townsend added. “ISIS is cutting off heads. ISIS is shooting people, throwing people from buildings, burning them alive in cases, and they’re making a video record to prove it. This has got to stop. This evil has got to be stamped out.”

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This is North Korea’s simulation of the missile destroying the US

North Korea celebrated decades of hard work on its first-ever intercontinental ballistic missile with a giant concert complete with pyrotechnics, an orchestra, and a simulation video of its missile destroying the entire U.S. mainland.


The concert not only featured the simulation video, but photos of the real missile tested by the North Koreans, providing missile analysts in the U.S. and elsewhere tons of hidden details to study.

Because North Korea remains one of the most closed-off nations on earth, the imagery it posts of its missiles is an excellent source of intelligence for civilian and military analysts alike.

Watch the clip below:

MIGHTY TRENDING

What China’s spin doctors want you to believe this week

Most national governments have some sort of official apparatus for pushing its views in other countries. The U.S. has the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Qatar has Al Jazeera, Russia has Russia Today and Russia Beyond the Headlines. China has a few outlets as well, including China Military. We took a quick tour to see what they’re talking about right now.


International Army Games 2018: Obstacle course contest held in Fujian, China

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Chinese teams are going to impress at the International Army Games

The International Army Games that Russia holds every year are coming up, and China is bragging about the 13 fighter jets it’s sending this year. Two of the pilots are from the People’s Liberation Army Navy, and this is the first time that pilots from that branch have participated.

It also has paratroopers participating, and it’s bragging that its team is the only one using only domestically produced weapons and equipment. That domestic production of equipment is an odd flex since it only matters if you think you might lose access to key imports during a conflict.

But while China’s flexes might be odd, don’t count them out on performance. Their special operators have done well for themselves at the Warrior Games in Jordan.

How to honor Vietnam veterans

(Studio Incendo, CC BY 2.0)

The White House is lying about Chinese military forces near Hong Kong

China has a bit of a problem in its Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong. Widespread protests there have only grown and international news coverage is turning against the central government. A recent Bloomberg report said that America was tracking Chinese troop deployments near the border of Hong Kong.

China is preferring to call the protests riots and is referring to some of the participants as “radical forces,” and it wants to convince the world that the army is nowhere near the conflict. But it also said that the commander of the Hong Kong garrison condemned the protests Wednesday during a speech celebrating the army’s 92nd Birthday.

China can hold the Taiwan Straits against anything, even without new Russian missiles

China has been seeking to “re-unify” for years with Taiwan. If you don’t know, this is a pretty deliberate misnomer. Taiwan was one a part of China the same way that Texas was once part of Mexico. During a brutal civil war, the Communists took control of mainland China while the Republic of China fell back to Taiwan and has defended the island ever since.

The countries are separated by the Strait of Taiwan, and any military deployment near that strait changes the balance of power. So, China’s recent deployment of S-400 anti-aircraft missiles manufactured in Russia ruffled some feathers all around the world. China, through China Military, is trying to say that the S-400 deployment is not big deal, though that’s obviously crap.

The S-400 is the same missile system that Russia turned to to defend Kaliningrad, Crimea, and other important strategic positions. It’s very capable, and even the export version can hit targets over 150 miles from the launcher. It’s simply madness to claim that deployment of such an advanced system on the Strait of Taiwan won’t affect the balance of power there.

China is not a major threat to the U.S. militarily

In an op-ed in China Military, Senior Col. Lu Yin argues that China is not a major security threat to the U.S. Her argument centers on three pillars. First, it’s not China’s intent to fight the U.S. or establish a sphere of influence. Second, China is not capable of presenting a true threat to the U.S. due to a lack of mechanization. Finally, China hasn’t engaged in a war in 40 years.

These arguments have some serious holes. First, China’s Belt and Road Initiative is very much about expanding a sphere of influence that China already has, and it has been using an oversized coast guard to punish neighbors and seize territory in the Pacific. Second, China is under-mechanized and modernized, but it has been rapidly closing that gap for 20 years. And finally, China hasn’t engaged in a war in decades because it wasn’t ready for one. That’s no longer the case.

