What next of kin should expect if service member is killed - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

What next of kin should expect if service member is killed

It’s included in that giant bucket of information dumped on you in briefing after briefing right before deployment:

Exactly what will happen if your service member or another member of his unit is killed? What should you expect? What happens if they are injured?

We get a lot of questions about this at SpouseBuzz. Readers want to know what to expect from the notification process, can’t remember what was said in those briefings or maybe never made it to one. They want to know who will show-up at their door, what they will say and when they will arrive. They want to be empowered with information.


We understand the predeployment mental block on this stuff. While it may be the most important part of any predeployment briefing, it’s probably the part you most want to forget. Who wants to dwell on the possibility that their service member may not come home before he even walks out the door?

But it is so important. And whether this is your first or fifteenth deployment, a refresher from the casualty affairs folks is probably a good idea.

What next of kin should expect if service member is killed

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Adam Dublinske)

But we’re not PowerPoint people here. So instead of making you sit through an acronym riddled briefing the next time we see you, we’ve gone straight to the source at the Pentagon to get you as cut and dry a run down here as we can.

Look at this as a point of reference. Forward it to other members of your unit or include it in your FRG newsletter. And if you have any questions, leave them in the comments and we’ll do our best to get you the official answer and get back to you.

But first, a caveat: The policies and information we’ll talk about below are the Pentagon’s military-wide standard, straight from Deborah Skillman, the program director for casualty, mortuary and military funeral honors at the Defense Department. However, like almost everything else in the military, each service has the ability to change things at their discretion. We’ll note where that is most likely to happen. In a perfect world, though, the below is how things are supposed to be done.

What to expect if your service member is killed:

Two uniformed service members will come to your door to tell you or, in military speak, “notify you.” One of them will actually give you the news, the other one will be a chaplain. Sometimes a chaplain may not be available and so, instead, the second person will be another “mature” service member, Skillman said. If you live far away from a military base there is a chance the chaplain may be a local emergency force chaplain and not a member of the military, she said.

These people will come to your door sometime between 5 a.m. and midnight. This is one of those instances where the different services may change the rule in limited instances. Showing up outside this window is a decision made by some very high ranking people. If it happens it’s because it’s absolutely necessary.

You are supposed to learn about your spouse’s death before anyone else. A different team of notification folks will deliver the news to your in-laws – but only after you’ve been told. Same thing goes for any children your spouse has living elsewhere or anyone else he’s asked be told if something happens.

The news is supposed to reach you within 12 hours of his death. The services use that time to get their notification team together, find your address and send someone to your home. If you live near the base and have all your contact information up to date with your unit, they’ll arrive at your home very quickly. If you’ve moved and live far away from any base, it may take the full 12 hours. If you live in a very remote location (for example our past unit had to send a team to notify in the Philippines) it could take more than 12 hours.

What next of kin should expect if service member is killed

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada)

You’re supposed to hear the news first from the notification team. There’s a reason for that, and it’s not just because it’s solemn and respectful. Telling you in person makes sure you are in a safe place to hear such life changing news. And it makes sure that the information they are giving you is accurate, not just a rumor. After they notify you, the team will stay with you until you can call a friend or family member to be with you or until the next official person – the casualty assistance officer – can arrive.

If you hear the news first from someone else, the notification team will still come. In that case instead of delivering notification they will deliver their condolences, Skillman said. Even though the unit goes into a communications blackout after someone dies or gets seriously injured, sometimes word sneaks out anyway through a well meaning soldier or wife who doesn’t know the rules. The team, however, will still come and do their duty.

What happens after notification? You will be assigned a casualty assistance officer who will walk you through all the next steps, including the benefits you receive as a widow. You can read all about those here. That service member has been specially trained for this duty. His or her job is to make sure you get everything you need from the military.

What if your service member is wounded?

The notification process for a injured service member is different but the result is still the same — you are supposed to learn the news before anyone else (other than his unit) stateside. Here’s how it works:

You’ll receive a phone call. If at all possible, Skillman said, the phone call will be from your service member himself. If that’s not possible a military official will call you with as many details as he has and then give you regular updates by phone until they are no longer necessary. If they cannot reach you (let’s say you dropped your iPhone in the toilet again) they will contact your unit to try to reach you through whatever means necessary.

If your service member is severely wounded and will not be transferred stateside quickly, you may be able to join him wherever he is being treated outside the combat zone, often Germany. The official will let you know whether or not this is an option.

You’ll be regularly updated with how and when you will be able to see him. If he is transferred to a treatment facility stateside far away from you, the military will help you arrange travel to wherever he is being sent.

What if someone else in your unit is injured or killed?

Some of the hardest moments you’ll have as a military spouse will be spent wondering if your service member is the one who has been injured or killed. Because the unit downrange goes on blackout until all the notifications stateside are made, you may be able to pretty well guess when something has happened based on a sudden lack of communication. Will it be you? Will the knock be on your door this time?

That can be very a scary time. In my experience, the best thing to do is to choose to not live in fear. When our unit lost 20 soldiers in four months, it became very easy to predict when something had happened and sit in dread in our homes alone — just waiting, watching and praying. However we knew that wasn’t healthy. So instead, a small group of us purposefully spent time together instead.

What next of kin should expect if service member is killed

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Willis)

Specifically what happens in the unit when a service member is injured or killed probably differs from unit to unit and base to base. But most of the processes look something like this:

The unit goes on blackout. That means that all communication from downrange to families is supposed to abruptly and without warning stop. That blackout will likely last until notification to the families has been made.

You will receive a phone call or an email from your unit that someone has been killed or injured. After all the family has been notified, the unit will let you know who has been killed or injured by either email or phone. If it has been less than 24 hours since the last family member was notified, the message will only tell you that someone was killed or injured — not who. If you are told about it via a phone call, the person making the call — possibly a point of contact from your family group — will likely read you a preset script. An email could look like the below, one of the many our unit received during our 2009-2010 deployment:

Families and Friends of 1-17 IN,

On Sept. 26, 2009, 1-17 IN was involved in an incident that resulted in 1 soldier who was Killed in Action. The soldier’s primary and secondary next of kin have already been notified.

