With less than 100 days until the 2020 election, Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) has a core mission of serving America’s post 9/11 veterans. It is with this in mind that they launched The Vote Hub.
“We are absolutely bi-partisan, 100 percent. We got the idea for The Vote Hub from anecdotal things we were hearing from the community… The process is just so confusing,” Hannah Sinoway, Executive Vice President of Organization, Strategy and Engagement for IAVA explained. She shared experiences of moving and hitting roadblocks on even being able to register to vote as a veteran spouse herself. More challenges exist this year with COVID-19.
“This effort was really with one goal: to provide simple and easy access for veterans and civilians alike to be able to register to vote and/or to find polling information,” Sinoway said. “So, we built the tool on our website, which is completely free… we don’t even take anyone’s information.”
She explained that the new IAVA tool is for the people and not for any other reason. “We are excited to have people exercise their right to vote, use their voice and be heard,” Sinoway said.
Voting for military members and their families has long been a struggle, with certain studies finding that as much as 67 percent of their absentee votes haven’t been counted. One study in 2009 called it an obstacle course. “When we look at veterans, they fought for the rest of us along the way for pretty much all of our freedoms. To be able to have this tool available to them and their community, we felt was really important,” Sinoway said.
IAVA is a 501c3 nonprofit organization established in 2004. Founded by Army Iraq War Veteran Paul Rieckhoff, it was created to make a space for resources and community for the veterans of the post-9/11 era. They are headquartered in New York City and have a policy office in Washington, D.C., as well. They’ve grown and evolved to continue supporting veterans and ensuring they are honored.
Membership to IAVA is completely free to veterans. Their website states, “Members all paid their dues while serving our country. Our members are true heroes.” Their 2018 impact report indicates that they are currently connecting, empowering and uniting over 400,000 veterans and allies nationwide.
Sinoway herself is the longest tenured employee with IAVA and has been working for the company for almost seven years. “It’s honestly been the privilege of a lifetime,” she shared. She continued, “The social justice aspect of our work, I kind of have that in my blood. There are groups of people who don’t have a voice or a strong enough voice and we are that strength to bring them beside us — not to fight for them but fight with them. I think that’s been the best part for me.”
IAVA plans to continue the fight to ensure justice for America’s post 9/11 veterans as well as support all veterans with resources and initiatives. To learn more about IAVA and The Vote Hub click here.
President Donald Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney told Congress on Feb. 14, 2018 that proposed plans for a military parade would cost from $10 million to $30 million.
“I’ve seen various different cost estimates,” Mulvaney said, during a hearing in front of the House Budget Committee. “Between $10 million and $30 million depending on the size of the parade, the scope of it, the length, those types of things.”
“Obviously, an hour parade is different than a five-hour parade in terms of cost,” he said.
Mulvaney was responding to a question from California Representative Barbara Lee, who asked how much the planned parade would cost and where the money would come from. Mulvaney said that the money for a parade would have to be appropriated and that it is not accounted for in the FY19 budget.
The Trump administration has said a military parade would help show appreciation and support for those serving in the military. Though the idea is still in its early stages of planning, it has been heavily criticized, with much of the pushback focusing on cost.
America’s last military parade in Washington DC was in 1991, and celebrated the victory over Saddam Hussein’s forces and the liberation of Kuwait. That parade cost around $12 million, less than half of which was paid by the government and the rest coming from private donations.
Mulvaney also admitted that if he were still a Congressman, he would not vote for the budget he proposed.
Edward King, president and founder of the conservative think tank Defense Priorities, told CNBC shortly after the announcement for a parade that “given budget realities, the opportunity cost of a parade is too high to justify,”
“Math still applies to superpowers, so our $20 trillion of debt poses a serious threat to our national security.”
In 1994, a judge ruled the first woman ever admitted to The Citadel, a Charleston, S.C.-based military academy, should not be exempt from getting the same “induction cut” given to all male recruits. For decades, U.S. military recruits have had their locks shorn in the first weeks of training, given what is otherwise known as “The Army’s Finest.”
While the Citadel’s first female cadet would not end up buzzed like her male classmates, male recruits and cadets have been going through the rite of passage since George Washington established the Continental Army. Even then, he required men serving in the American ranks wear short hair or braided up. He could also wear his hair powdered, which he would do with flour and animal fat. If he did, it would be tied in a pigtail.
There are actually worse cuts out there, you know.
The shearing of young men began in earnest during the heavy recruitment of troops in World War II. The Army’s official reason was “field sanitation” – meaning it wanted to control the spread of hair and body lice. it had the double effect of standardizing new U.S. troops, creating a singular look to remind the men that they were in the Army now – and that the Army had standards. Like most everything else in a military training environment, the haircut was a boon to individual and unit discipline.