But, it is still a good sign that Chinese military officers are arguing for peace. It’s most likely a ruse or a tactic to buy time by keeping some Americans hopeful for long-term peace, but if China starts abiding by agreements like the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, China and the U.S. could avoid more confrontation and potential conflict.

How to honor Vietnam veterans

The U.S. Navy tests a prototype railgun in 2008. China has deployed its prototype weapon.

(U.S. Navy)

Chinese scientists are creating new marvels of naval might

In the previous entry, we mentioned that China hasn’t engaged in a war for decades because it wasn’t ready for war, but has been building up its capability. Well, they’re currently bragging about engineers getting new citations and medals, likely because of their work in full-electric propulsion.

FEP is useful on any vessel because it allows smooth, consistent power. But it is especially valuable on warships designed to fire energy weapons and electromagnetic railguns, the kinds of weapons that would make a big difference in a future naval fight. China is aggressively pursuing railguns, recently sending its first railgun-equipped vessel out for sea trials.

China does appear to be behind the U.S. in most naval tech that matters, but it’s moving fast and it has the industrial capacity to mass produce any weapon and platform designs that work in trials. But it also has a tendency to over-tout its breakthroughs. So it’s unclear whether this hinted full-electric propulsion advance really means anything.

Chinese troops are securing U.N. compounds and missions in Africa

China has troops deployed in Africa on a peacekeeping mission and China Military and CGTN.com have devoted resources to trumpeting the Chinese role in securing a base after it was hit by a suicide attack. French, Malian, and Estonian troops were injured in the attack.

Meanwhile international coverage has focused on the efforts of Malian and French troops to contain the threat, especially the Malian troops who identified the suicide vehicle and fired on it as it entered the checkpoint. This forced the vehicle to explode outside the gate with enough distance that injuries were limited.

China Military wants everyone to know that, “Chinese sentinels used high-powered telescopes to strengthen observation and the snipers occupied the commanding heights to prepare for shooting.” Basically, Chinese troops took over guard towers or similar positions and used scopes and binoculars.

Still, that’s not bad considering what troops China deployed to Mali. It has a guard detachment and an engineer detachment on the ground, so hardening the entry points and finishing work on the airport is about all that can be expected. No shame there.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump and Kim commit to bringing home the missing of the Korean War

President Donald Trump said June 12, 2018, that North Korea has committed to returning the remains of the missing from the Korean War, giving hope to the families of more than 7,800 service members that they will finally get a full accounting.

Trump said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed to the “immediate repatriation” in a last-minute deal reached at their historic summit in Singapore.


The issue of the missing-in-action had had been pressed on him by the families, and he went into the matter in “great detail” with Kim during their discussions, Trump said at a news conference before leaving Singapore.

“I must have had just countless calls and letters and Tweets, anything you can do — they want the remains of their sons back,” he said of the families.

“They want the remains of their fathers, and mothers, and all of the people that got caught into that really brutal war, which took place, to a large extent, in North Korea,” Trump said. “And I asked for it today, and we got it. That was a very last minute. The remains will be coming back. They’re going to start that process immediately.”

How to honor Vietnam veterans
A grief stricken American infantryman whose buddy has been killed in action is comforted by another soldier. Haktong-ni area, Korea. August 28, 1950.
(U.S. Army Korea Media Center official Korean War online video archive)

“But so many people, even during the campaign, they’d say, ‘Is there any way you can work with North Korea to get the remains of my son back or my father back?’ So many people asked me this question,” he said.

“And, you know, I said, ‘Look, we don’t get along too well with that particular group of people.’ But now we do. And he agreed to that so quickly and so nice — it was really a very nice thing, and he understands it. He understands it,” Trump said of Kim.

The joint statement signed by Trump and Kim stated: “The United States and the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.”

The general statement on “immediate repatriation” could refer to remains North Korea already has in storage but were never returned after joint recovery efforts were suspended in 2005 amid the political impasse over North Korean provocations and advances in its missile and nuclear programs.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars, which had called for Trump and Kim to address the issue of the missing prior to the summit, hailed the agreement.