On behalf of the soldiers of 1-17 IN, I send my condolences to the soldier’s Family. We will hold a Memorial Ceremony for this soldier at a time and place to be determined.

Please remember to keep the soldiers of 1-17 IN and all other deployed soldiers in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you for your continuous support.

The Defense Department will release the name of the person killed no less than 24 hours after the family has been notified. That buffer gives the family some private time. However, you may learn who it was before that. The family may choose to tell people. If blackout is lifted downrange, your servicemember might tell you. The most important thing during this time is to respect the family’s privacy. If you do happen to know who was killed before the family or the DoD has released the name, for the love of Pete don’t go blasting it all over town.

You will receive details from your family readiness group on how you can help support the family and when the military memorial will be. Above all us, respect the family’s privacy and needs. Attending the military memorial can be a great way to show that you care without being intrusive.

Also read: This is how the military conducts a ‘death notification’

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army wants robot attack tanks and ground war drones

The Army is engineering high-tech autonomy kits designed to give “robot” tanks and other armored combat vehicles an ability to operate with little or no human intervention, bringing new tactical and operational dimensions to the future of ground combat.

Unmanned systems, utilized in a fast-evolving, high-threat ground combat operation, could enable robot vehicles to carry supplies, test enemy defenses and even fire weapons — all while manned vehicles operate at a safer distance.

“A kit of hardware and software can be installed into different ground platforms to increase the level of autonomy,” Osie David, Chief Engineer for Mission Command, Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

The technology kits, which can integrate on a small unmanned ground vehicle or a wide range of larger combat vehicles, use emerging computer algorithms, on-board processing and artificial intelligence to gather and organize sensor information.


What next of kin should expect if service member is killed
Soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division explain the capabilities of the multipurpose unmanned tactical transport.

“Ground combat autonomy is the hardest level of autonomy possible. You are talking about shifting terrain and changing enemy movements,” Maj. Gen. John Ferrari, Director, Program Analysis and Evaluation, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

Robot vehicles, often referred to by Army weapons developers in the context of “manned-unmanned” teaming, are a fast-growing element of the developmental calculus when it comes to future combat platforms.

Having unmanned assets operating in tandem with manned assets in combat introduces a range of new tactics available to commanders. If robot “scout” vehicles could operate in a forward position to identify enemy threats or test defenses, manned tanks might be able to operate at lighter weights, making them faster and more maneuverable in combat.

In fact, senior Army weapons developers have told Warrior Maven that virtually all future combat vehicles now in development will likely be engineered with various new levels of autonomy.

Using things like embedded infrared optical payloads, unmanned vehicles can use machine-learning technology to process key combat details, independently organize them and then send information to a human in the role of command and control, David explained.

AI enables computers to instantly draw upon vast data-bases with millions of pieces of information to perform real-time data analytics before sending useful information to combat commanders.


The advantage is that combatant commanders can quickly receive integrated intelligence or sensor information from a range of sources, analyzed and condensed to enable faster decision-making.

“Instead of sending bits of information back up to a command post, the autonomy kits can enable sensors to perform detection and object identification in real time…and then push that information up to a human,” David said.

Also, advanced integrated sensors, fortified by AI and greater levels of autonomy, can connect aerial and ground assets to one another — to ID and hand off-targets, send real-time video of nearby enemy activity or pass other intelligence data to vehicle crews.

What next of kin should expect if service member is killed
Electronics Technician 2nd Class Peter Romines launches the unmanned aircraft system drone.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Melissa K. Russell)

It is certainly within the realm of the technically feasible for a future tank to simultaneously control a small fleet of unmanned robotic “wing man” vehicles designed to penetrate enemy lines while minimizing risk to soldiers, transport ammunition or perform long-range reconnaissance and scout missions.

In fact, Army modernization strategy documents specifically cite autonomy enabled platforms, speed and maneuverability as fundamental to future armored warfare.

“As the armored BCT fields new systems, it will replace main battle tanks, howitzers, and mortar indirect fire platforms. Far-term initiatives aim to solve the absence of the armored BCT’s ability to deploy rapidly. The Army assesses the feasibility and application of autonomous or semi-autonomous sub-systems, manned and unmanned teaming, and autonomy enabled combat platforms,” the Army documents read.

CERDEC and other Army entities are working on these projects with the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center to prototype, test and advance these technologies. The current effort is an extension, or next-generation iteration, of a previous TARDEC effort described as “leader-follower” algorithms. This technology, evolved and successfully tested in recent years, enables an unmanned tactical truck or vehicle to precisely follow a manned vehicle in front of it.

What next of kin should expect if service member is killed
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates learns how to operate an unmanned ground vehicle.
(DoD photo by Cherie Cullen)

The concept with “leader-follower” algorithms is to free up vehicle crew members such that they can focus on other pressing, threat-conscious tasks without needing to expend all their energy navigating the vehicle. These newer kits, however, bring the concept of autonomy to an entirely new level, enabling unmanned systems to maneuver quickly in response to fast-changing ground combat circumstances — without needing human intervention.

The current “autonomy kits” effort is a new Army program, slated to gain traction and begin testing this year, Army developers said.

“TARDEC will decide which platforms are used. Some sort of tank is being evaluated, as well as smaller platforms,” David explained.

David explained that the autonomy kits are now being worked on for the Army’s Next-Generation Combat Vehicle program — a future combat vehicle effort planning to engineer new platforms for the 2030s and beyond.

“We are closely tied with them (NGCV program) and we are looking to see how we can insert this kit onto these future platforms,” he explained.

The kits are also being engineered to help ensure that combat vehicles can continue to function in the event that GPS communications are jammed or destroyed by enemy forces. Gyroscopes and accelerometers, for instance, can help ground forces navigate in the absence of GPS, David explained.