Ever since, the services have tried at various times to recognize the evolution of popular hairstyles for American troops while trying to maintain discipline and grooming standards among them. Women, while not forced to partake in the introductory military hairstyle, have maintained clean, often short hairstyles. Their hairstyles are always expected to be just as well-kept and disciplined as their male counterparts. They still get a visit to the basic training Supercuts – the result is just not as drastic.
It doesn’t matter if they’re coming into the military as an officer or as enlisted, if they’re Guard or Reserve, if they’re going to a service academy or ROTC, all soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines get a solid shearing to christen their new way of life.
US Air Force B-1B heavy bombers from Guam linked up with fighter jets from the Air Self-Defense Force on Sept. 9, the anniversary of North Korea’s founding, for the latest training drill between the two militaries amid soaring tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
The two B-1Bs from Andersen Air Force Base on Guam trained over the East China Sea with two ASDF F-15 fighters based in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
US Pacific Air Forces spokeswoman Lt. Col. Lori Hodge said the mission “was not in response to any current event” and had been planned in advance.
“The purpose of this bilateral training is to foster increased interoperability between Japan and the US,” Hodge said.
“Following the operation, one B-1B flew to Misawa Air Base to be a static display for the Misawa Air Festival, while the other B-1B returned to Andersen Air Force Base,” she added.
The flight by the B-1Bs was the first since North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test, which it claimed was of a hydrogen bomb capable of being loaded onto an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The North called that test a “perfect success,” and the Yonhap news agency, quoting a senior US official on condition of anonymity, reported late Sept. 8 that Washington believed the blast was likely of a hydrogen bomb.
“We’re still assessing that test,” the official was quoted as saying.
“I can say that so far there’s nothing inconsistent with the North Korean claim that this was a hydrogen bomb, but we don’t have a conclusive view on it yet,” the official said.
Seoul had said that Pyongyang would follow the nuclear test with another missile launch over the weekend.
The last reported incidence of the US sending B-1Bs to the area came on Aug. 31, in a “direct response” to North Korea’s unprecedented launch over Japan of a missile designed to carry a nuclear weapon two days earlier.
In that exercise, the US sent four F-35s — one of the military’s most advanced stealth fighter jets — to accompany two B-1Bs for a joint training drill with the ASDF over Kyushu airspace. The fighters and bombers later linked up over the Korean Peninsula with South Korean Air Force F-15Ks for a flight and bomb-dropping exercise simulating precision strikes against the North’s “core facilities,” according to the US Pacific Command and South Korea’s Defense Ministry.
Overflights of the Korean Peninsula by heavy bombers such as the B-1B have incensed Pyongyang. The North views the joint exercises by what it calls “the air pirates of Guam” as a rehearsal for striking its leadership and has routinely lambasted them as “nuclear bomb-dropping drills.”
While not nuclear-capable, the B-1B — six of which are currently positioned in Guam, 3,360 km from North Korea — is regarded as the workhorse of the US Air Force and has been modernized and updated in recent years.
The North said last month that it had drawn up plans to simultaneously launch four intermediate-range ballistic missiles into waters near Guam, with a flight plan that would see them fly over Shimane, Hiroshima and Kochi prefectures.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un later backed off that threat, saying he would “watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct” of the United States.
Washington formally requested a vote of the UN Security Council for Sept. 11 on proposed tough new sanctions against the reclusive country.
The Pentagon has announced plans to replace the Afghan air force’s inventory of Russian-built Mi-17 “Hip” utility helicopters with American ones, stating that the purchase has turned out to be a bad deal.
According to a report by the Washington Times, the Hips will be replaced by UH-60 Blackhawks. The Russian-built helicopters reportedly were maintenance nightmares, with the Afghan Air Force unable to keep up with the logistical supported needed to address constant breakdowns.
The Hips were initially chosen because defense planners thought Afghan pilots would be more familiar with the Russian-built helicopters. The Obama Administration had praised the Mi-17 in its last report on operations in Afghanistan, calling it the “workhorse” of the Afghan air force. The report noted that 56 Hips were authorized, and 47 were available.
According to Militaryfactory.com, the Mi-17 “Hip” has a crew of three and can carry a wide variety of offensive loads, including rocket pods, 23mm gun pods, and even anti-tank missiles. Army-Technology.com notes that the Russian-built helicopter can carry up to 30 troops.
Over 17,000 Mi-17s and the earlier version, the Mi-8, have been built since the Mi-8 first flew in 1961. The Hip has also been widely exported across the globe, being used by over 20 countries, including China, Argentina, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Iraq.
By comparison, the UH-60 Blackhawk, which also has a crew of three, can only carry 11 troops, according to manufacturer Lockheed Martin. However, the 13th Edition of the Combat Leader’s Field Guide notes that with the seats removed, a Blackhawk can carry up to 22 troops.