“We must have hope that this agreement will finally bring peace to the peninsula and help bring closure to thousands of families of missing American servicemen from the Korean War,” Keith Harman, national commander of the VFW, said in a statement. “Now the hard work to bring the initiative to fruition begins.”

A joint declaration after the first meeting between a U.S. president and a North Korean leader called the summit “an epochal event of great significance in overcoming decades of tensions and hostilities between the two countries and for the opening up of a new future.”

How to honor Vietnam veterans
President Donald Trump

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, whose efforts were crucial in bringing Trump and Kim together, said there would be no turning back on an agreement that held out the prospect for lasting peace on the peninsula.

“Building upon the agreement reached today, we will take a new path going forward. Leaving dark days of war and conflict behind, we will write a new chapter of peace and cooperation. We will be there together with North Korea along the way,” Moon said in a statement.

On June 6, 2018, South Korea’s Memorial Day, Moon said the return of the remains of missing Americans and the estimated 120,000 South Koreans also missing from the 1950-53 war was a top priority for the Trump-Kim summit.

“When the South-North relations improve, we will push first for the recovery of remains in the Demilitarized Zone,” the 154-mile-long, 2.5-mile-wide area separating the two Koreas, Moon said.

According to the Defense Department’s POW/MIA Accounting Agency, more than 7,800 Americans have not been accounted for from the war, and about 5,300 of that total are believed to have been lost in battle in North Korea or buried at prisoner-of-war camps.

Past recovery efforts have centered on the area around the Chosin reservoir, scene of a horrific battle in the winter of 1950 in which Marine and Army units fought against encirclement by Chinese forces.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia says NATO’s new combat posture is a threat

Russia says that a new NATO plan to enhance its combat readiness in Europe would weaken security on the continent, and is warning that Moscow would take that into account in its own military planning.

Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko criticized the initiative known as Four Thirties in comments on June 13, 2018. He said that Russia would take all necessary military measures to guarantee its own security.

The initiative “creates a threat to European security,” Grushko told journalists.


Four Thirties, the U.S.-proposed initiative that was supported by NATO defense ministers on June 7, 2018, is meant to protect allies against what NATO says are increased threats from Russia and to bolster combat-readiness by easing the transport of troops across Europe in the event of a crisis.

The plan, whose full details were not revealed, provides for the deployment of 30 troop battalions, 30 squadrons of aircraft, and 30 warships within 30 days. The plan is set to become operational in 2020.

Thousands of NATO troops are already stationed on standby in the Baltic states and Poland as a deterrent, and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg stressed on June 7, 2018, that the goals of Four Thirties are increased coordination and better mobility.

How to honor Vietnam veterans
NATO chiefu00a0Jens Stoltenberg

“This is not about setting up or deploying new forces. It is about boosting the readiness of existing forces across each and every ally,” Stoltenberg said.

“This is about establishing a culture of readiness and we need that because we have a more unpredictable security environment. We have to be prepared for the unforeseen,” he said.

Grushko said that Russia’s “views on the preparations made by the alliance on the eastern flank are well-known. We are acting based on the assumption that it substantially worsens military security in Europe.”

Asked whether Russia will factor Four Thirties into its own military planning, Grushko told journalists, “Without a doubt, we will take it into account.”

“If the need arises, we will take all military-technical measures that will guarantee our security and defense capability,” said Grushko, who is a former ambassador to NATO.

Separately, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on June 13 called on NATO to ensure that no state or group would strengthen their security at the expense of the security of others — the so-called “indivisible security” concept.

“We will continue to call on our NATO counterparts to respect all the agreements…which declare drawing new dividing lines to be unacceptable and emphasize the need to ensure indivisible security so that no one has to strengthen their security by damaging the security of others,” Lavrov said in Moscow after talks with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why the US doesn’t export the F-22

Lockheed Martin, the leading manufacturer of stealth aircraft in the world, proposed a new hybrid between the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning on April 22, 2018, for Japan to purchase, and it could easily outclass the US Air Force.