“These technologies are focused on how you actually navigate and detect your position in a GPS denied environment where there is challenging terrain or an enemy is jamming you,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

Articles

This is what an air-to-air war between Russia and the US in Syria would look like

After the US downed a Syrian jet making a bombing run on US-backed forces fighting ISIS, Russia threatened to target US and US-led coalition planes West of the Euphrates river in Syria.


But while Russia has some advanced surface-to-air missile systems and very agile fighter aircraft in Syria, it wouldn’t fare well in what would be a short, brutal air war against the US.

The US keeps an aircraft carrier with dozens of F/A-18E fighters aboard in the Mediterranean about all the time and hundreds of F-15s and F-16s scattered around Turkey, Qatar, and Jordan.

According to Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical analysis firm, Russia has “about 25 planes, only about ten of which are dedicated to air superiority (Su-35s and Su-30s), and against that they’ll have to face fifth-gen stealth fighters, dozens of strike fighters, F-15s, F-16s, as well as B-1 and B-52 bombers. And of course the vast US Navy and pretty much hundreds of Tomahawks.”

What next of kin should expect if service member is killed
USS George H.W. Bush. Photo courtesy of the US Navy

“Russians have a lot of air defenses, they’re not exactly defenseless by any means,” Lamrani told Business Insider, “But the US has very heavy air superiority.” Even though individual Russian platforms come close to matching, and in some ways exceed the capability of US jets, it comes down to numbers.

So if Russia did follow through with its threat, and target a US aircraft that did not back down West of the Euphrates in Syria, and somehow managed to shoot it down, then what?

“The US coalition is very cautious,” said Lamrani. “The whole US coalition is on edge for any moves from Russia at this point.”

Lamrani also said that while F/A-18Es are more visible and doing most of the work, the US keeps a buffer of F-22 stealth jets between its forces and Russia’s. If Russia did somehow manage to shoot down a US or US-led coalition plane, a US stealth jet would probably return fire before it ever reached the base.

What next of kin should expect if service member is killed
USAF photo by Greg L. Davis

At that point the Russians would have a moment to think very critically if they wanted to engage with the full might of the US Air Force after the eye-for-an-eye shoot downs.

If US surveillance detected a mass mobilization of Russian jets in response to the back-and-forth, the US wouldn’t just wait politely for Russians to get their planes in the sky so they can fight back.

Instead, a giant salvo of cruise missiles would pour in from the USS George H. W. Bush carrier strike group, much like the April 7 strike on Syria’s Sharyat air base. But this time, the missiles would have to saturate and defeat Russia’s missile defenses first, which they could do by sheer numbers if not using electronic attack craft.

What next of kin should expect if service member is killed
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams

Then, after neutering Russia’s defenses, the ships could target the air base, not only destroying planes on the ground but also tearing up the runways, so no planes could take off. At this point US and Coalition aircraft would have free reign to pass overhead and completely devastate Russian forces.

Russia would likely manage to score a couple intercepts and even shoot down some US assets, but overall the Russian contingent in Syria cannot stand up to the US, let alone the entire coalition of nations fighting ISIS.

Russia also has a strong Navy that could target US air bases in the region, but that would require Russia to fire on Turkey, Jordan, and Qatar, which would be politically and technically difficult for them.

This scenario of a hypothetical air war is exceedingly unlikely. Russia knows the numbers are against them and it would “not [be] so easy for the Russians to decide to shoot down a US aircraft,” according to Lamrani.

What next of kin should expect if service member is killed
Photo courtesy of Russian state media

And Russia wouldn’t risk so much over Syria, which is not an existential defense interest for them, but a foreign adventure to distract from Russia’s stalled economy and social problems, according to Anna Borshchevskaya, an expert on Russia’s foreign policy in the Middle East at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“Russia is not a great power by most measures, like GDP, population, living standard,” Borshchevskaya told Business Insider. “Russia has steadily declined. It’s still a nuclear power, but not world power.”

In Syria, “a lot of what Putin is doing is about domestic policies,” said Borshchevskaya, and to have many Russian servicemen killed in a battle with a US-led coalition fighting ISIS wouldn’t serve his purposes domestically or abroad.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the all-out US war plan for the entire Middle East

The days after the September 11th attacks were very different from the United States’ “business as usual” of post-Cold War days gone by. As the days stretched into weeks, the culture of the U.S. changed a little bit, and you could see it everywhere, from entertainment media to individuals across the country. The mood suddenly shifted.

For retired four-star general Wesley Clark, the mood shift was an entirely different level when he met old friends at the Pentagon.


What next of kin should expect if service member is killed

Clark was a Presidential candidate in 2004.

In a 2007 interview, Clark tells Democracy Now that life at the Pentagon was markedly different from the military world he knew after 34 years in the Army. The former NATO Supreme Allied Commander got a little insight from his old friends about how the United States was preparing to respond to the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

Some ten days after the attacks, Clark says he was in the Pentagon visiting friends at the Joint Chiefs of Staff when he was called into a former colleague’s office. Without divulging which colleague, Clark tells Democracy Now that the general told him they were preparing for a war with Iraq. This was just ten days after Sept. 11, 2001. Clark confirmed that there was no connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda, but the general was firm on the decision to invade.

“I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail,” Clark remembered the general saying.

Clark returned to the Pentagon a few weeks later. By this time, the United States was conducting bombing operations in Afghanistan. He poked his head into the same four-star colleague’s office and asked if the war was still on – it was. Not only was the war with Iraq still going on as planned, but the plan had since been expanded to also include other countries that were traditionally hostile to the efforts of the United States.

The general showed Clark a classified memo from then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that listed seven countries that were to be toppled by the U.S. military in the coming five years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran. In that order.

What next of kin should expect if service member is killed

Clark believes Iran needed the US to oust Saddam Hussein, something it could never do.