The Blackhawk is limited to door guns as its armament. Militaryfactory.com notes that the Blackhawk is used by 26 countries, including Poland, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Argentina, Thailand, and Israel.
Some countries have both the UH-60 and Mi-17 in their inventories, notably Iraq, Argentina, China, Thailand, and Mexico.
Iran is negotiating a controversial 25-year agreement with China that has led to accusations that parts of Iran are being sold to Beijing.
Some critics — including the U.S. State Department — are comparing the proposed deal to the 1828 Treaty of Turkmenchay between Persia and tsarist Russia, under which the Persians ceded control of territory in the South Caucasus.
Iranian officials have dismissed the criticism as baseless while promising to make the text of the agreement public once it is finalized.
What Do We Know About The Agreement?
The pact was proposed in a January 2016 trip to Iran by Chinese President Xi Jinping during which the two sides agreed to establish their ties based on a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, while announcing discussions would begin aimed at concluding a 25-year bilateral pact.
The announcement received the support of Iran’s highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who was quoted by Iranian media as saying that the agreement reached between the two sides was “wise.”
The text of the agreement, which will need to be approved by parliament, has not been released. But in recent days an 18-page document has been making the rounds on social media that outlines future cooperation between the countries, including Chinese investment in Iran’s energy sector as well as in the country’s free-trade zones.
RFE/RL cannot verify the authenticity of the document, which has been cited by some Iranian and Western media as a leaked version of the planned pact between Iran and China.
Analysts note the agreement being circulated is very light on details and appears to be the framework of a potential deal.
According to the text, which is labeled “final edit” on its front page and dated the Iranian month of Khordad — which starts May 21 and ends June 19 — the two sides will also increase military and security cooperation while working on joint-projects in third countries.
Iran has in recent months increasingly reached out to China in the face of growing U.S. pressure to isolate Tehran. China remains Iran’s main trading partner but trade between the two sides has dropped due to U.S. pressure in recent years.
Analysts say China is not ready to give Tehran the support it seeks while also suggesting that some of the cooperation envisaged in the pact may never materialize.
Ariane Tabatabai, a Middle East fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said, given its importance, the U.S. will always trump Iran for China.
“Iran is a small, risky market, sanctions have severely impeded business [there], and the regime is isolated,” she told RFE/RL. “Meanwhile, China has major economic interests in the U.S. and the trade war is still an important concern for China, which will inevitably shape its relationship with Iran.”
“If we look into what we know about the document and make some educated guesses, we see that the agreement is little more than a comprehensive road map based on the 2016 framework, which does not resolve the main issue of the China-Iran partnership — its implementation,” Jacopo Scita, an Al-Sabah doctoral fellow at Durham University, told RFE/RL.
Why Is The Treaty Controversial?
The pact is being discussed at a time when Iran is under intense pressure due to harsh U.S. sanctions that have crippled the economy and a deadly coronavirus pandemic that has worsened the economic situation.
The timing as well as the scope and duration of the agreement has led to increased concerns that Tehran is negotiating with China from a position of weakness while giving Beijing access to Iran’s natural resources for many years to come.
A distrust in the Iranian authorities that intensified after a deadly November crackdown on antiestablishment protests and the downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet — which was initially seen as a coverup — has also contributed to the criticism of the proposed deal.
A lack of trust in China, as well as rising anti-China sentiments due to the coronavirus pandemic, has also contributed to the controversy surrounding the pact.
Tabatabai, the co-author of a book on Iranian ties with Russia and China, says the relationship between Tehran and Beijing has long been perceived as benefiting China far more than Iran.
“The perception isn’t fully inaccurate,” she said. “From the elite’s perspective, China makes big promises and delivers little. And from the population’s perspective, China has been benefiting from the sanctions on Iran, it’s flooded the Iranian market, pushed out Iranian businesses, and has delivered products that are subpar.”
She added: “Many Iranians feel like this deal will cement this unbalanced relationship.”
What Are The Critics Saying?
Criticism of the planned pact appears to have increased following comments by former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who warned in a speech in late June that a 25-year agreement with “a foreign country” was being discussed “away from the eyes of the Iranian nation.”
Others have since joined the criticism, including former conservative lawmaker Ali Motahari, who appeared to suggest on Twitter that before signing the pact Iran should raise the fate of Muslims who are reportedly being persecuted in China.
Scita, who closely follows Iranian-Chinese relations, says some of the hype and anger surrounding the agreement were boosted by public figures with political agendas, including Ahmadinejad, who is said to be eying the 2021 presidential election.
The exiled son of the shah of Iran, the country’s last monarch who was ousted following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, has also criticized the pact.