Japan has, for decades, wanted in on the US Air Force’s F-22, a long-range, high-capacity stealth fighter that perfectly suits its defense needs, except for one problem — the US won’t sell it.


While completing the F-22, the US ruled out its sale to allies as the technology involved in the plane was too advanced for export. But this decision took place 11 years ago in 2007.

Today, the US is in the process of selling Japan the F-35 multi-role strike aircraft, but according to Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, the plane’s design makes it less than ideal for Tokyo.

How to honor Vietnam veterans
An F-35 Lightning II
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joely Santiago)

“The F-35 is primarily a strike aircraft, intended to hit well defended targets on the ground, and is limited in air-to-air combat because of its size, its single engine, and way it was designed,” Bronk said.

But because Russian and Chinese jets constantly pester Japan’s airspace, Tokyo wants a more air-dominance focused jet.

The F-22 can cruise at 60,000 feet going about 1.5 times the speed of sound without igniting the afterburners, meaning it can maintain its stealth while covering incredible distances in short times. The F-35 is a capable fighter, but can’t touch those numbers.

“Along with a bigger missile load out, it’s a much much more capable for air superiority tasks,” Bronk said of the F-22. “The strike role that Japan really really cares about is not really the one that the F-35 is designed for.”

He added that Japan would love a jet that can fire anti-ship missiles, but that the F-35 is just too small to hold them inside its stealthy weapons bays.

Beast of both worlds

How to honor Vietnam veterans
(U.S. Air Force photo)

President Donald Trump has moved to loosen up restrictions on foreign military sales, and could potentially revisit the decade-old ruling on selling the F-22, as the sensitive technology it uses has aged and become less cutting-edge, but that same advancement in technology has likely doomed the F-22’s restart.

Bronk said the costs of restarting F-22 production were “not trivial,” and even if Japan offered to pay, “a lot of the electronic components, computer chips and things, are not built anymore.” The F-22 had a decades-long development that started off with 1980s-era technology.

“If you were going to put the F-22 into production now, it’s hard to justify doing without updating the electronics,” Bronk said. Once the electronics become updated, and take up less space and throw off the balance of the jet, the flight software would need an update. Once the flight software starts getting updated, “it starts to look like a new fighter program,” Bronk said.

This would create a serious headache for the US Air Force

In the end, Lockheed’s proposal looks like an F-22 airframe jammed with F-35 era technology, essentially stripping the best part of each jet and combining them in a plane that would outclass either.

“If it can stomach the costs, then not only would Japan have a fantastic fighter on its hands, but perhaps problematically it would be more capable than anything the US Air Force is flying,” Bronk explained.

In the end, the US Air Force would end up in a very difficult position — having to live with Japan getting a better fighter, or spending money earmarked for F-35s, which the US sees as the future of its force, on another aircraft it didn’t come up with.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coronavirus Basic Training updates for each military branch

In recent months, the novel Coronavirus, formally known as Covid-19, has begun spreading rapidly throughout communities around the world, and the U.S. military has already begun taking proactive steps aimed at curbing the spread of the infection among service members and their families.


It’s important to note that service members are often not a high-risk demographic even if and when they may be infected by Covid-19. The virus, however, can be dangerous to people with underlying health issues or otherwise compromised immune systems living in the surrounding community. The Pentagon also hopes to minimize the affect Covid-19 has on the military’s overall readiness–which means it’s better to stem the tide of infection than to keep recovering service members in isolation as they rebound from the virus. As a result, making every effort to mitigate the spread of this virus has been deemed a worthwhile enterprise.

The Pentagon has already issued guidance to service members and their families oriented toward protecting themselves from infection and curbing the spread of infection among those who get sick. These practices are not dissimilar from the guidance being provided to the general public through public institutions like the Center for Disease Control.

You can jump directly to coronavirus basic training changes for your specific branch with these links.

Marine Corps

Army

Air Force

Navy

Coast Guard

How to honor Vietnam veterans

media.defense.gov

The Pentagon’s guidance for preventing the spread of the coronavirus:

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper speaks to reporters during a news conference at the Pentagon. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)

  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • If soap and water is not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-percent alcohol
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

What else is the military doing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus?