Clark believed that by that time, Iran already saw itself at war with the U.S., considering the calls for regime change and the ongoing proxy war in neighboring Iraq. In 2007, the United States military was implementing the famous “surge” strategy for defeating the insurgency in Iraq, a strategy that had not yet reaped benefits by the time of Clark’s interview. Clark was trying to stop the momentum for war with Iran.

Of course, the list of countries mentioned by Gen. Clark’s friend in the Pentagon have their own set of issues or were later beset with them. Libya and Syria fell victim to the Arab Spring five years later. The government of Muammar Qaddafi in Libya eventually fell, which led to his death. The government of Bashar al-Asad in Syria was rescued from collapse by Russian intervention in the country’s ongoing civil war. Lebanon was wrecked by an Israeli invasion in 2006. Sudan has since split into two countries as a result of civil strife, and Iraq would infamously suffer at the hands of ISIS after the U.S. withdrawal.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Infantry Marines are now getting lighter, more streamlined body armor

The Marine Corps has started fielding a new plate carrier vest that features a more streamlined cut and offers a 25% weight savings over the vests Marines currently wear.

The new Plate Carrier Generation III will go first to infantry and other combat-arms Marines and then to supporting units in a push to reach full operational capability by fiscal 2023, according to a recent Marine Corps Systems Command announcement.


The Corps selected Vertical Protective Apparel LLC in September 2018 to manufacture up to 225,886 of the lighter and better-fitting Plate Carrier Generation III in an effort to increase the performance of Marines on the battlefield.

“When you lighten the load, Marines can get to their destinations faster, and they’re going to have more endurance, which increases their lethality,” Lt. Col. Andrew Konicki, the program manager for Infantry Combat Equipment at Marine Corps Systems Command, said in a statement. “The PC Gen. III is important because it is nearly 25-percent lighter than the legacy technology.”

Military.com reached out to Systems Command for the average weight of the PC Gen. III compared to the current plate carrier but did not receive an immediate response.

What next of kin should expect if service member is killed

The Marine Corps conducted a study in 2016 using the prototype of the new plate carrier, which involved Marines wearing it while running through obstacle courses and taking a 15-kilometer hike, according to the release. The study results showed that Marines completed the courses faster and appeared better conditioned when wearing the newer plate carrier design, it states.

Program officials worked with industry to remove excess bulk from the legacy plate carrier to reduce weight and give Marines more freedom of movement for handling weapons.

The material of the PC Gen. III reduces water absorption, and designers shaved bulk from the vest by cutting out excess fabric from around the shoulders.

“The PC Gen. III improves the Marines’ ability to shoot and move by eliminating excess bulk from the design, and cutting out the shoulders for a better rifle stock weld,” Lt. Col. Bryan Leahy, who leads the Individual Armor Team at PM ICE, said in the release.

The PC Gen. III is better-fitting than the current vest. It fits closer to the body, increasing protection and decreasing the risk of injury because of improper fit, according to the release.

The Marine Corps also added more sizes, so nearly 15,000 more male and female Marines will be able to get a proper fit when wearing the system, it adds.

“I think there’s a misconception that all females are small, and that’s not always true,” said Konicki. “We conducted a study that found the smallest Marine is actually male.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army secretary commits to changes at Fort Hood

Vowing to have “very hard conversations,” Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy met with soldiers this week at Fort Hood, where at least eight service members have been found dead since March.

Most questions directed at McCarthy during a 24-minute news conference Thursday regarded Spc. Vanessa Guillen, whose remains were identified in early July. Guillen had been missing since late April.


Her family, who met with President Trump last week, has alleged Guillen was sexually harassed at Fort Hood. The case has drawn international media attention and inspired other women to recount their experiences with sexual harassment on social media.

“We must honor her memory by creating enduring change,” McCarthy said.

An independent command climate review will begin at Fort Hood at the end of August, McCarthy said. He also touted Project Inclusion, a recently announced initiative addressing sexual harassment and sexual assault, a lack of diversity, discrimination and suicide in the Army.

Depending on investigators’ findings, McCarthy said changes in leadership at Fort Hood could occur.

“If the conclusions are such that point to leaders or individuals in particular, of course, we would take the appropriate accountability,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said he held nine sessions with soldiers of various ranks during his two-day visit to Fort Hood. His arrival came less than a week after Spc. Francisco Gilberto Hernandezvargas’ body was recovered Sunday.

Besides Guillen, other Fort Hood soldiers who have died in the past several months include Pvt. 2nd Class Gregory Morales, Pvt. Mejhor Morta, Pfc. Brandon Rosecrans, Spc. Freddy Delacruz Jr., Spc. Christopher Sawyer and Spc. Shelby Jones.

Spc. Aaron Robinson served in the same regiment as Guillen, 20, and killed her, investigators said. Robinson killed himself as law enforcement officials closed in on him. Cecily Aguilar, who allegedly helped Robinson dispose of Guillen’s body, has pleaded not guilty to three charges of tampering with evidence. Aguilar is being held without bond.

“These are very difficult things,” McCarthy said. “We’re the Army. We’re a reflection of the country, and at times, some people infiltrate our ranks. We’ve got to find them. We’ve got to root them out.”

Although McCarthy conceded sexual harassment is an issue, investigators have found no evidence so far that Guillen faced such abuse. While admitting that Fort Hood has the most cases of murder and sexual assault of any Army base, he said closing it is not under consideration.

“The anger and frustration in a case like Vanessa is necessary,” McCarthy said. “I’m angry. I’m frustrated. I’m disappointed. We’re heartbroken, but there’s still amazing contributions from men and women at this installation.”

McCarthy’s comments came on the same day that Mayra Guillen posted on Twitter that she received her sister’s belongings. “I don’t even want to open them … find things or clothes that we shared,” she tweeted.

Supporters came together Wednesday in Houston, Guillen’s hometown, to urge Congress to pass the #IamVanessaGuillen bill, which would make it easier for military members to report sexual harassment and assault.

