Judge rules that Army vet is genderless - We Are The Mighty
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Judge rules that Army vet is genderless

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless


Last week an Oregon judge ruled that Jamie Shupe, an Army vet, can legally be considered “nonbinary.”

Up to that point, Shupe considered himself female, although he doesn’t identify with either sex.

“It feels amazing to be free from a binary sex classification system that inadequately addressed who I really am, a system in which I felt confined,” Shupe said.

Shupe was male at birth, but he started transitioning to a female in 2013, more than a decade after retiring from the military as a sergeant first class.

“Oregon law has allowed for people to petition a court for a gender change for years, but the law doesn’t specify that it has to be either male or female,” said civil rights attorney Lake J. Perriguey, who filed the petition, according to CNN.

“The law just says, ‘change.’ Historically, people have asked for a gender change from male to female and the other way around, but Jamie is the first to ask for the gender of “nonbinary,” Perriguey said.

It’s unclear what the ruling will have nationally, but it certainly has the potential to complicate the Pentagon’s already-challenging gender integration efforts. Special operators are just now adjusting to the idea of having females in their ranks. Are they ready for nonbinaries?

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Here are the best military photos for the week of July 1st

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


Air Force:

Tech. Sgt. Brandon Middleton, 41st Rescue Squadron special missions aviator, loads .50 caliber rounds into a machinegun aboard an HH-60G Pave Hawk, June 27, 2017, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The HH-60G flies with two pilots and two SMAs, who are responsible for pre-flight aircraft inspections, passengers, cargo and operating the aircraft’s weapons.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan

U.S. Airmen assigned to the 20th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department extinguish a fire during a live fire training scenario at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., June 27, 2017. The training enables firefighters to hone the skills needed to combat aircraft fires, structural fires and vehicle extractions.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Maldonado

Army:

A convoy consisting of vehicles from Coldsteel Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment maneuvers out of the National Training Center’s “Colorado Pass” to engage armored elements of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, June 26, 2017. This phase of NTC Rotation 17-07.5 challenged the Raider Brigade’s ability to conduct zone reconnaissance and prepare the area of operations for follow on forces.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David Edge, 11th ACR

U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to Company A, 4th battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, practice clearing rooms during Military in Urban Terrain training at Tellinda-Har Village June 28, 2017 at Fort Bliss, Tx.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless
Photo by Staff Sgt. Killo Gibson

Navy:

Kenneth Kallen of the Fire Department at Stewart Air National Guard Base uses a hose to wash down number 7 aircraft of the Blue Angels, June 26, 2017. The Blue angels were performing as part of an airshow here at Stewart.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mary Schwarzler

Sailors conduct flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in the Pacific Ocean. Nimitz is on an underway period in the U.S. 7th fleet area of operations. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional peace and security.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ian Kinkead

Marine Corps:

Marines assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa exit a MV-22B Osprey aircraft during assault training at Sierra Del Retan, Spain, June 26, 2017. SPMAGTF-CR-AF deployed to conduct limited crisis response and theater security operations in Europe and North Africa.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless
U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Jodson B. Graves

Three MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircrafts assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 (Reinforced) fly in formation above Sydney, Australia. VMM-265 is part of the Aviation Combat Element of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU). The 31st MEU partners with Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11 to form the amphibious component of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group. The 31st MEU and PHIBRON 11 combine to provide a cohesive blue-green team capable of accomplishing a variety of missions across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. T. T. Parish

Coast Guard:

A 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew from Coast Guard Station Wrightsville Beach approaches a capsized vessel near Masonboro Inlet, North Carolina, June 28, 2017. A 22-foot boat with four adults and one 4 year old aboard capsized about three miles off Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, and the Wrightsville Beach boat crew rescued all five people from the water.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless
U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Bob Sylverstein

U.S. Naval Sea Cadets board a 25-foot Response Boat-Small at Maritime Safety and Security Team Honolulu (91107) at Coast Guard Base Honolulu, June 26, 2017. The U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps is a Navy-based organization, which serves to teach teens about sea-going military services, U.S. naval operations and training, community service, discipline and teamwork.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

American pirates? Us privateers could help win a war with China

After nearly two decades of counter-terror operations the world over, the United States military is now shifting its focus back toward great power competition with the likes of China and Russia. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the past two decades have left the U.S. military particularly well suited for the war at hand, but not very well positioned for the wars that are feasibly to come.

During this era of counter-terror operations, China has had the opportunity to seek higher degrees of technological and tactical parity, while having the benefit of not being actively engaged in expensive combat operations on the same scale. That has allowed China’s sea-faring power to grow at an exponential rate in recent years, with an active fleet of more than 770 vessels sailing under the banners of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy, their militarized Coast Guard, and a maritime miitia that takes its orders from the Chinese military as well.


Judge rules that Army vet is genderless

Chinese Navy on parade (Chinese state television)

The addition of China’s massive ballistic missile stockpile, including hypersonic anti-ship platforms the U.S. Navy currently has no means to defend against, has further established China’s advantage in the Pacific. Even if the U.S. Navy leveraged every vessel in its 293-ship fleet, American forces would still be outnumbered by Chinese ships by more than two to one. Importantly, however, the United States likely couldn’t devote its entire fleet to any single conflict due to its global commitments to security and stability, especially regarding essential shipping lanes.