Reza Pahlavi, who’s taken an increasingly active role against the Islamic republic, blasted the “shameful, 25-year treaty with China that plunders our natural resources and places foreign soldiers on our soil.” He also called on his supporters to oppose the treaty.
The Persian account of the U.S. State Department referred to the planned agreement as a “second Turkmenchay” and said that Tehran is afraid to share the details of the pact because “no part of it is beneficial to the Iranian people.”
What Are Iranian Officials Saying?
Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif confirmed that Tehran was negotiating an agreement with China “with confidence and conviction,” while insisting there was nothing secret about it.
Since then, officials have defended the deal while dismissing claims that Iran will sell discounted oil to China or give Kish Island to Beijing.
President Hassan Rohani’s chief of staff, Mahmud Vaezi, said over the weekend that the framework of the agreement has been defined, adding that the negotiations are likely to be finalized by March 21.
Vaezi also said the agreement does not include foreign control over any Iranian islands or the deployment of Chinese military forces in the country.
The US’s long-awaited Space Force was officially established on December 20, when President Donald Trump signed the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
Space Force was created from US Air Force Space Command but is still part of the Air Force, much like the Marine Corps is a part of the Navy Department. Space Force is not meant to put troops into space but will provide forces and assets to Space Command, which leads US military space operations.
The secretary of the Air Force has to tell Congress by February 1 how Space Force will be organized and its expected funding needs. But there are still “thousands and thousands of actions that are going to have to take place” over the next 18 months, Air Force Gen. Jay Raymond said on December 20
Among those is the renaming of Air Force bases to reflect the space mission, according to Raymond, who is head of US Space Command and will lead Space Force as its first chief of space operations.
“We do have a plan to rename the principal Air Force bases that house space units to be space bases,” Raymond said.
“I just want to point out, though, that we will rely very heavily on the Air Force to operate those bases,” he added. “But we’ll work to rename those to match the mission of the base.”
Raymond mentioned five Air Force bases that could be renamed — Patrick Air Force Base, for example, could become Patrick Space Base — but he said “his list wasn’t necessarily all inclusive,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in an email last week, adding that the service was “still working through the details” and didn’t currently have any other information about renaming bases.
Below, you can see some of the bases that may soon have new names.
A C-17 Globemaster III at Buckley Air Force Base, March 19, 2019.
(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Michael D. Mathews)
Located in Aurora, Colorado, Buckley AFB’s host unit is the 460th Space Wing, the mission of which is “to deliver global infrared surveillance, tracking and missile warning for theater and homeland defense and provide combatant commanders with expeditionary warrior airmen.”
In its day-to-day operations, the 460th SW directly supports combatant commands around the world.
Runners exit the north portal of Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station during the Zombie Tunnel 5k Fun Run, Oct. 20, 2017.
(US Air Force/Steve Koteck)
Cheyenne Mountain AFS is located near Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, home to the headquarters of North American Aerospace Defense Command and US Northern Command.
While Raymond didn’t mention Cheyenne Mountain by name, it is a big part of US space operations. It is the alternate command center for NORAD and Northern Command and is a training site for crew qualification.
“NORAD and USNORTHCOM use just under 30% of the floor space within the complex and comprise approximately 5% of the daily population at Cheyenne Mountain,” according to NORAD. But it is owned and operated by Air Force Space Command, which is now Space Force.
Staff Sgt. Heather Heiney takes photos on the flight line at Peterson Air Force Base, July 3, 2019.
(US Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Frank Casciotta)
In addition to hosting the headquarters for NORAD and Northern Command, Peterson Air Force Base is headquarters for Air Force Space Command and now for Space Force.
It is also home to the 21st Space Wing, the Air Force’s most geographically dispersed wing and the fifth-largest wing in the Air Force by number of units.
The 21st SW uses a network of command-and-control units as well as ground- and space-based sensors operated by units around the world to provide missile warning and space control to NORAD.
50th Operations Support Squadron students at Schriever Air Force Base, January 10, 2019.
(US Air Force/2nd Lt. Idalí Beltré Acevedo)
East of Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs, Schriever AFB’s host unit is the 50th Space Wing, the mission of which is “to evolve space and cyberspace warfighting superiority through integrated and innovative operations.”
The 50th SW and its 16 units around the world provide “command and control of more than 185 satellites, to include commercial, DoD and civil assets,” the base’s website says.
The wing runs satellite operation centers at Schriever AFB and remote-tracking stations and command-and-control facilities across the planet, at which it monitors satellites throughout their service life.
Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, head of Northern Command and NORAD, tours Vandenberg Air Force Base, August 7, 2018.
(US Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Jim Araos)
Vandenberg Air Force Base
Located in a remote area north of Los Angeles, Vandenberg AFB is headquarters for the 30th Space Wing, which manages space and missile testing for the Pentagon, launches satellites and spacecraft, and supports the Minuteman III ICBM force development evaluation program.