Guillen’s family reportedly intends to be at Fort Hood on Friday afternoon. McCarthy planned to return to the Pentagon on Thursday night but said he would see whether he could adjust his schedule to meet the family. He said he has expressed his condolences in public and shared those thoughts in a letter to the family, but he has yet to meet Guillen’s relatives in person.

McCarthy referred to Guillen’s case as a “tipping point.”

“We are incredibly disappointed that we let Vanessa down and we let their family down,” McCarthy said. “We vow for the rest of our time in service in our life to prevent these types of acts.”

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Godzilla exists thanks to this Japanese prisoner of war

With the new Godzilla movie coming out this Friday (May 31), we thought it would be a good time to remind everyone that we only have the iconic movie monster—or the more than dozen other kaiju of the Godzilla universe—thanks to the survival of a particular Japanese platoon sergeant who was taken prisoner by Chinese forces in World War II.


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While we don’t typically advocate the success of Japanese soldiers in World War II (they were fighting America, after all), I think most of us can agree that Ishiro Honda’s survival was a lucky get. He was an up-and-coming director in Japan in the 1930s who was working for a popular director and film instructor at the time, Kajiro Yamamoto.

But in 1937, the Imperial Japanese Army came calling, and Honda was drafted as an infantryman who served multiple tours in his country’s invasion of China, a republic and ally of America in World War II. Most biographies of Honda paint him as a reluctant member of that military, serving only because it was demanded of him, not because he believed in Imperial Japan’s invasions or fascist ideology.

In between combat tours in China, he continued to make movies, predominantly in Tokyo. One movie that he cited as an inspiration during the war was the propaganda film The War at Sea from Hawaii to Malaya, which he thought had great special effects.

But the reluctant warrior eventually fell to the realities of the prolonged war. After all, Chinese citizens fighting for their survival didn’t particularly care if the guys firing at them were reluctant or not. And in 1945, Chinese troops were able to capture Honda.

What next of kin should expect if service member is killed

Ishiro Honda holds a Godzilla model while filming his iconic movie.

(Public domain)

He would spend the next six months in confinement, learning of the atomic bombings and the Japanese surrender from a Chinese prison. He returned to Japan in 1946 and traveled through Hiroshima, one of the cities that suffered a direct hit from an atomic bomb.

Over the following years, he worked predominantly in commercials and historical films before getting his big break into directing narrative movies in 1953 with the movie Operation Kamikaze. During this time, Honda would go into the ruins of Japanese cities, including Tokyo, to film scenes in the rubble.

Honda’s success on Operation Kamikaze led to his being tapped for an ambitious new movie named Gojira, the story of a massive monster lizard that attacked Japan. The film looked at the country’s military history and ongoing occupation by the U.S., and Honda helped write the movie as well as direct it.

For anyone who didn’t catch that, Gojira was Godzilla, and Honda’s success creating and directing the movie would change his career. It set a new record for Japanese film budgets at the time, and it was an international hit translated into multiple languages and even re-shot and re-cut in America with a Hollywood star at the time, Raymond Burr.

What next of kin should expect if service member is killed

A still image from the trailer for Mosura, the Japanese film centered on the giant moth Mothra.

(Public Domain)

The former Japanese soldier did not rest and bask in the praise, though, he catapulted from Godzilla to other large monster movies, helping to create and popularize the kaiju film genre characterized by massive monsters, helping create the movies and characters such as Rodan and Mothra, both of whom will appear in the new Godzilla: King of the Monsters on Friday. He also created King Kong vs. Godzilla in 1962.

He directed dozens of movies over his career before his death in 1982. Today, the kaiju he helped to create are still intriguing and entertaining audiences around the world.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family

The last words of a heroic Iraqi interpreter who sacrificed himself to save American soldiers from a suicide bomber were: “Take care of my son. Take care of my wife.” US Special Forces troops are now fighting to honor that dying request.

When a suicide bomber detonated his vest during a vehicle inspection near the Syrian border in September 2007, Barakat Ali Bashar put himself between the bomber and then-Staff Sgt. Jay McBride. Bashar, a new father of only a week, was critically wounded in the attack, and he died at a military hospital in Mosul.


Bashar “had dozens of ball bearings in his body causing injuries that nobody could have survived,” McBride, a former medic, told Stars and Stripes, adding, “I owe him my life.”

Bashar, described as “kind of young and a little more western than your typical Iraqi,” served as an interpreter for US Special Forces fighting Al Qaeda in northern Iraq. After his death, his family received some financial compensation from the US government, but they remained in Iraq, a country later overrun by the Islamic State.

The family, already a target because of their Yazidi heritage, was also in danger because of Bashar’s work with the US military. They fled their home near Mount Sinjar, leaving behind their personal possessions and all evidence Bashar had served with the US Army, and headed to a refugee camp in Kurdistan, where they still live today. Bashar’s family emailed Stars and Stripes and revealed that they live in constant fear.

One of the problems encountered during the visa application process was the lack of proof that Bashar had served with the US military. The family has since obtained written proof that Bashar “was declared dead in a U.S. Army hospital and he was an interpreter who served with [U.S. forces].” They are awaiting a follow-up interview with the State Department.

McBride and other US veterans have been writing letters and petitions in support of the family’s special visa application since 2015. “Is this how you treat a family of someone who worked five years with the U.S. Army; someone who was loyal to the U.S. and Iraq; someone who gave his life serving with U.S. Army soldiers and trying to protect them?” McBride told Stars and Stripes, adding that he would happily put the family up at his house if that was an option.

Bashar “never faltered in his commitment to help American forces, even after his family was threatened and their names were placed on a list that was circulated around the region describing him as a traitor for supporting American forces,” Sgt. 1st Class Michael Swett, another Special Forces soldier, wrote in support of the family. “He believed in the American dream even more than we did. Unfortunately, [Bashar] never realized his opportunity to see the country that he sacrificed so much for.”