Today, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are both actively seeking ways to mitigate China’s numbers advantage, as well as the area-denial bubble created by China’s anti-ship platforms. Multiple possible solutions are being explored, ranging from hot-loading Marine Corps F-35Bs on austere airstrips on captured islands in the case of the Marines, to the Navy’s ongoing development of the MQ-25 aerial refueling drone that aims to extend the reach of America’s carrier-based fighters. Still, thus far, there has been no magic bullet. In fact, concerns about a near-peer conflict with China has even prompted several high-ranking defense officials to question the practicality of America’s fleet of super-carriers, both because of their immense cost, and because of the likelihood that they could be sunk by China’s hypersonic missiles long before they could get close enough to Chinese shores to begin launching sorties of F-35Cs and F/A-18 Super Hornets.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mohamed Labanieh/Released)

The fundamental challenges a war with China would present are clear: Finding a way to mitigate the risks posed by advanced anti-ship missiles and offsetting the significant numbers advantage Chinese forces would have within the region. In the past, we’ve discussed the possibility of arming commercial cargo ships with modular weapons systems in a “missile barge” fleet as a means to bolster American numbers and capabilities. Another feasible option that could even work in conjunction with this strategy would be issuing “letters of marque” to private operations, effectively allowing non-military forces to serve as privateers for the U.S. government.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless

The Capture of a French Ship by Royal Family Privateers by Charles Brooking

American Privateers or Pirates?

The concept of issuing letters of marque to American privateers was recently discussed by retired Marine Colonel Mark Cancian and Brandon Schwartz in the U.S. Naval Institute’s publication, “Proceedings.” Although the idea seems almost ridiculous in the 21st Century, the legal framework outlined by Cancian and Schwartz is sound, and one could argue that their assertions about the viability and strategic value of privateer fleets are as well.

Cancian and Schwartz argue that privateering is not piracy, as there are laws governing it and precedent for the practice established in past U.S. conflicts, including the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

“Privateering is not piracy—there are rules and commissions, called letters of marque, that governments issue to civilians, allowing them to capture or destroy enemy ships. The U.S. Constitution expressly grants Congress the power to issue them (Article I, section 8, clause 11).”
-“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings

However, despite their argument being technically right, it’s difficult to dismiss how the piracy narrative would almost certainly affect public perception of the use of privateers, and potentially even the conflict at large.

While the United States could argue that privateers operate with specifically outlined rules and commissions, even the American public would likely see American privateers as pirates. And because America has found itself trailing behind nations like China and Russia in terms of manipulating public narratives, that narrative could indeed hurt not only public support for the conflict; it could even jeopardize some international relationships.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless

The Pride of Baltimore, left, and the Lynx, two privateer vessels, reenact a battle of the War of 1812 in Boston Harbor during Boston Navy Week 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elisandro T. Diaz/Released)

Privateers are not pirates in the literal sense only because a government is sanctioning their piracy. In the eyes of those who don’t recognize America’s authority to grant such permissions in far-flung waterways, the two terms would be interchangeable.

Regardless of vernacular, the United States has used this approach to great success in the past. Although the last time American privateers set sale was more than 200 years ago, their approach was modern enough to set precedent for a return to the concept.

“The privateering business was thoroughly modern and capitalistic, with ownership consortiums to split investment costs and profits or losses, and a group contract to incentivize the crew, who were paid only if their ship made profits. A sophisticated set of laws ensured that the capture was ‘good prize,’ and not fraud or robbery. After the courts determined that a merchant ship was a legitimate capture, auctioneers sold off her cargo of coffee, rum, wine, food, hardware, china, or similar consumer goods, which ultimately were bought and consumed by Americans.”
-Frederick C. Leiner in “Yes, Privateers Mattered

In the event of a large-scale conflict with a nation like China, that potential narrative blowback may be a necessary evil. However, the ramifications of that evil could be mitigated through a concerted narrative effort to frame privateer actions in the minds of the populous as an essential part of a broader war effort that has the American people’s best interests in mind.

In the War of 1812, privateering saw such public support (in large part thanks to the profits it drove) that some took to calling the conflict the “War of the People.” Managing the narrative surrounding American privateers could make the concept far more palatable to the American people.

As for the legal aspects of privateering, you can read a thorough legal justification for the practice in a separate piece written by Schwartz called “U.S. Privateering is legal.”

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless

(Italian Center for International Studies)

The role of American privateers at war

China’s massive fleet of vessels in the Pacific can be broken down into their three command groups, all of which ultimately answer to China’s People’s Liberation Army. China’s maritime militia accounts for approximately 300 vessels, the militarized Coast Guard has 135 more, and the PLA-Navy itself boasts an ever-growing roster expected to reach 450 surface vessels by the end of the decade.

In the event of a war with China, the American Navy would have more than its hands full engaging with such a massive force, limiting its ability to cut China off from one of its most significant revenue sources, overseas trade. China’s reliance on shipping products to other nations has helped its economy grow rapidly, but it also represents a strategic disadvantage, as Cancian and Schwartz point out, if America can find the means to disrupt this exchange.