Vandenberg is also home to the 14th Air Force, which on December 27 was redesignated as Space Operations Command, which “directly supports the US Space Force’s mission to protect the interests of the United States in space; deter aggression in, from and to space; and conduct space operations.”
SPOC comprises the five space wings on this list as well as the 614th Air and Space Operations Center, which is the SPOC commander’s command-and-control center at Vandenberg.
Among other things, SPOC will provide space domain awareness and electronic warfare, satellite communications, missile-warning and nuclear-detonation detection, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance for Space Force and Space Command and other combatant commands.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, May 23, 2019.
(US Air Force/1st Lt Alex Preisser)
Patrick Air Force Base
Patrick Air Force Base is on Florida’s Atlantic coast near Orlando, and its host unit is the 45th Space Wing.
The wing operates the Eastern Range, which supports rocket and missile launches at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Center. It also oversees satellite launches at Cape Canaveral for the US military and civilian agencies and commercial entities.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral on Monday with Starlink satellites in the first launch of 2020 and the wing’s first launch as a part of Space Force.
“The effects the new Space Force will have on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Patrick Air Force Base has not been announced yet, but continuing to successfully accomplish the mission without interruption is our top priority,” 45th Wing commander Brig. Gen. Doug Schiess said January 3.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
On November 30, 2020, the Navy announced the decision to decommission the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6). The Wasp-class amphibious ship suffered extensive damage during a fire while in port in July. The decision follows an extensive assessment of the ship after the fire.
As a landing helicopter deck amphibious assault ship, the Bonhomme Richard was an integral part of the Navy-Marine Corps team. She was capable of supporting a wide range of aircraft including the SH-60F/HH-60H Seahawk, UH-1Y Venom, CH-53E Super Stallion, AH-1Z Viper, AV-8B Harrier, MV-22B Osprey, and the new F-35B Lightning II. Her well deck also allowed her to support landing craft like LCACs, LCUs and LCMs.
The Bonhomme Richard was commissioned on August 15, 1998. From January 24 to July 24, 2000, she made the first WESTPAC deployment of any U.S. Navy vessel in the new millennium. The next year, she began her participation in the War on Terror with a deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
During Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Bonhomme Richard provided critical support to Marine Corps operations. She offloaded Marines of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines in Kuwait and went on to launch 547 combat sorties. Marine Attack Squadrons VMA-211 and VMA-311 delivered more than 175,000 pounds of ordnance launching from Bonhomme Richard‘s deck.
Additionally, the ship assisted in humanitarian operations. Following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, the Bonhomme Richard was detached from Operation Iraqi Freedom and sailed for Sri Lanka. The ship helped to airlift relief supplies to Sumatra, Indonesia. Following a port visit to Guam, the ship returned to the Indian Ocean. Helicopters from the Bonhomme Richard flew medical supplies and personnel into Indonesia and evacuated the wounded.
Tragically, a fire broke out on board the ship while in her homeport at San Diego during maintenance. At around 8:50 am, an explosion occurred on the ship. “It is a Class Alpha fire,” said Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, Expeditionary Strike Group 3 commander, “meaning it was fueled by paper, cloth, rags or other materials in a standard fire.” Despite not being accelerated by fuel or munitions, the fire was extensive. Firefighting effort were delayed because fire-suppression systems had been disabled due to the maintenance.
Finally, on July 16, the Navy announced that all fires on board had been extinguished. A total of 40 sailors and 23 civilians received minor injuries as a result of the fire. The fire was a “very, very serious incident,” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday. 11 of the 14 decks sustained fire and water damage. Many sections of deck were warped or bulging and the ship’s island had been gutted by the flames. On July 31, nine sailors assigned to the Bonhomme Richard were meritoriously promoted for their actions in fighting the fire.
Although NCIS and the ATF questioned sailors following the fire, no charges were made and the cause of the fire remains under investigation. The Navy is also conducting investigations into safety standards to prevent future fires.
On November 30, the Navy announced that the Bonhomme Richard would be decommissioned. “We did not come to this decision lightly,” said Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite. “Following an extensive material assessment in which various courses of action were considered and evaluated, we came to the conclusion that it is not fiscally responsible to restore her.” In fact, the assessment concluded that it would cost the Navy over $3 billion and take five to seven years to restore the ship. The Navy also considered repurposing the ship. However, the associated costs were estimated to exceed $1 billion, as much or more than the cost of a new purpose-built ship.
At this time, the timeline for towing and dismantling is still being finalized. “Although it saddens me that it is not cost effective to bring her back, I know this ship’s legacy will continue to live on through the brave men and women who fought so hard to save her, as well as the Sailors and Marines who served aboard her during her 22-year history,” Braithwaite said.