“We, the people of the United States of America, put this family at risk and I feel it is our duty as a civilized nation to [ensure] their safety,” Army Master Sgt. Todd West wrote in a separate letter.

Featured image: U.S. Army Pfc. Jacob Paxson and Pfc. Antonio Espiricueta, both from Company B (“Death Dealers”), 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, attached to Task Force 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, provide security from a street corner during a foot patrol in Tameem, Ramadi, Iraq.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Army museum is shaping up to be an amazing tribute to all soldiers

Museums aren’t just buildings constructed to hold relics of a bygone era so that bored school kids can sleepily shuffle around them. They’re rich representations of lives once lived; they’re a way to reflect on those who came before us so that we can learn the history of the men and women who shaped the world we all live in today.

This is what the National Museum of the United States Army, currently under construction at Fort Belvoir, VA, will offer once it’s opened to the public in 2020. As a living museum, it will encompass the full military history of the United States Army, from its humble beginnings as ragtag colonial militiamen in 1636 to the elite fighting force it is today — all to inspire the soldiers of tomorrow.


What next of kin should expect if service member is killed

I’m going to go out on a limb and say the kid’s learning center probably won’t include a “shark attack” as the very first attraction.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Casey Holley)

The construction of an Army museum has been a long time coming. Before ground was broken in September, 2016, the Army was the only branch of the Department of Defense without a standing national museum. It’s got a lofty price-tag of 0 million, but it’s actually paid for mostly through donors. Over 700,000 individuals and many corporations have given to museum.

The 84-acre site, where the installation’s golf course used to be, sits just thirty minutes from Arlington National Cemetery and will be open to the public. The 185,000 square-foot exterior of the building is already completed, but the interior is still under construction. The museum also has four of largest artifacts in place as the building needed to be constructed around them. It also has the potential to hold countless other artifacts, documents, and images, along with many pieces of artwork made by soldiers and veterans, or for the soldiers and veterans, on display.

Along with the historical exhibits will house the “Experiential Learning Center” for the kids. The area surrounding the museum will include an amphitheater, memorial garden, parade ground, and a trail to give the patrons a taste of life in the Army in both a fun and informative way.

This is amazing for many different reasons. First and foremost, it’s something that everyone should learn about. Every generation of soldier will have their own dedicated area of the museum and through a vast collection of artifacts, you’ll be able to see the evolution of our country’s defenders. Over 30 million men and women have served, and through the museum, all of them, across the nearly 250 years of history, will be represented on some manner.

It’ll also give veterans a place to take their kids of grandkids and say, “this is where we fought. This is why we fought. And this is how we did it.”

The museum seems to be striking the perfect balance between being light enough to keep children entertained while also being perfectly honoring all who have served in the Army.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS forces now declared defeated in Iraq and Syria

Iraqi Prime Minister Hadir Al-Abadi declared military victory over the Islamic State in Iraq on November 21, just hours after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that Iranian-backed forces had driven the terror group out of Syria.


ISIS’s last Iraqi town of Rawa fell on November 17, and Abadi only awaits the clearing of a patch of desert along Iraq’s border with Syria to declare final victory. Iran posted pictures of one its most famous military leaders in a Syrian border town, indicating Iranian-backed forces had driven the terror group out of the country.

Combine, the two statements from the two leaders amount to long-awaited news: ISIS’s territory in Iraq and Syria is gone; the terror group has been defeated.

Iraqi, Kurdish, Syrian, Iranian, Afghani, Lebanese, and scores of other fighters gave their lives over more than three years since ISIS declared its caliphate, or sovereign territory, to be ruled under a brutal interpretation of Islam in the summer of 2014.

What next of kin should expect if service member is killed
Image from VOA.

The rise and fall of ISIS

Initially, ISIS swept up large swaths of Iraq and neighboring Syria with a surprising military prowess and a potent brand of Sunni extremism, but on Tuesday those nations officially reclaimed their territory.

The US and 67 other nations from around the world formed a coalition to train, equip, and provide air support for the regional forces that confronted ISIS, mostly in Iraq. The US also supported Syrian forces fighting to defeat ISIS. Russia stepped in in late 2015 to provide air support for the Syrian government and allied Iranian militias, mainly backing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad against rebels threatening his rule, but also targeting some ISIS territory.

At its height, ISIS launched international terror attacks in Paris, London, Brussels, and across Asia. But its capability for carrying out such attacks has been hamstrung by the relentless assault on its home territory.

Read Also: ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

“If we can keep them declining and moving they have less time to sit and prepare,” for attacks, Elaine Duke, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, said of terror groups in London last month.

In the span of just three years, ISIS went from attracting thousands of foreign fighters to its anti-Western cause and plotting devastating terror attacks all over the world, to surrendering en masse in their own territory.

Threat from ISIS remains

But ISIS still controls territory in as many as a dozen other nations, as Libya, Afghanistan, the Philippines, and much of Africa battle their own ISIS cells or ISIS-linked terror groups.

The threat of ISIS remains far from over. Beside the many ISIS cells around the world — as well as ISIS’ continued online presence — fighters from the terror group spread around the region and have threatened to return.

What next of kin should expect if service member is killed
ISIS militants loaded into buses who fled Lebanon in a peace deal with Hezbollah. (Screengrab from YouTube UNB News)

In the late days of the US-backed assault on Raqqa, ISIS’ Syrian capital, forces partnered with the US allowed thousands of ISIS fighters to flee the city with weapons and ammunition. The fighters, many of them foreign-born, swore to smuggle themselves across borders and commit terror attacks around the world.

Meanwhile, neither Iraq or Syria can count themselves as whole even with the territory reclaimed. In Iraq, the Kurdish minority in the country’s northeast voted to break away from Iraq. In Syria, the six-year long civil war continues with only a shaky vision of an end in sight.