“Thirty-eight percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) comes from trade, against only 9 percent of U.S. GDP. Chinese social stability is built on a trade-off: The Chinese Communist Party has told the people they will not have democratic institutions, but they will receive economic prosperity.”
-“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings

In 2018, China’s merchant fleet was already approaching 2,200 total vessels, thanks to massive external demand for inexpensive Chinese exports. America’s Navy would likely be stretched too thin to actually blockade such an expansive merchant fleet. Like with aircraft, America’s preference for large and expensive ships that are capable of fulfilling multiple roles has offered increased capability but significantly decreased numbers. At its peak during World War II, the U.S. Navy boasted more than 6,000 ships. Today, the Navy has 293 far more capable vessels, but none can be in more than one place at a time.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless

(DoD Photo)

American Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, for instance, are too big and expensive to task with waiting out Chinese ships hiding in foreign ports, and would likely largely be assigned to Aegis missile defense operations. This is where American privateers could offer an important service.

American privateers wouldn’t be tasked with engaging the Chinese Navy or even with sinking merchant ships. Instead, they would be tasked with capturing Chinese cargo vessels, offering them a multi-million dollar bounty on each, and quickly compromising China’s ability to sustain its export sales.

“Since the goal is to capture the hulls and cargo, privateers do not want to sink the vessel, just convince the crew to surrender. How many merchant crews would be inclined to fight rather than surrender and spend the war in comfortable internment?”
-“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings

Of course, despite Cancian and Schwartz’ dismissive take on how apt Chinese crews would be to fight to maintain control of their ships, it’s important to remember that these privateers would likely be engaging in close quarters fighting with Chinese crews or security on board. As American privateers proved more costly to the Chinese government, an increased emphasis on protecting these cargo ships would almost certainly follow.

This begs an essential question: Where do you find privateer crews?

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless

Private security contractors in Iraq (DoD photo)

Private infrastructure already exists

While the concept of American privateers seems borderline fantastical, the truth is, the United States has already leveraged the premise of using non-military personnel for security and defensive operations the world over. American security firm Blackwater (now Academi) is perhaps the highest-profile example of America’s use of private military contractors. In fact, contractors in Iraq have reached numbers as high as 160,000 at some points, nearly equaling the total number of U.S. military personnel in the region. At least 20,000 of those private contractors filled armed security roles.

So while the term “privateer” or even pirate suggests an entirely unconventional approach to modern warfare, the premise is already in play. Terminology may dictate perception to a significant degree, but in practice, privateering wouldn’t be all that different from existing relationships the United States maintains with private security outfits. Further, private security firms, including Blackwater, have already operated at sea in a similar manner to privateers, from Blackwater’s armed patrol craft policing Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa to countless armed and privately owned boats patrolling the Indian Ocean today.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless

In 2007, Blackwater acquired the McArther from the NOAAS. (WikiMedia Commons)

Many such organizations, with existing infrastructure and established relationships with the U.S. government, would likely seek and win contracts, or letters of marque, in the early days of a burgeoning Sino-American war, and stand up their own forces far more quickly than the United States could expand its naval force in the same volume. Rather than building ships and enlisting crews, the United States could simply authorize existing ships with existing crews to go on the offensive against China’s commercial fleets.

The American government’s experience with military contractors throughout the War on Terror means these relationships would not be as without precedent as they may seem, and the existing private military industry would make American privateers a quick and effective means to grow America’s offensive capabilities.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless

China claims sovereignty over much of the South China Sea (shown in red). A conflict with China would undoubtedly play out here. (WikiMedia Commons)

A complicated solution to a complex problem

Of course, there are many variables at play when discussing a future conflict with China. Incorporating privateers into such a strategy admittedly seems rather extreme from our vantage point in 2020, but it’s important to note that there is no precedent for what something like a 21st Century Sino-American war might look like. The massive sea battles of World War II may offer some sense of scale, but the rapid advancement of technology in the intervening decades creates a hypothetical war that is simply incongruous with the World War II models.

America does boast the largest and most powerful military in the world, but China’s rapidly expanding and modernizing force has not been growing in a vacuum. From space operations to warship construction, China has been developing its war-fighting apparatus with America specifically in mind. China isn’t interested in competing with the United States on its terms and instead has been focused on identifying potential American vulnerabilities and tailoring new capabilities to leverage those flaws.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless

China’s Type 002 Aircraft carrier (Tyg728 on WikiMedia Commons)

Large scale warfare between technological and economic giants would play out differently than any conflict we’ve ever seen. In order to emerge from such a conflict successfully, America has to do much more than win. Once the price of victory begins to compromise America’s ability to sustain its way of life thereafter, that victory becomes less pronounced.

In order to win in such a conflict, the United States will need to dig deep into its bag of tricks. On the home front, it would mean finding ways to rapidly expand America’s industrial base to replenish vehicles, supplies, and equipment as they’re expended or destroyed on the front lines. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Space Force will all be required to communicate and rely on one another in ways never before accomplished on a battlefield.

And China’s massive numbers advantage would have to be mitigated somehow. American privateers, or pirates as the press would surely call them, might just do the trick.

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

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Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali

On June 23, 2012, U.S. Marine Kirstie Ennis crashed in a helicopter during her last deployment to Afghanistan; she suffered a traumatic brain injury, severe facial trauma, a left leg above-the-knee amputation, damage to her cervical spine and damage to her upper arms.

On June 23, 2021, she returned from her successful summit of Mt. Denali, the highest point in North America at 20,310 ft; the latest peak she has conquered in her Seven Summit climb to raise awareness for organizations like Merging Vets and Players, a non-profit organization that coaches, mentors and leads combat veterans and former athletes to their highest level of performance. 

