Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers - We Are The Mighty
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Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

The families of seven dead US servicemen gathered August 7 to receive lost Purple Heart medals their loved ones had earned in four wars.


An eighth veteran was present for the ceremony at the historic Federal Hall on Wall Street on August 7, which was National Purple Heart Day.

The group Purple Hearts Reunited, based in Georgia, Vermont, has made it its mission to track down misplaced medals. Founder Zachariah Fike said as many as five are found each week across the country.

Seven of those medals returned August 7 went to men who served in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. The eighth was presented to Army Specialist Daniel Swift, a firefighter injured by a roadside bomb in 2004 in Iraq as a member of the National Guard. In his honor, the ceremony opened to the sound of the Fire Department of New York’s bagpipe band.

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

Rebecca Crofts, 72, was 10 when her dad, WWII Staff Sgt. Bernard Eldon Snow, of Santa Barbara, California, misplaced his medal.

“‘Little Becky, have you seen my medal?'” Crofts, of Superior, Wisconsin, quoted him as saying. “I began hunting for it and never found it.”

Snow’s medal was eventually recovered in a California jewelry shop and returned to the Purple Heart Foundation.

A tearful Crofts was handed a folded American flag honoring her father.

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers
US Air National Guard Photo by Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot 185th ARW Wing PA

The Purple Hearts were presented framed, next to each recipient’s military rank.

Besides Snow and Swift, the Purple Hearts went to: Army Pvt. Frank Lyman Dunnell Jr., of Buffalo; Staff Sgt. George Wesley Roles, of Edna, Kansas; 1st Lt. Brian Woolley Flavelle, of North Caldwell, New Jersey; Pvt. Dan Lawrence Feragen, of Carlyle, Montana; Pvt. 1st Class Jack Carl Kightlinger, of Franklin, Pennsylvania; and Pvt. 1st Class Andrew Thomas Calhoun, of Great Bridge, Virginia.

The first Purple Heart was created by George Washington when he commanded the army serving the colonies that became the United States. Washington was sworn in as the first US president at Federal Hall, then the nation’s capital building.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy preparing itself for massive war on open sea

The Navy is making an aggressive push to explore and refine the new combat tactics, offensive weaponry, and networking technologies needed for modern warfare on the open seas as part of a service-wide strategic initiative to prepare the fleet for major ocean combat against increasingly high-tech enemies.

The San Diego-based Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center is moving quickly on new ocean warfare training to help the US Navy “regain sea control in great power competition,” Lt. Cmdr. Seth Powell, program manager, Warfare Tactics Instructor Program, told Warrior Maven in an interview.


The 15-to-17 week courses place sailors on surface ships in combat-like scenarios intended to mirror the most advanced current and future enemy threats they are likely to encounter. Course leaders say the training involves a concentrated, in depth focus on weapons systems likely to be used by potential enemies.

“One of the big things we focus on is exactly what tactics we have to take into account, given the capabilities of the enemy,” Powell said.

Adjusting to a fast-evolving threat environment, involving technologically sophisticated adversaries, requires course participants to experiment with new Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures necessary to meet as-of-yet unprecedented kinds of attacks.

“How do we take ready ships and turn them into more lethal ships? We put everything they have learned on the ships and out at sea,” Powell said.

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

The current courses have in part been put together through Warfighter Tactics Instructor training, preparations aimed at breaking the training down into specific warfare focus areas including integrated air and missile defense, surface warfare and amphibious warfare; the Navy plans to stand up a mine warfare program in 2019.

Lessons learned and findings from the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center training are expected to inform the development of Navy doctrine as well as the acquisition priorities needed for future war scenarios, Powell added.

“As we bring advanced systems online, we are thinking about how to utilize them with advanced tactical training,” he said.

Some of the particular kinds of enemy weapons these courses anticipate for the future include a range of emerging new systems — to include lasers, rail-guns and long-range missiles, among other technologies.

Not surprisingly, these courses appear as somewhat of a linear outgrowth or tactical manifestation of the Navy’s 2016 Surface Force Strategy document. Tilted “Return to Sea Control,” the strategy paper lists a number of specific enemy threat areas of concern focused upon by course trainers.

Examples of threats cited by the strategy paper include “anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles, integrated and layered sensor systems, targeting networks, long-range bombers, advanced fighter aircraft, submarines, mines, advanced integrated air defenses, electronic warfare, and cyber and space technologies.”

Much like the training courses and the Surface Force Strategy, the Navy’s Distributed Maritime Operations Concept also builds upon the Navy’s much-discussed “distributed lethality” strategy, in place now for a number of years. This strategic approach emphasizes the need to more fully arm the fleet with offensive and defensive weapons and disperse forces as needed.

Having cyber, space, and missile weapons — along with over-the-horizon ship and air-launched weapons — are relevant to offensive attack as well as the “distributed” portion of the strategy. Having an ability to defend against a wider range of attacks and strike from long-distances enables the fleet to spread out and conduct dis-aggregated operations, making US Navy forces less vulnerable to enemy firepower.