According to a DoD statement issued on March 9, the military’s response to the Coronavirus can be summed up in three objectives:

  • Protecting service members and their families
  • Ensuring crucial DoD missions continue
  • Supporting the whole go government approach to the unfolding situation

A number of military commands have already initiated what the Defense Department refers to as “pandemic procedures,” which are a series of pre-planned protocols put into place to rapidly identify service members who may have been exposed to the virus and isolating them from the general and service populations. These patients are treated by military medical personnel with appropriate protective equipment, and are re-evaluated on a day by day basis.

Every military branch is also screening all new recruits and trainees for signs of infection, and isolating any who may have been exposed to the virus or may be exhibiting symptoms of infection. The goal of these tests is not to stop new service members from entering into training, but rather to postpone training until after the recruit or trainee recovers completely and is no longer able to spread the virus to others.

Marine Corps Coronavirus Basic Training Changes

Graduation and Family Day events will continue as scheduled aboard MCRD San Diego and MCRD Parris Island. However, the Marine Corps is asking that no one attend these events if they are currently exhibiting active symptoms of Covid-19 or have been in contact with anyone that may potentially have been infected. Thus far, MCRD Parris Island has not made any official statements regarding potential changes to graduation or family day ceremonies.

Parris Island has released this message pertaining to prevention efforts, however:


Novel Coronavirus

www.facebook.com

Marine Corps Community Services (MCCS) has released this statement regarding recruit training and the coronavirus as it pertains to MCRD San Diego spefically:

We understand that graduation is a very special event for new Marines and their families. In line with Center for Disease Control’s efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19, we ask that if you are actively sick with a cough or fever, or have been in contact with a suspected case of COVID-19, you not attend graduation or its associated events aboard the Depot. Thousands of family members visit the Depot for graduation weekly, so your decision would be in the interest of public health and the health of our recruit population. For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, please visit the CDC’s information page, the NMCPHC information page, and the DOD information page. Links are provided below:
CDC.gov
Med.Navy.mil
Defense.gov

Army Coronavirus Basic Training Changes

*Updated March 11

Fort Sill

Fort Sill has announced that beginning March 16, they will suspend attendance at graduation ceremonies until further notice.

Ceremonies will be live streamed for families and supporters on the Fort Sill Facebook page. This is a developing situation with more details to come.

You can read Fort Sill’s full announcement below:

You can watch Fort Sill’s livestream here.

Fort Leonard Wood

Fort Leonard Wood has announced that attendance at Basic Training family day and graduations will be suspended until further notice after this week. Families and supporters will be able to watch the graduation ceremonies on Facebook Live on the Fort Leonard Wood Facebook page.

Family Day activities on Fort Jackson have been canceled going forward, and soldiers will be allowed to make supervised visits to AAFES activities and to make purchases to prepare them for travel to their next appointed place of duty. No travel with family members in their personal vehicles will be permitted after 1-34 IN BN graduates this week.

You can read the full post from Fort Jackson below:

Air Force Coronavirus Basic Training Changes

**UPDATE**

The Air Force has announced that it has suspended family members from attending Basic Military Training graduations, effective immediately and until further notice.

Air Force Basic Military Training graduation ceremonies will be live streamed via 37th Training Wing’s Facebook page every Friday beginning March 13 at 9 a.m.

You can find the steam here.

You can read the Air Force’s complete statement below:

In an effort to minimize the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 and to prioritize the health and safety of Department of the Air Force personnel, the following modifications have been made:
• At the United States Air Force Academy, official travel outside of the United States has been restricted for cadets, cadet candidates and permanent party. Personal/leisure travel to countries with a CDC Level 2 or higher rating is also prohibited. As of now, restrictions will remain in place through the end of March.
• Air Force Basic Military Training has suspended family members from attending graduation until further notice.
• Since South by Southwest events in Austin, Texas, was cancelled, the Air Force’s Spark Collider and Pitch Bowl will now take place virtually, March 12.
• The Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado Child Development Center has been closed for cleaning since a parent (family member) tested positive by the state for coronavirus.
• All Department of the Air Force personnel have been directed to follow Center for Disease Control levels for travel guidance.