Ennis plans to complete the Messner version of the Seven Summits — the highest peak on each of the seven continents. Messner version combines Oceania with Australia to make a proper technical climb.

To date, she has completed the following five climbs: 

Aconcagua (Argentina, highest point in South America — successful in 2019)
Denali (Alaska, highest point in North America — Successful in 2021)
Kilimanjaro (Tanzania, highest point in Africa — Successful in 2017)
Elbrus (Russia, highest point in Europe — Successful in 2018)
Puncak Jaya AKA Carstenzs (Indonesia, highest point in Oceania — Successful in 2017)

She has two final climbs to summit:

Vinson (highest point in Antarctica — Scheduled for 2021/2022, 1st attempt)
Everest (highest point in Asia — Attempted in 2019; spun 600 feet from summit; 2nd attempt TBD)

In 2018, her first attempt at Denali resulted in a bitter descent after reaching 18,200 ft in treacherous weather conditions when one of her guides began to struggle with AMS (acute mountain sickness or altitude sickness that results in dizziness, nausea, headaches, shortness of breath, and other dangerous symptoms).

But Ennis isn’t one to be defeated. 

Three years later, she’s able to look back on another “alive day” with pride. “I’m down from a successful Denali climb and feeling stronger than ever. I’m still overwhelmed with emotions. I’m humbled as it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, physically, mentally, and emotionally — but I’m proud of my team and my effort — we did the damn thing,” she shared on Instagram.

A Paralympic athlete and leader in the prosthetic industry, she created the Kirstie Ennis Foundation, which provides education, opportunities, and healing in the outdoors through their recreational therapy clinics and expeditions; introduces new and recycled medical device technology to underserved communities around the world; and partners with organizations with similar missions of improving the quality of life of individuals through mobility.

From snowboarding clinics to the Seven Summits Project, Ennis is not only climbing mountains, she’s moving them — for herself and for anyone else who needs a little extra motivation and support along the way.

Featured Image: Kirstie Ennis with the 212th Rescue Squadron at the Denali Summit. (Kirstie Ennis Instagram)

MIGHTY TRENDING

You will laugh at this Marine vet comic (and that’s an order)

Marine veteran James P. Connolly (Sirius/XM Radio, Comics Unleashed) hosted the 6th Annual Veteran’s Day Benefit Comedy Show “Cocktails Camouflage” at Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank, California in early November.


All funds raised were donated to Veterans in Film Television (VFT), a non-profit networking organization that unites current and former members of the military working in film and television and offers the entertainment industry the opportunity to connect with and hire veterans.
In this video, headliner and USMC vet Greg Hahn reads the crowd into his grand life plan and remembers how he was right out of boot camp.
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Easterseals CEO and Air Force veteran reflects on what service means to her

Many of you know I am a proud military veteran.

What might surprise you is that both my father and brother also served. Military life and service for our country runs deep in my family, and those values have carried me through my career at Easterseals. My father was one of the first Black chaplains for the U.S. Navy. It is an enormous responsibility to be at the helm of the religious ministry, the spiritual compass if you will, of the U.S. Navy. My dad is a proud but humble man. By his example, fierce dedication, and commitment to serve others, he has positively impacted the lives of countless of men and women who have risked their lives for our freedom.

When it came time for college, my parents encouraged me to enroll in one of the service academies, such as the U.S. Naval Academy. Instead, I was awarded a 4-year Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship and attended the University of Virginia.I went on to become a member of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG) following my graduation from the University of Texas School of Law. During Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, I was stationed in South Korea while my father was on active duty in the Mediterranean, and my brother was a U.S. Marine Corps officer in Kuwait.It goes without saying that military service comes with sacrifice. Not only to the individual, but to their family and loved ones. Looking back on this time, I say to myself, ‘God bless my mother.’ What a difficult time it must have been for her to consider that her husband and two children could be placed in harm’s way at any given moment.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless
Photo courtesy of Easterseals

My experience as a JAG officer reinforced what my parents taught: commit to service and believe in equity and inclusion for all Americans. It is what has led me to Easterseals, an organization making a profound and positive difference in people’s lives every day through its life-changing services and powerful advocacy.Our commitment to reaching out to the military community goes back to World War II. I am proud to say that Easterseals, with a nationwide network of 67 affiliates, is here to support veterans as they navigate the often-difficult journey of transitioning to civilian life. While most of us are strong and resilient, we can still draw strength and support from a caring community. That is why Easterseals’ Veterans Services are so important. This Military Appreciation Month, and in response to the millions of young veterans who are now returning from recent wars, we renew our pledge to make supporting our veterans, military families, and caregivers an organization-wide priority. We are proud to serve.

Today and every day, Easterseals offers indispensable resources to more than a million people and families living with a disability annually. Our best in class, inclusive services are provided through a network of local Easterseals facilities in communities nationwide. Easterseals offers hundreds of home and community based services and supports—categorized into five distinct support areas: Live, Learn, Work, Play and Act.  