When Toni Gross stood at the entrance of the Dover Fisher House for Families of the Fallen, she had no idea what to expect.
The previous hours were a blur, filled with grief and disbelief. It was July 2011, and she and her husband and daughter learned that Army Cpl. Frank Gross, their only son and brother, had been killed by an IED while serving in Afghanistan.
He was 25. And just like that, a mere few weeks into deployment, he was gone.
“We were just numb,” Toni Gross said.
The day after learning of Frank’s death, the Grosses traveled from Oldsmar, Florida to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, expecting to stay at “some place like a Hampton Inn” for the dignified transfer of Frank’s body. But instead, just across the street from the runway, they spent 24 hours at the Dover Fisher House for Families of the Fallen — a house created by Fisher House Foundation specifically for loved ones of those who have fallen through combat.
“It was a wonderfully comforting experience, and everything we could possibly think of— all of our needs, food, everything — was taken care of,” Toni Gross said. “We were able to spend time focusing on why we were there: grieving the loss of our son.”
That’s exactly what the chairman and CEO of Fisher House wants to hear. Ken Fisher is a third-generation leader of one of America’s most successful family-owned real estate development and management companies, but he is also expressly passionate about honoring veterans while assisting their families.
The foundation offers several programs to support military families through critical times, like the Hero Miles program and a scholarship program for military children, spouses, and children of fallen and disabled veterans. In 2019 alone, more than 32,000 families were served, according to its website.
There are 87 Fisher Houses located on 25 military installations and 38 VA medical centers, with several more in the works. Run by the Fisher House Foundation, Inc., each Fisher House provides free lodging for military families whose loved ones are receiving medical treatment nearby.
The Fisher House at Dover, however, is special for many reasons, Fisher says, because “it was built to honor the ultimate sacrifices of those who wear the uniform.”
Those who stay there aren’t waiting for a recovery but a goodbye to their airman, soldier, Marine, sailor or Coastie.
“I think the Fisher House at Dover does more than just provide lodging,” Fisher said. “It’s important that these families who have made the ultimate sacrifice understand that there are Americans that are very grateful.”
The Fisher House at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. Photo Roland Balik.
Built in just a few months in 2010, the Fisher House at Dover is equipped with nine guest suites that have seen approximately 3,700 guests since its opening. The average length of stay is 24 to 48 hours, with a typical family consists of six to 10 members.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michelle Johnson watches over each one. As house manager, it’s her job to make sure each guest has every need — and every want —taken care of.
One family with small children, for example, stayed at the house over Halloween. Staff members purchased costumes and took them trick-or-treating. Another time, they cooked a traditional holiday dinner for a family receiving their loved one’s body over Christmas.
“[These families] are experiencing a very difficult point in their lives, and grieving comes in different ways, so we make sure the Fisher House staff members takes care of those families,” Johnson said. “Giving them the care that they need and providing them with any comfort required.”
Toni Gross’ experience with staff members made such an impact that she now volunteers regularly at a Fisher House in Florida. Similarly, Ken Fisher, whose 87-year-old father served in the Korean War, calls the houses his “passion.”
“The House at Dover is particularly relevant as we approach Memorial Day, even while we’re in the grip of a pandemic,” he said. “In the end, we can never ever forget what has been done, what has been given to us, this freedom. That what we hold most dear above everything else — that came at a cost.”
And for families who have experienced that cost, like Toni Gross, it is “comforting” to have a place of refuge during such a difficult time.
“My family and I are grateful to the Fisher House Foundation for our stay at Dover Air Force Base. While it was a solemn time, it was comforting to know that the staff there all understood why we were there and were able to accommodate us during our darkest hours,” Gross said.
The world lost another great today, as legendary songwriter John Prine succumbed to complications from COVID-19, his family confirmed to Rolling Stone. Prine, 73, lost his battle with the novel coronavirus at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Prine was known for his innumerable talents but none better than his ability to tell the story of humanity through his words. Prine’s acclaim as one of America’s best songwriters has prompted a flood of tributes from celebrities and fans alike as they mourn an indescribable loss.
We’re heartbroken here. And all our love — each of us, the entire Belcourt community, our town — to Fiona and John’s family. We’ve loss a beautiful one.pic.twitter.com/SShyVQ2cC3
From gracing the Opry House stage for those memorable New Year’s Eve shows to other special Opry appearances including one alongside the StreelDrivers and Bill Murray, John Prine has touched our hearts with his music. We are thinking of his family and friends tonight. pic.twitter.com/FV3nIfT1kc
Oh John Prine, thank you for making me laugh and breaking my heart and sharing your boundless humanity. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This is one of the most gorgeous songs ever written. Bonnie Raitt John Prine – Angel From Montgomery https://youtu.be/1T5NuI6Ai-o via @YouTube
Prine was born in Maywood, Illinois. He was one of four sons of a homemaker and a union worker, who raised the boys to love music. Prine grew up on the likes of Hank Williams and other performers of the Grand Ole Opry, but it was really his father’s reaction to Williams’ music that touched Prine. “I used to just sit and watch how he would be so moved by the songs,” Prine said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “In fact, I might have been more affected by the way the songs touched him than by the songs themselves – they seemed to have such power.”