The Air Force maintains an actively updated page with frequently asked questions here.

Navy Coronavirus Basic Training Changes

Navy Recruit Training has decided to suspend attendance at their graduation ceremonies until further notice. Liberty associated with recruit training graduation has also been canceled. Graduation ceremonies will be live-streamed for families and supporters to watch.

Friday’s ceremony will be streamed at 0845 Central Standard Time.

You can watch the stream here.

Here is the Navy’s officials statement and associated social media links:

Beginning 13 March, Navy Recruit Training Command (RTC), the Navy’s boot camp, will suspend guest attendance at graduation ceremonies to prevent any potential spread of COVID 19 to either Sailors or Navy families.
Graduations themselves will continue, and will be live-streamed on Navy online platforms, including our Facebook page.
Commander, Naval Service training command, which oversees RTC, will continue to monitor the situation and consult with medical experts to decide when it is appropriate to resume guest attendance at graduation ceremonies. There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among recruits, and RTC has robust screening processes in place for those who arrive each week.
This action is being taken out of an abundance of caution, to both ensure the welfare of Sailors and that RTC can continue its essential mission of producing basically trained Sailors. RTC Recruits impacted by this change are being authorized to call home to directly inform their loved ones.
Liberty will be cancelled for graduates of RTC. They will report directly to their follow-on assignments. Liberty or guest access at those locations will be at the discretion of those commands. Families are encouraged to contact their recruits following graduation for details. We cannot speak on behalf of the commands they will be reporting to regarding their liberty policy.

Coast Guard Coronavirus Basic Training Changes

The Coast Guard has requested that family members planning to attend this week’s graduation refrain from attending graduation ceremonies if they are sick, and exercise the CDC and Defense Department’s recommended practices for prevention of the spread of coronavirus or any other illness. The Coast Guard outlines those recommendations as such:

-Stay home when you are sick.
-Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue.
-Wash your hands often with soap and water.
-Implement social distancing interventions in schools, workplaces, and at large events such as graduation.
-Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects like door knobs.
-Be prepared and stay informed on the latest information.

You can see the Coast Guard’s full statement below:

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The trial of ‘El Chapo’ is even more crazy than we thought

Among many revelations during the trial of Mexican cartel kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman are some that shed light on his daring escapes.

Late January 2019, Damaso Lopez Nuñez took the stand. Like Guzman, Lopez is from Sinaloa state. The son of a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which ran Mexico for most of the 20th century, Lopez was first a security official in Sinaloa before he became deputy security director at Puente Grande prison in southwest Mexico.


On Jan. 23, 2019, Lopez told the court he met Guzman at Puente Grande in 1999. He said he resigned in late 2000, deciding to leave when the government launched a corruption probe at the prison. Guzman contacted him soon after, Lopez said, seeking help to maintain the privileges he had gotten through bribery and other inducements.

It long been suspected that Lopez aided the escape, and it is widely believed that Guzman was snuck out in a laundry cart, though others dispute that account. On the stand, Lopez denied involvement in the January 2001 escape but said a laundry cart was involved.

Senior “Chapo” Guzman lieutenant Damaso Lopez arrested in Mexico

www.youtube.com

Guzman “told me the only person responsible for that escape had been Chito, who was employed in the laundry,” Lopez testified, according to Vice reporter Keegan Hamilton.

Chito, a laundry room worker at the prison, “had taken [Guzman] inside a laundry cart that was picking up dirty laundry and transported him to the parking lot … he put him in the trunk of his car,” Lopez said.

Lopez said that Guzman revealed more about the escape months later, in the mountains of Nayarit, a state near Sinaloa in northwest Mexico.

“He told me that really the plan for his escape was spontaneous,” Lopez testified, according to Hamilton. “This was because some of his friends in the federal government had notified him that an extradition order had been issued.”