LIVE: Hands on comprehensive, vital programs and support to help people reach their full potential:
•    Adult and senior services
•    Autism services
•    Medical rehabilitation and health services
•    Mental health services
•    Residential and housing services

LEARN: Programs designed to help children and adults learn—and often relearn—basic functions, master skills need to develop and thrive, and be sharp and active across the lifespan.
•    Online development screening tool
•    Assistive technology services
•    Early intervention services
•    Child care services
•    Children services

WORK: A range of training, placement and related services helping people prepare for the workforce.
•    Veterans and Military family services
•    Workforce Development services

PLAY: Fun, healthy programs for children, adults and caregivers to relax, connect with friends and engage in constructive activities.
•    Camping and recreation
•    Respite services
•    Supportive services

ACT: Involvement opportunities for our vibrant community of friends and supporters.
•    Community engagement and outreach
•    Educational programming

The next 100 years

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless

In 2019, Easterseals celebrated 100 years of impact in the lives of individuals with disabilities or other special needs, their families and communities throughout America as a powerful advocate and leading provider of innovative services. In marking this milestone, Easterseals reflected on its legacy of delivering equality, dignity and independence to people with disabilities while embracing a future where every one of us is 100% included and 100% empowered. 

Since its founding in 1919, Easterseals has remained committed to ensuring that the needs of children and adults with disabilities, veterans and older adults are met with services and supports to help them live, learn, work and play in their communities.  By combining on-the-ground presence, deep expertise and diverse programs, Easterseals affiliates nationwide are advancing change to assure that people with disabilities and other special needs can thrive in their communities. 

Angela F. Williams is president and CEO of Easterseals, the nation’s leading nonprofit provider of life-changing services and powerful advocacy for people with disabilities of all ages, including veterans and seniors.  She is the first Black woman to hold this post and was hired in 2018 as a change agent in anticipation of Easterseals’ 100th anniversary in 2019.  She brings a long history of purpose-driven work to Easterseals and has personally witnessed the pain veterans go through daily.

veterans, military families, and caregivers an organization-wide priority. We are proud to serve.

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America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I

America’s first tank unit, known as the “Treat ’em Rough Boys,” rushed through training and arrived in Europe in time to lead armored thrusts through Imperial German forces, assisting in the capture of thousands of Germans and miles of heavily contested territory.


Judge rules that Army vet is genderless
Army Col. George S. Patton just after World War I. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The tankers were vital to the elimination of the famous St. Mihiel salient, a massive German-held bulge in the lines near the pre-war German-French border.

American forces joined the war late, participating in their first battle on Nov. 20, 1917, over three years after the war began and less than a year before it ended.

America had never attempted to create a tank before its entry into World War I. So while American G.I.s and other troops were well-supplied and fresh, most weren’t combat veterans and none had any tank experience.

Into this gap rode cavalry captain George S. Patton. He lobbied American Expeditionary Force Commander Gen. John J. Pershing to allow him to establish a tank school and take command of it if the U.S. decided to create a tank unit.

Patton also pointed out that he was possibly the only American to ever launch an armored car attack, a feat he had completed in 1916 under Pershing’s command in Mexico.

Pershing agreed and allowed Patton to set up the school in Langres, France. Patton quickly began taking volunteers into the school and establishing American doctrine and units.

The first-ever American tank unit consisted of the light tank units organized by Patton and heavy tanks with crews trained by England.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless
America’s first heavy tank battalions were not ready and equipped in time for the St. Mihiel offensive but took part in later battles. (Photo: U.S. Army)

When it came time for the AEF to lead its first major operation, the St. Mihiel salient was the obvious target. Other allied forces had already pacified other potential targets, and the salient at St. Mihiel had severely limited French lines of communication and supply between the front and Paris since Germany had established it in 1914.

The tanks led the charge into the salient on Sept. 12 with two American light tank battalions, the 326th and the 327th, backed up by approximately three battalions worth of French light tanks and two companies worth of French-crewed heavy tanks.

Infantry units moved into battle just behind the tanks, allowing the tracked vehicles to crush barbed wire and open the way.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless
American engineers returning from the front at the Battle of St. Mihiel. (National Archives, 1918)

Per Patton’s design, the tank companies were equipped with a mix of heavy guns to wipe out machine gun nests and other prepared defenses and machine guns to mow down infantry that got within their fields of fire. This mix allowed for rapid advancement except where the Germans had dug their trenches too deep and wide for the Renaults to easily cross.

The American infantry attacked the remaining resistance after the tanks passed and then took over German positions.

The light tanks, which could move at speeds faster than advancing infantry, sometimes pressed ahead and found themselves waiting for the infantry to catch up. At the village of Thiacourt, an important crossroads within the salient, tank units surrounded the village and cut off all entrances and exits while waiting for their boot-bound brethren.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless
Army Lt. Col. George S. Patton with a Renault tank. He became America’s first-ever tank officer the previous year as a captain. (Photo: U.S. Army)

While the tanks received great credit in American newspapers for their success in the AEF’s first independent operation, the real story of St. Mihiel was that it was an enormously successful combined arms operations with massive amounts of artillery support, about 3,000 guns, the largest air force assembled to that date (approximately 1,500 planes), and large infantry assaults making huge contributions to victory.

Plus, the Germans had received ample warning of the AEF’s pending attack and had decided not to seriously contest it. Instead, they pulled many of their units back to the Hindenburg line to the east and left only 75,000 men defending the salient against the over 260,000-man attack.

One of the prisoners, a German major and count, reportedly was even waiting with his staff and packed bags to be captured.

Of course, the first American armored offensive was not without its hiccups. The French-made Renault tanks got bogged down in deep mud. While German artillery was only able to knock out three American-crewed tanks, another 40 were lost to mud, mechanical breakdowns, and a lack of fuel at the front.