Prine graduated from high school in 1964 and started his career with the U.S. Postal Service as a mailman. Instead of focusing on the monotony of his day job, Prine used the time to write songs. But his career delivering mail was cut short when he was drafted in 1966 into the Army. The war in Vietnam was escalating, but Prine was sent to Germany where he served as a mechanical engineer. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Prine said his military career consisted largely of “drinking beer and pretending to fix trucks.”
After two years, Prine returned to the postal service and started writing songs until he became a regular on the Chicago music circuit.
While Prine’s discography is impressive, it was his song “Sam Stone” about a veteran struggling with addiction that resonated with millions of soldiers across the world. Maybe Prine really did just drink beer and fix trucks, but his haunting portrayal of Sam Stone will never be forgotten.
Sam Stone came home, To the wife and family After serving in the conflict overseas. And the time that he served, Had shattered all his nerves, And left a little shrapnel in his knees. But the morhpine eased the pain, And the grass grew round his brain, And gave him all the confidence he lacked, With a purple heart and a monkey on his back.There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes, Jesus Christ died for nothin I suppose. Little pitchers have big ears, Don’t stop to count the years, Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.Sam Stone’s welcome home Didn’t last too long. He went to work when he’d spent his last dime And soon he took to stealing When he got that empty feeling For a hundred dollar habit without overtime. And the gold roared through his veins Like a thousand railroad trains, And eased his mind in the hours that he chose, While the kids ran around wearin’ other peoples’ clothes…There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes, Jesus Christ died for nothin I suppose. Little pitchers have big ears, Don’t stop to count the years, Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.Sam Stone was alone When he popped his last balloon, Climbing walls while sitting in a chair. Well, he played his last request, While the room smelled just like death, With an overdose hovering in the air. But life had lost it’s fun, There was nothing to be done, But trade his house that he bought on the GI bill, For a flag-draped casket on a local hero’s hill.There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes, Jesus Christ died for nothin I suppose. Little pitchers have big ears, Don’t stop to count the years, Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.
Prine’s ability to tell a story through his words was truly second to none. In his memoir, “Cash,” Johnny Cash wrote, “I don’t listen to music much at the farm, unless I’m going into songwriting mode and looking for inspiration. Then I’ll put on something by the writers I’ve admired and used for years–Rodney Crowell, John Prine, Guy Clark, and the late Steve Goodman are my Big Four.” Rolling Stone referred to Prine as “the Mark Twain of American songwriting.”
Your death leaves a hole in our hearts, John Prine. Rest in peace, Sir.
All across the nation everyone is dealing with the Polar Vortex. It’s colder than balls outside for everyone in the military. That is unless you’re one of the lucky bastards stationed in Hawaii.
No. I get it. “The grass is always greener” or whatever nonsense the retention NCO tried to peddle off to you before they sent you to Fort Bumpf*cknowhere. I don’t care if the cost of living is slightly higher in Hawaii.
At least the troops there aren’t dealing with hearing their salty platoon sergeant try to “well back in my day” every complaint about it being below negative twenty degrees. I’ll pay that extra dollar for a Big Mac if it gets me out of that.
Anyways, stay warm out there guys. Thankfully the Coast Guard has money to pay their heating bills.
While other terrorist groups around the world have also used children, new reports reveal the unprecedented system ISIS has created to raise the next generation of terrorists.
German newspaper Der Spiegel talked to several children who explained how ISIS, also referred to as IS or the Islamic State, methodically brainwashes kids to ensure that even if its territory is wiped out, it’ll still have a loyal band of followers keeping the group alive.
Der Spiegel explained this strategy, as Nikita Malik of the Quilliam Foundation, a think tank that analyzes ISIS propaganda, understands it:
By depicting children, says Malik, IS wanted to show that it was relatively unimpressed by bombs. IS’ message, she explains, is this: ‘No matter what you do, we are raising a radicalized generation here.’ Within the system, says Malik, the children’s task was to spread IS ideology in the long term, and to infiltrate society so deeply and lastingly that supporters would continue to exist, even if territory was lost.
Some children living under ISIS control are sent to military camps, and some are sent to schools.
They’re taught how to pray and use weapons, desensitized to violence, and given drugs to make them more susceptible to whatever ISIS wants them to believe.