After that, Guzman offered Lopez a job, and over the next decade and a half Lopez became deeply involved in the cartel’s operations — including efforts to spring Guzman from prison in 2015.

Lopez said he met with Guzman’s wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, and his sons in mid-2014, just a few months after Guzman was recaptured.

During that meeting, he said, they discussed buying land near the high-security Altiplano federal penitentiary, west of the capital in Mexico state, where Guzman was held and that Coronel told Lopez that Guzman had asked for him to buy weapons and an armored vehicle to use in the breakout.

How to honor Vietnam veterans

Emma Coronel Aispuro

(Telemundo)

It took months to dig a mile-long tunnel under the prison, and Guzman could reportedly hear the excavation in his cell — so loud that other inmates complained. (Footage from Guzman’s cell the night of the escape also picked up sounds of his henchmen smashing through the floor of his shower.)

During that time, Coronel was a major player in the plot, Lopez said, carrying messages to and from Guzman.

Coronel has never been charged with a crime, but her role as intermediary for Guzman and his associates during the 2015 escape may explain the tight restrictions the US has put on her contact with her husband while he’s been in US custody. In November 2018, as the trial was starting, the judge in the case denied a request to allow Guzman to hug her.

The audacious escape through a mile-long, ventilated tunnel on a motorcycle rigged on rails garnered international attention. Lopez added more detail to the account, saying that one of Coronel’s brothers was driving the motorcycle, which had been towed through the tunnel.

Upon exiting the tunnel, Guzman was spirited to a warehouse and then boarded a plane that flew him to neighboring Queretaro state and then to his hometown of La Tuna, in western Sinaloa state.

Lopez said that, like the 2001 escape, his involvement was limited. “I never knew, not even about one shovel of earth that was removed there,” he said. “His sons were doing that.”

In early 2016, Mexican newspaper Reforma reported that Mexican officials allowed a private company to connect a geolocation-monitoring bracelet to Guzman while he was at Altiplano, but Reforma was unable to find definitive answers about who authorized the device, rising concern it was part of the kingpin’s escape plan.

“Some high officials in the federal government consider that, because of the grade of precision in the digging and the excavation,” Reforma reported at the time, “the tunnel through which ‘El Chapo’ escaped could not have been constructed without the help of geolocation device.”

How to honor Vietnam veterans

President Enrique Peña Nieto, accompanied by Cabinet members, holds a press conference in the Palacio Nacional announcing the capture of Joaquín Guzmán.

Lopez said the excavation was in fact aided by a GPS watch smuggled into the prison for Guzman to wear. (A Mexican official who talked to Guzman after he was recaptured in 2016 said Guzman told investigators that his henchmen dug two tunnels under the prison, the second coming after they arrived at the wrong cell.)

Guzman remained on the run for 13 years after his 2001 jailbreak, but his freedom after the second escape was short-lived. Mexican authorities caught up with him in northwest Sinaloa state in January 2016.

After his capture he was returned to Altiplano, which holds many high-profile criminals. While there, Guzman sent a message through his wife that he wanted to mount an escape again, Lopez said. To carry that out, Lopez said the Sinaloa cartel paid a million bribe to the head of Mexico’s prison system.

But that escape never came to fruition. Guzman was transferred to a prison near Ciudad Juarez in May 2016, where he was held until his extradition to the US in January 2017.

Lopez’s freedom after Guzman’s recapture was also brief.

After the kingpin’s arrest in January 2016, a factional struggle emerged within the cartel, pitting Lopez and his son, Damaso Lopez Serrano, against Guzman’s sons, who were allied with Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, a cartel figure on the same level as Guzman and who Guzman’s lawyers have tried to cast as the true leader of the cartel. (Guzman’s brother Aureliano was also believed to be vying for control of the organization at that time.)

The Lopezes were on the losing side, however. The elder Lopez, 52, was arrested in Mexico City in May 2017; two months later, his son crossed the border into California and surrendered to US authorities in Calexico.

Lopez Nuñez is now serving a life sentence in the US for drug trafficking; he has said he’s cooperating with US prosecutors in hope of getting a lighter sentence.

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