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

A Phalanx close-in weapons system fires during a live-fire exercise aboard the Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth Abbate)

Interestingly, the pressing need to emphasize offensive attack in the Navy fleet appears to have roots in previous Navy strategic thinking.

Part of the overall strategic rationale is to move the force back toward open or “blue water” combat capability against near peer competitors, such as that which was emphasized during the Cold War. While the importance of this kind of strategic and tactical thinking never disappeared, these things were emphasized less during the last 15-plus years of ground wars wherein the Navy focused on counter-terrorism, securing the international waterways, counter-piracy, and things like Visit Board Search and Seizure.

These missions are, of course, still important, however the Navy seeks to substantially increase its offensive “lethality” given that rivals such as Russia and China have precision-guided anti-ship missiles able to hit targets at ranges greater than 900 miles in some cases. The advent of new cyber and electronic warfare attack technologies, enemy drones and the rapid global proliferation of sea mines all present uniquely modern nuances when compared to previous Cold-War strategic paradigms.

Nevertheless, the most current Naval Surface Warfare Strategy does, by design, appear to be somewhat of a higher-tech, modern adaptation of some fundamental elements of the Navy’s Cold-War-era approach — a time when major naval warfare against a Soviet force was envisioned as a realistic contingency.

A 1987 essay titled “Strategy Concept of the US Navy,” published by Naval History and Heritage Command, cites the importance of long-range offensive firepower and targeting sensors in a geographically dispersed or expansive open ocean warfare environment. The paper goes so far as to say the very survivability of US Naval Forces and the accomplishment of their missions depends upon offensive firepower.

“Integrated forces may be geographically distant, but their movements, sensors, and weapons are coordinated to provide maximum mutual support and offensive capability,” the paper writes.

The Cold War-era Strategic Concepts document also specifies that “Naval defensive capability should include long-range detection systems such as airborne early warning, quick reacting command and control systems and effective defensive weapons systems.”

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

6 ways to keep busy at home without relying on screens

COVID-19 is here and schools have been cancelled across the country for weeks, even months. No matter if you are a working parent who is now teleworking or a stay at home parent with an unexpected long Spring Break, this list will help you get things done around the house without using copious amounts of screen time. All while saying screen time, especially education-focused learning, is important and a great tool to use within moderation.


Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

Legos

Legos are a useful tool. When I give my boys a box of Legosand minimal direction they can play for hours. But when I can channel their energy into learning while playing, Legos become worth their weight in gold. Check out these 20 educational ways to use Legos. Even with all of these, the best way to use Legos is through free-play and imagination.

Go Outside

Depending on where you live the weather might not be ideal for going outside, but luckily Spring is almost here to stay, and even a 10-minute walk in the rain is a way to break up the schedule. On nicer days, send the kids outside to play. Some of my favorite games are race around the house, tag, sending the kids to find various objects in nature and puddle jumping in the rain. Make it a point to spend at least an hour outside each day. It will be good for you and the kids. Bonus if you can bring your laptop so you can get work done too.

Magna-tiles

Similar to Legos, but not as sturdy. One of my favorite things about Magna-tiles is that you can use them on the fridge to practice learning shapes and colors, but they are also great for building. Give your kids a theme and watch them use their imaginations. My boys especially love building rockets that we count down to blast off (aka total destruction of the said rocket).

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

Read Books Alone or Together

Even with a six and four year old, my boys can sit and read books for at least 30 minutes on their own. Sometimes longer. I often set a timer for the boys to read and then reward their independent time by me reading them a story. It gives them something constructive to do and allows me to get work done. And having a reward at the end of the time is an added bonus for them.

Art Projects

To be fair, not all art projects are created equally, but drawing with markers and crayons is a great way for kids to use their imaginations and keep them focused on a project for an extended period of time. You can leave it basic with coloring or go on Pinterest and become the art queen or king.

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

School Workbooks

Last summer we had every intention of doing school work during the break, but life happened and the school workbooks we bought went unused. Luckily for us we still have them and each day we will be working through the workbook.

What ways are you finding to keep your kids entertained with this sudden life interruption? Has there been something that you have felt has helped you the most or are any of these suggestions something you want to try at home this week?

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why the Army is taking a fresh look at basic training

The U.S. Army will take a hard look at Basic Combat Training to see if it’s producing soldiers that are disciplined enough for the operational force.


“In October, we are doing a complete review of the Basic Combat Training period of instruction, what we train in the 10-week red, white and blue phase,” Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost, commanding general of the U.S. Army Center of Initial Military Training, told Military.com on Thursday.

“Are we doing things in the right sequence? Are we doing things we don’t need to be doing? Should we have more redundancy in some of the basic things the operational force expects?”

The top two things commanders in the operational force want to see in new soldiers is discipline and physical fitness, Frost said.

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers
U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Chelsea Fleetwood completes her 52nd sit-up during her APFT july 21, 2017, Ft. Gordon, Ga. Fleetwood trains hard to surpass the Army standard of fitness and supports the Fight Tonight Initiative.