A new report from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy details ISIS’ system of exposing children to its radical ideology.
“Stating that the Islamic State promotes religious extremism is far from sufficient in understanding what it seeks to achieve, much less what it teaches its students,” the report noted, stating that the terrorist group is creating a “fighter generation committed to IS’ cause” in a way that’s “both specific and unprecedented.”
ISIS has created its own textbooks filled entirely with material that caters to its radical ideology. Weapons are used to illustrate math problems for young kids, and chapters dealing with Western governments focus on “explaining why each is a form of idolatry because of its violation of God’s sovereignty,” according to the report.
“It is instilling very young children with … Islamism, jihadism, and it’s something that’s going to stick around for a long, long time,” Charlie Winter, an expert on ISIS propaganda and senior researcher for Georgia State University, told Business Insider earlier this year. “It’s an elephant in the room that isn’t being given enough scrutiny.”
Der Spiegel summarizes how the indoctrination process works:
The recruitment of children takes place in several phases, beginning with harmless socialization. Islamic State hosts events in which children are given sweets and little boys are allowed to hold an IS flag. Then they are shown videos filled with violence. Later, in the free schools IS uses to promote the movement, they learn Islamic knowledge and practice counting and arithmetic with books that use depictions of tanks. They practice beheading with blond dolls dressed in orange jumpsuits. With a new app developed by IS, they learn to sing songs that call upon people to engage in jihad.
ISIS supports this brainwashing with ideological justifications for its worldview, claiming God has given ISIS the authority to punish unbelievers.
An introduction printed in its textbooks reads:
The Islamic State carries the burdens — with the agreement of God almighty — of refuting [nonbelievers] and bringing them to a renewed monotheism and a wide Islamic expanse under the flag of the rightly guided caliphate and its outstretched branches after it won over the devils and their lowlands of ignorance and its people of destruction.
Now that ISIS is losing territory in Iraq and Syria, it’s shifting to insurgency tactics similar to what Al Qaeda in Iraq, ISIS’ predecessor, did during the Iraq War. Bombings and terrorist attacks maintain the sense that ISIS is omnipresent even when militarily the group is losing.
And the kids ISIS is indoctrinating now will remain even after the terrorists have lost the cities and towns they once controlled.
“This is a political problem that will last well beyond the existence of the group,” Winter said. “Even if all the leaders are killed and [ISIS] suddenly disintegrates … there would be lots and lots of these children who have known nothing other than jihadist warfare, who have been taught that Shias need to be killed at all costs, that there’s a global conspiracy against them and the only way they can survive in life is by killing people who are their enemies and not really questioning whether they should be doing it.”
The U.S. Air Force has officially authorized the use of two-piece flight suits while on duty.
Starting immediately, the two-piece flight suit — otherwise known as the two-piece flight duty uniform, or “2PFDU” — is authorized to be worn in both garrison and deployed locations, the service said in a news release April 22, 2019.
“The 2PFDU continues an effort to provide airmen with improved form, fit and function to perform their duties in any environment,” the release states. “Squadron commanders will now have the flexibility to make combat uniform decisions based on what is best for their airmen to meet mission requirements.”
Last week, Military.com spoke with Maj. Saily Rodriguez, the female fitment program manage officer for the human systems program office within the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, about upgrading current fighter pilot and aircrew flight suits, which are typically a one-piece garment for men and women.
U.S. Air Force demo pilots walk off the flightline during the Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Feb. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Jensen Stidham)
Advantages of a two-piece suit include greater ease in using the bathroom and improved overall comfort, Rodriguez said.
Along with meeting safety regulations, a two-piece flight suit, to be comprised of a standard top and bottom, would have to accommodate the needs of all aircrew members, she said.
The Air Force on April 23, 2019, said the traditional, one-piece flight duty uniform (FDU) will continue to be an option for aircrew.
A two-piece uniform has already been in use in the Air Force for those flying cargo airlift or helicopters.
The service in 2017 said that airmen flying these aircraft — anything aside from a fighter and without an ejection seat — had begun wearing the Army Aircrew Combat Uniform, known as the Airman Aircrew Combat Uniform in the Air Force, or the A2CU.
First Lt. Kayla Bowers, a 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot, looks out of the cockpit of her aircraft.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden)
The uniform looks very much like the Air Force’s Operational Camouflage Pattern, or OCP. Commanders across the force had begun giving some airmen the option to wear the A2CU as a duty uniform during training or while deployed.
Giving airmen the option to wear the 2PFDU “aligns with the traditional FDU, elevating the significance of squadron focus and identity, which supports [Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen David Goldfein’s] intent to revitalize squadrons,” Lt. Gen. Mark D. Kelly, deputy chief of staff for Air Force operations, said in the release.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.