Patton continued refining American tank deployments, ordering that U.S. tanks carry fuel drums strapped to the back of the tank. At the suggestion of an unknown private, he also began equipping one tank per company as a recovery and repair tank, leading to the dedicated recovery vehicles in use today.

The tank corps went on to fight in the Meuse-Argonne offensive through the end of the war, this time with their heavy tanks there to support the infantry alongside their light armored friends. All of the tanks continued to face greater losses from terrain and mechanical breakdown than they did from enemy forces.

The greatest enemy threat to the tanks was artillery and mines, but the Germans learned to place engineering barriers such as large trenches to slow down the advance, and early anti-tank rifles took a small toll.

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This charity helps troops beat Halo when they’re not beating the Taliban

Operation Supply Drop (OSD) is the kind of organization that sounds very simple at first. They collect donated video games, console systems, and cash to send gaming care packages to troops overseas and here in the United States. The nonprofit calls these care packages “supply drops.”


As anyone who’s been deployed can attest, the periods of excitement and fear are interspersed with long periods of monotony. OSD began in a garage with an Iraq War vet boxing up donations to help his peers enjoy the same hobby he loved: gaming.

From those humble roots, OSD has now grown into a charity that does a lot more. While they still generate care packages for deployed service members, they’ve expanded into creating unique experiences for veterans, fighting veteran joblessness, and other causes which affect warriors.

The expansion had some growing pains. The founder publicly split and created his own new organization. But the CEO, Glen Banton, is excited for all the ways OSD’s expanded mission has let them serve veterans.

“We’re in the business of helping veterans,” he said in an interview with WATM. “Unfortunately, the video game thing sometimes overshadows the other things we do. But essentially, it needs to be about putting veterans first. How can we keep supporting as many vets as possible. That’s while you’re deployed and need something to spend your time with, or when you get home and have other needs.”

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless
Photo: Courtesy Army Maj. Erik Johnson

OSD began by enlarging the supply drop program, and then adding on new programs.

“The supply drops increased in size and scope. We started going to bases themselves, rec centers, mess halls, day rooms, hospitals, events, Halloween and Christmas parties… Anywhere we can impact a lot of troops per day and have fun.”

In a recent supply drop at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, OSD worked with Army occupational therapist Maj. Eric Johnson who has used video games to help wounded warriors progress in their therapy. But the center had just an old Nintendo Wii with which to work.

Johnson gave a wish list to OSD who was able to get the medical center six new video game consoles and almost 100 games plus peripherals like steering wheels. It was OSD’s largest supply drop yet.

“Glen and his team, they came with OSD last week and, blew me away,” Johnson said. “Way more than I had asked for, way more than I anticipated.”

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless
Wounded warriors play video games at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas after a the Operation Supply Drops largest drop. Photo: Courtesy Operation Supply Drop

Then there are “Thank You Deployments,” where a veteran or a small group of veterans get to participate in a special event or outing, usually by working with corporate or non-profit partners.

“There are VIP outings, genuinely relevant to the veteran,” Banton said. “So, we might take them to a gaming conference or on a trip to a studio. But there might be other stuff.

“We’ve had race car experiences. We met a driver who worked for Forza and is a vet. He helps get them full access, a ride in the pace car, access to the lounge. It’s really amazing.

“And as the community grows, it continues to get broader and broader. It doesn’t take us away from gaming. It takes us to people who are gamers and do other stuff.”

OSD also has a “Teams” program. The teams encourage people to get locally connected with active duty service members and veterans so everyone can engage at the local level on big issues like veteran suicide, depression, homelessness, and unemployment.

“The Teams Program is the action arm of OSD,” Banton said. “They’re local chapters with veteran and civilian members who address things like veteran suicide or homelessness. Really, what we look at with the teams is, how do we create within Seattle, L.A., Muncie, Indiana, how do we engage in a way that helps?”

While it may seem like this is OSD straying from their roots as a gamer-veteran focused charity, Banton and his team don’t see it that way.

Glenn explained, “If someone asks, ‘Hey, OSD, I need some help and don’t know where to go. I think I can get this job but I don’t have the clothes,’ or ‘I don’t have the home base to do the interview,’ we can help with that.

“So we can, for a thousand dollars, get them housed for six months and get them help through this community, then they become a big part of the community.

“That individual doesn’t have space to enjoy an XBox if he wanted to. to us, it’s very clear and it’s easy. We know exactly what we’re supposed to be doing: Inspiring veterans and other civilian supporters to give back to those around them.”

For those interested in getting involved helping veterans through OSD, head to “The Teams” page, make a donation, or learn about the 8-bit Salute where gamers can play to raise money for future supply drops and other events.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Sept. 14 he will retaliate against a US halt on the issuing of most visas to senior foreign ministry officials and their families by suspending missions by US military-led teams searching for the remains of Americans missing in action from the Vietnam War.


Cambodia’s pro-government Fresh News website reported that Hun Sen said cooperation with the United States on the MIA search would be suspended until the two countries resolve several issues, especially the visa ban. Government spokesman Phay Siphan confirmed the report.

The US government lists 48 Americans still unaccounted for in Cambodia.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

The dispute comes at a time of sharp tensions between Hun Sen’s government and Washington. As part of a general crackdown on critics ahead of next year’s general election, Cambodian authorities recently arrested the head of the main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, and accused the United States of colluding with him to overthrow the government.