Additionally, the preoccupation of the Syrian military with fighting its civil war in the western part of the country left a vacuum for Iranian forces to move in and fight ISIS in the east. It’s likely an ISIS-free Syria will feature more Iranian influence, which will unsettle Tehran’s regional rivals in Israel and Saudi Arabia.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Where the middle finger got its meaning & a great POW use of it

Jeremy A. asks: How did flipping the bird come to mean fu?

While some common gestures, such as the high five, have pretty well known and surprisingly modern origins, it turns out one of the most popular of all has been around for well over two thousand years, including having various similar connotations as it has today.

Unsurprisingly once you stop and think about versions of the expression’s meaning, extending the middle finger simply represents the phallus, with it perhaps natural enough that our forebears chose their longest finger to symbolically represent man’s favorite digit. (Although, there are some cultures that instead chose the thumb, seemingly preferring to have their girth, rather than length, represented here…) It’s also been speculated that perhaps people noticed that the curled fingers (or balled fist in the case of the thumb) made for a good representation of the testicles.


Either way, given the symbolism here, it’s no surprise that the expression has more or less always seemed to have meant something akin to “F*k You” in some form or other, sometimes literally.

What next of kin should expect if service member is killed

(Photo by Natã Figueiredo)

For example, in Ancient Greece, beyond being a general insult, in some cases there seems to be a specific implication from the insult that the person the gesture was directed at liked to take it up the bum. In the case of men, despite male on male lovin’ being widely accepted in the culture at the time, there were still potentially negative connotations with regards to one’s manliness when functioning as the bottom in such a rendezvous, particularly the bottom for someone with lower social standing.

Moving on to an early specific example we have Aristphanes’ 423 BC The Clouds. In it, a character known as Strepsiades, tired of Socrates’ pontificating, decides to flip off the famed philosopher.

Socrates: Well, to begin with,
they’ll make you elegant in company—
and you’ll recognize the different rhythms,
the enoplian and the dactylic,
which is like a digit.
Strepsiades: Like a digit!
By god, that’s something I do know!
Socrates: Then tell me.
Strepsiades: When I was a lad a digit meant this!
[Strepsiades sticks his middle finger straight up under Socrates’ nose]

For whatever it’s worth, in the third century AD Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, we also have this reference of a supposed incidence that occurred in the 4th century BC, concerning famed orator Demosthenes and philosopher Diogenes.

[Diogenes] once found Demosthenes the orator lunching at an inn, and, when he retired within, Diogenes said, “All the more you will be inside the tavern.” When some strangers expressed a wish to see Demosthenes, [Diogenes] stretched out his middle finger and said, “There goes the demagogue of Athens.”

(No doubt water was needed to put out the fire created by that wicked burn.)

What next of kin should expect if service member is killed
Giphy

Moving on to the first century AD, Caligula seems to have enjoyed making powerful people kiss his ring while he extended his middle finger at them. On a no doubt completely unrelated note, the chief organizer of his assassination, and first to stab him, was one Cassius Chaerea who Caligula liked to do this very thing with, as noted by Suetonius:

Gaius used to taunt him, a man already well on in years, with voluptuousness and effeminacy by every form of insult. When he asked for the watchword Gaius would give him “Priapus” or “Venus,” and when Chaerea had occasion to thank him for anything, he would hold out his hand to kiss, forming and moving it in an obscene fashion.

Speaking of the implications of this insulting gesture, it seems to have fallen out of favor during the Middle Ages with the rise of Christianity, or at least records of it diminish. This may mean people actually stopped popularly flipping the bird or may just mean its uncouth nature saw it something not generally written about. That said, we do know thanks to the Etymologiae of Isidore of Seville that at least as late as the 6th century people were still extending the finger as an insult, in this reference particularly directed at someone who had done something considered “shameful”.

Moving on to more modern times, the gesture was popularly resurrected in documented history starting around the early 19th century, with early photographic evidence later popping up in the latter half of the 1800s. Most famously, we have a photograph of the gesture flashed by present day Twitter sensation and former 19th century baseball iron man Charley “Old Hoss” Radbourn. Radbourn was a pitcher for the Boston Beaneaters in 1886 when the team, along with the New York Giants, posed for a group photo. In the photo, Old Hoss can be seen giving the bird to the cameraman. (We’ll have more on Charley “Hoss” and his possible connection to a different expression in a bit.)

What next of kin should expect if service member is killed

Boston Beaneaters and New York Giants, Major League Baseball Opening Day 1886. Charles Radbourn giving the finger to cameraman (back row, far left).

At this point you might be wondering why we call extending the middle finger today — “flipping the bird” or “giving the bird”. The connection is speculated to derive from the centuries old practice of more or less making bird sounds, particularly owl and geese calls, as an equivalent to booing when an audience is dissatisfied by something. This, in turn, gave rise to the popular 19th century expression to “goose” someone and then a little later led to the expression “give the big bird”, as noted in William Earnest Henley’s late 19th century work, Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present:

Big Bird: To get or give the big bird — To be hissed on the stage…. When an actor or actress gets the big bird, it may be from two causes; either it is a compliment for successful portrayal of villainy, in which case the Gods simply express their abhorrence of the character and not of the actor; or, the hissing may be directed against the actor, personally for some reason or other. The Big Bird is the goose.

By the mid-20th century, this seems to have extended to “giving the bird” not just referring to insulting sounds, but to describe extending the middle finger as well. One of the earliest examples of this can be found in the 1942 animated film A Tale of Two Kitties. In it, the pair of cats attempt to capture Tweety bird. At a certain point, one of the cats implores the other “Give me the bird!” The other cat then turns to the viewers and exclaims “If the Hays Office would only let me, I’d give him the bird alright.”