The United States has rejected the accusation and criticized the arrest, along with a crackdown on the media that shut an independent English-language newspaper and about a dozen radio stations that broadcast opposition voices or programming by the US government-financed Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.

The US Embassy instituted the visa ban on Sept. 13, saying that Cambodia had refused or delayed accepting Cambodian nationals being deported by the United States after being convicted of crimes. Similar measures were taken against the African nations of Eritrea, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless
Kem Sokha, Acting President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party and the country’s opposition leader, sits across from former Secretary of State John Kerry. Photo from US State Department.

Hun Sen said in an interview with Fresh News that the foreign ministry would send a notification of the MIA search suspension to the US in the near future. Earlier Sept. 14, the ministry denied that Cambodia had halted or delayed the acceptance of deportees, saying its main interest was amending a 2002 agreement under which it agreed to take them.

Hun Sen described the repatriation of convicts from the United States to Cambodia as an action that “breaks apart parents and children” and is “bad and inhumane.” He said some of the repatriated Cambodians had committed suicide.

Some human rights groups agree and note that some convicts had spent little time in Cambodia, going to the United States as children.

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This fundraiser for the widow of a soldier who died in a suicide bombing attack is going viral

When a Taliban murder-suicide bomber killed two American troops with the 82nd Airborne Division, it particularly hit hard for one family. According to an Army Times report, the solider, Specialist Chris Harris, 25, of Jackson Springs, North Carolina, left behind a wife, Britt, who was expecting their first child.


The Defense Department reported that the August 2 attack that killed Spc. Harris also killed Sgt. Sgt. Jonathon Hunter, 23, of Columbus, Indiana ,and wounded four other troops. Both Harris and Hunter were with the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment based at Fort Bragg.

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Specialist Chris Harris and his wife Britt in happier times. (GoFundMe.com)

An online fund-raiser was launched on Aug. 3 on the crowd-funding site GoFundMe.com to help Britt keep a handle on bills and other expenses. As of 9:53 AM Eastern time on Aug. 4, the online fundraiser for Mrs. Harris had raised $35,570 from 782 donors.

The online fundraiser is not the only fundraiser on the way for Britt and her unborn child. According to the VA website, Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance offers a $400,000 death benefit for a monthly premium of $29.00.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless
Waves of paratroopers fill the skies during a combat exercise. (U.S. Army)

The pentagon also offers a death gratuity benefit of $100,000. Military.com notes that numerous other benefits are available for the surviving family members of a serviceman (or woman) killed in action, including continued eligibility for Tricare, Basic Housing Allowance, and the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.

While those benefits will kick in, words from the GoFundMe page still apply: “During this time, money should be the absolute least important thing on [Britt’s] mind. If you feel it in your heart to donate to this cause, it would be kindly appreciated.”

 

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Here’s a sneak peek at the new World War I Memorial going up in DC

In the coming years, Washington, D.C.’s Pershing Park will be transformed as a memorial honoring the men and women who fought in the First World War is built, adding to where the statue of General John J. Pershing currently stands.


The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act established the World War I Centennial Commission, which was given the authority to build the memorial in the park. Over the course of a year, potential designs were submitted and voted on. In January 2016, the design, titled The Weight of Sacrifice, was chosen.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless
Pershing Park today (wikimedia photo)

The designers, Joseph Weishaar, an architect-in-training currently located in Chicago, and collaborating artist sculptor Sabin Howard of New York, explained their vision:

The fall sun settles on a soldier’s etched features, enough to alight the small girl patting his horse. Above him 28 trees rise up from the earth, flamed out in brazen red to mark the end of the Great War. He stands on the precipice of the battlefield, surveying the rising tide which has come to call his brothers from their havens of innocence. The figures before him emerge slowly, at first in low relief, and then pull further out of the morass as they cross the center of the wall. They all trudge onward, occasionally looking back at the life that was until they sink back in and down into the trenches.

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This is a moment frozen in time, captured in the darkened bronze form which has emerged from the soil to serve as a reminder of our actions. Along the North and South faces we see the emblazoned words of a generation gone by. 137 feet long, these walls gradually slip into the earth drawing their wisdom with them. Around the sculpted faces of the monument the remembrance unfolds. Each cubic foot of the memorial represents an American soldier lost in the war; 116,516 in all. Upon this unified mass spreads a verdant lawn. This is a space for freedom built upon the great weight of sacrifice.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless
World War I Centennial Commission

The allegorical idea that public space and public freedom are hard won through the great sacrifices of countless individuals in the pursuit of liberty provides the original design concept for this project. A memorial and a park built to represent this truth should pay homage to the loss incurred in securing these freedoms. The raised figurative walls visually express a narrative of the sacrificial cost of war, while also supporting a literal manifestation of freedoms enjoyed in this country: the open park space above. The urban design intent is to create a new formal link along Pennsylvania Avenue which ties together the memorial to Tecumseh Sherman on the West and Freedom Plaza on the East. This is achieved by lowering the visual barriers surrounding the existing Pershing Park and reinforcing dominant axes that come from the adjacent context.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless
World War I Centennial Commission

The raised form in the center of the site honors the veterans of the first world war by combining figurative sculpture and personal narratives of servicemen and women in a single formal expression. The integration of a park around and atop the memorial alludes to the idea that public space and personal freedom are only available through the sacrifice of our soldiers. Above all, the memorial sculptures and park design stress the glorification of humanity and enduring spirit over the glorification of war.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless

These themes are expressed through three sources: relief sculpture, quotations of soldiers, and a freestanding sculpture. The figurative relief sculpture, entitled “The Wall of Remembrance,” is a solemn tribute to the resilience of human bonds against the inexorable tide of war. The 23 figures of the 81′ relief transform from civilians into battered soldiers, leading one another into the fray. The central piece, “Brothers-in-Arms,” is the focus of the wall, representing the redemption that comes from war: the close and healing ties soldiers form as they face the horrors of battle together. The wounded soldier is lifted by his brother soldiers toward the future and the promise of healing.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless
World War I Centennial Commission

The quotation walls guide visitors around the memorial through the changes in elevation, weaving a poetic narrative of the war as described by generals, politicians, and soldiers. The sculpture on the upper plaza, “Wheels of Humanity,” recreates the engine of war. These are soldiers tested and bonded by the fires of war to each other and to the machinery they command. For all of the courage and heroic stature they convey, each looks to the other for guidance and a signal to action. The bronze medium used throughout stands for the timeless endeavor we face in the universal pursuit and right of freedom.
MIGHTY CULTURE

5 highly valued skills veterans bring to careers

Veterans Month is a great time for newly transitioning service members or longtime veterans to be reminded that VA hires former service members not only because it’s the right idea but because it’s the smart idea. Here are five skills to highlight when applying for healthcare careers at VA.


1.Teamwork

Great leaders know how to step back and be team players. Remind an interviewer or recruiter that veterans understand the level of communication, trust, and responsibility needed to work effectively as a team. Veterans bring a sense of camaraderie to VA careers and the mission to serve and care for fellow veterans.

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2. Innovation

The U.S. military develops some of the most sophisticated technologies in the world. Veterans may be the first to adopt many of these innovations, well before they make it to the civilian market. Let interviewers know that veterans bring a high degree of technical skill and education to increasingly complex systems, a valuable asset when navigating cutting-edge healthcare technologies, building information systems that deliver benefits to veterans and creating novel solutions to address challenges in the largest healthcare system in the country.

3. Resilience

Military members operate under some of the most stressful conditions imaginable. The military trains people to handle and cope with stress, a skill that translates to VA’s busy healthcare environment. VA’s crew of former basic medical technicians, combat medic specialists, basic hospital corpsmen or basic health services technicians use skills learned in service to care for fellow veterans as Intermediate Care Technicians, for instance. Former military personnel are ideal colleagues for busy days when things don’t go as planned.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless

4. Problem solving

Work in the military is often dynamic and unpredictable. Highlight for job interviewers the military-tested ability to think quickly in changing circumstances, create solutions to surmount obstacles and safely complete the mission.

5. Diversity

During service, military members formed working relationships and friendships with fellow U.S. service members from many different backgrounds. In fact, the veteran population is even more diverse than the U.S. population as a whole. veterans should highlight ability to speak another language or anything that helps connect with veteran patients in a special way that might set them apart from other candidates.

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

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The hilarious way an Israeli spy convinced Syria to help Israel

There’s nothing funny about the tragic way Eli Cohen’s life ended. Shortly after returning to Israel to see the birth of his third child, he was caught in the act of transmitting intelligence by radio from his apartment. He was then hanged in May, 1965. His life as a spy put him at constant risk of discovery and execution. But before he was caught, Cohen changed the game for the IDF in the Middle East. He did it by convincing Syria its troops were too hot.


For four years, Eli Cohen sent valuable intelligence to Israel, either via radio from his Syrian apartment, by letter, or in person on flights to Israel routed through European capitals. Considered a master spy, the Egyptian-born Jewish agent who came to Syria as a businessman from Argentina became the chief advisor to Syria’s Defense Minister in that short time.

In Syria, Cohen was Kamel Amin Thaabet, a successful businessman who held fantastic parties (which often turned into orgies) and let his high-ranking Syrian military friends use his apartment for trysts with their mistresses. Had he not been caught, he might even have been considered to fill a post as a Deputy Minister of Defense.

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Eli Cohen (in the middle) with his friends from the Syrian army at the Golan Heights overlooking Israel. Civilians were not allowed to the Golan Heights since it had been heavily guarded military area.

One of his greatest achievements as an advisor came on a trip to the Golan Heights. He convinced the Syrian military that the troops were too hot and tired. He told them the soldiers would benefit from the shade of trees, a welcome respite from the oppressive Syrian sun. In doing so, he had the trees planted at specific locations — locations used as targeting markers for the Israeli Defense Forces.

Cohen also made extensive notes and took photos of all the Syrian defensive positions and sent them back to his handlers in Tel Aviv.

Sadly, Syria’s military intelligence apparatus was onto a mole in the Syrian military and was on the lookout for spies. Cohen was caught while radioing to Tel Aviv during a Syrian radio blackout. He was tried and executed and his remains were never returned to Israel.

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless
Eli Cohen on trial in Syria.

But his work lived on. In 1967, two years after Cohen was hanged, Israel launched a massive pre-emptive strike on Egypt, capturing the Gaza Strip and destroying Egypt’s air forces on the ground. Egyptian leader Gemal Abdel Nasser convinced Syria and Jordan to join the fight against Israel. When Syria did, Israel pounced on the Golan Heights using the information (and the trees) provided by Eli Cohen.

They captured the Golan Heights in two days and have held it ever since.

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