Bonus Facts:

  • Going back to Charley “Hoss” Roadbourn, he is widely speculated to be the inspiration for the expression “Charley Horse”, indicating a random muscle cramp in the leg. The expression popped up in baseball shortly after his historic 1884 season in which he posted a 1.38 ERA with 441 strikeouts in 678 and 2/3 innings, winning 59 games by modern rules (or 60 by the scorers of the day) despite the fact that his team only played 112 games that year. If you’re wondering how he managed to pitch in so many games, this was as a result of a fight between he and the team’s other best pitcher, Charlie Sweeney, that saw Sweeney leave and Old Hoss offer to start every game for the remainder of the season. He nearly did this, starting 40 of the remaining 43 games that year and winning 36 of them. However, at a certain point he reportedly became so sore he couldn’t even raise his arm above his head without significant warmup that required starting by soft tossing from just a few feet and slowly working back as his arm loosened up. It is speculated that his prolific pitching around this time, and presumably frequent cramps from over use of his muscles, may have inspired the expression. For whatever it’s worth, a 1907 issue of the Washington Post indicates that Old Hoss actually once had a severe leg cramp in a game, which directly gave rise to the expression. Whatever the case, one of the earliest known instances of the expression “Charley Horse” occurred in an 1887 edition of The Fort Wayne Gazette where it notes, “Whatever ails a player this year they call it a ‘Charley horse’…”
  • American seamen captured by the North Koreans in the famous “Pueblo crisis” once used the North Korean’s ignorance of the meaning of extending the middle finger to good use in propaganda photos taken by their captors. When asked, the captured men simply stated that it was a good luck gesture, so were allowed to continue using it in the photographs… at first. When the North Koreans discovered what it actually meant, the seamen were beaten.
  • As we alluded to in the body of this piece, there are several places on Earth where a thumbs up has a similar meaning to extending the middle finger. Why we bring this up specifically is that when American troops first started being stationed in Iraq, some reported being greeted by civilians offering a thumbs up, with the soldiers (and many in the media) interpreting it as most Westerners would — all the while not realizing the people were more or less flipping them off.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy our new popular podcast, The BrainFood Show (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Feed), as well as:

MIGHTY MOVIES

Looking back on the USO tour legacy of Robin Williams

Robin Williams went on six separate USO tours from 2002 to 2013. Williams inspired countless other comedians and performers to pack their bags and head overseas to share their light with the world. There are hundreds of stories that surround the humanity of each and every visit Williams had.


What next of kin should expect if service member is killed

(USO.org)

For example, take the time on the 2007 USO Chairman’s Holiday Tour, where Williams saw a group of soldiers waving at him from behind a fence across a grassy berm. A wave and a loud joke across the field would’ve surely made those soldiers day… But according to USO VP of Entertainment Rachel Tischler, “… he jumped across the berm and went running over to them. Obviously, our security team completely freaked out. Again – height of the war here. But he didn’t care. He just wanted to go over and shake their hands and thank them. And that is what he was like.”

That’s the thing with Williams. He didn’t just go overseas and perform a couple of comedy sets and dip out. That, in and of itself, would still be a beautiful act of service. But that wasn’t enough for Williams. He jumped the berm in everything he did.

“What was great about him on tour was that he always took the time to sit down and talk to people about what they were going through, what life on the base was like, about personal experiences,” Tischler said. “And then he’d get on stage and he’d be telling a joke about Mexican Night in the [dining facility].”

Robin Williams as troops “Retreat” at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait

www.youtube.com

Williams wasn’t just a loose cannon of human decency on USO Tours, either. He was also a respectful observer of military tacit codes. Just watch this video of Williams’s set being cut short by Taps at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.

At the first sound of the beagle, you can almost feel his gut lurching to make a joke. Every single time that Williams had gone on stage, he was a comedic amoeba, calling out things happening in the present moment. He had conditioned himself to make a joke there. But he resisted. He pulled against his greater impulses, and respectfully lowered his head.

You can tell it meant something to him, as he said “I’m never going to forget that.” And what happened next is quintessential Robin Williams— he made a joke about the present moment that unified the entire camp.

What next of kin should expect if service member is killed

Holiday Tour, International Airport in Baghdad (2003)

(Mike Theiler. EPA.)

Unity is the central theme of Robin Williams USO tours, and that’s the legacy left behind. Every man and woman stationed who got to see him took a piece of Williams back with them. Williams loved it too, “There’s nothing I enjoy more than traveling with the USO and giving back to our troops in whatever way I can,” he said, “They work hard, sacrifice a lot and deserve to be treated like the heroes they are. The very least I can do is bring a smile to their faces.”

Many comedians have followed in his footsteps of unity since: Lewis Black, Louis CK, Ralphie May, and Stephen Colbert, just to name a few. As our country feels increasingly disjointed, it’s important to focus on the “Robin Williams” moments; we can reach across the aisle and truly connect with each other.

Whenever we feel distant from each other, we don’t have to shout from behind a fence. We can jump the berm.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. says terrorist threats persist, citing Iran’s rising support for extremists

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump says “dangerous terrorist threats persisted” in 2019 even as Iran, the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, and Al-Qaeda suffered setbacks.

In its annual report on terrorism issued on June 24, the State Department also said that white supremacist attacks were on the rise.


Iran, which the report calls “the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism,” and its proxies continued to “plot and commit terrorist attacks on a global scale.”

Tehran also continued to allow an Al-Qaeda “facilitation network” to operate in Iran, “sending money and fighters to conflict zones in Afghanistan and Syria, and it still allowed [Al-Qaeda] members to reside in the country.”

“Finally, the Iranian regime continued to foment violence, both directly and through proxies, in Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen,” the report added.

Despite losing territory in Iraq and Syria, as well as its leader, the IS extremist group “adapted to continue the fight from its affiliates across the globe and by inspiring followers to commit attacks,” according to the report.

But it also said that Iran, the IS group, and Al-Qaeda suffered serious setbacks last year, including the killing of several top leaders and the imposition of “crippling” sanctions against Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Tehran-backed Lebanese Hizballah movement, and supporters and financiers of both.

According to the State Department, attacks committed by white nationalists are of particular concern and “a serious challenge for the global community.”

The report noted numerous such attacks in 2019, including in New Zealand, Germany, and the United States.

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

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