“Quite frankly, the operational force says ‘give me a physically fit — grounded in the basics of weapons proficiency, fitness, etc. — and a disciplined soldier and we’ll train the rest,” Frost said.

The review will focus on weapons proficiency, physical fitness, communications proficiency and medical proficiency.

“We are going to look at this from the foundation of shoot, move, communicate, treat … the basic four things every soldier needs,” Frost said, adding that discipline, warrior ethos, ethics, values and teamwork will also be of key importance.

As far as other training goes “we have to ask ourselves why are we doing this if it is not creating that foundational soldier … that is fit that is proficient with their weapon, can communicate with communications gear and have some basic medical proficiency,” Frost said.

For instance, Frost said, right now for weapons proficiency and marksmanship the graduation standard is for soldiers to understand how to zero and qualify with the Close Combat Optic.

“Is that really right or should a soldier be able to zero and qualify on iron sights? Because you don’t know what type of optic they are going to get.”

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers
Spc. Anthony Tramonte, lines up a target as Army Staff Sgt. Kevin Corter coaches him during the final day of M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS) qualifications at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson’s Grezelka Range, July 10, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo/Justin Connaher)

Maj. Gen. Pete Johnson who commands the Army Training Center at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, will lead the review.

“He is the only two-star that is the closest to soldiers every day in this environment,” Frost said. “He is there at Fort Jackson with two brigades and their entire mission is Basic Combat Training.”

The findings of the review will have to go up the chain of command before anything is approved, Frost said.

“We want to make sure that they are grounded in those basics,” Frost said, emphasizing the basics of shoot, move, communicate and perform basic first aid.

“If they can do those things, then that is what we want to deliver to the operational force and that is what they are asking for.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program

Five months before North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006, U.S. intelligence officials sent a report to Congress warning that secret work also was under way on a biological weapon.


The communist regime, which had long ago acquired the pathogens that cause smallpox and anthrax, had assembled teams of scientists but seemed to be lacking in certain technical skills, the report said.

“Pyongyang’s resources presently include a rudimentary biotechnology infrastructure,” the report by the director of national intelligence explained.

A decade later, the technical hurdles appear to be falling away.

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers
A surface-to-surface mediu long range ballistic missile is transported for launch in North Korea. (KCNA)

North Korea is moving steadily to acquire the essential machinery that could potentially be used for an advanced bioweapons programme, from factories that can produce microbes by the tonne, to laboratories specialising in genetic modification, according to United States and Asian intelligence officials and weapons experts.

Leader Kim Jong Un’s Government also is dispatching its scientists abroad to seek advanced degrees in microbiology, while offering to sell biotechnology services to the developing world.

U.S. analysts say North Korea could quickly surge into industrial-scale production of biological pathogens if it chooses to do so. Such a move could give the regime yet another fearsome weapon with which to threaten neighbours or U.S. troops in a future conflict, officials and analysts say.

Current and former U.S. officials with access to classified files say they have seen no hard evidence so far that Kim has ordered production of actual weapons, beyond samples and prototypes. And they can only speculate about the reasons.

“That the North Koreans have [biological] agents is known, by various means,” said one knowledgeable U.S. official who, like several others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The lingering question is, why have they acquired the materials and developed the science, but not yet produced weapons?”

But the official, like others interviewed, also acknowledged that spy agencies might not detect a change in North Korea’s programme, since the new capabilities are imbedded within civilian factories ostensibly engaged in making agricultural and pharmaceutical products.

North Korea consistently denies having a biological warfare programme of any kind, and it has worked diligently to keep all evidence of weapons research hidden from sight.

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers
(North Korea state Media)

Yet, in 2015, Kim commandeered a crew of North Korean cameramen for a visit to the newly named Pyongyang Biotechnical Institute, a sprawling, two-storey facility on the grounds of what used to a vitamin factory. State-run news media described the institute as a factory for making biological pesticides — mainly, live bacteria that can kill the worms and caterpillars that threaten North Korea’s cabbage crop.

To U.S. analysts studying the video, the images provided an unexpected jolt: On display inside the military-run facility were rooms jammed with expensive equipment, including industrial-scale fermenters used for growing bulk quantities of live microbes, and large dryers designed to turn billions of bacterial spores into a fine powder for easy dispersal.

Many of the machines were banned from sale to North Korea under international sanctions because of their possible use in a bioweapons programme. But Kim, wearing a white lab coat and trailed by a phalanx of scientists and military officers, appeared almost gleeful in showing them off, striking the same rapt pose as when he visits the country’s installations for nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

“It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the institute is intended to produce military-size batches of anthrax,” Melissa Hanham, a North Korea specialist at the James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California, wrote in a blog posting after the video was shown.

U.S. analysts now believe the timing of the visit was deliberate: The previous week, on May 28, the Pentagon had publicly acknowledged that live samples of U.S.-made anthrax bacteria had been accidentally shipped to a South Korean military base because of a lab mix-up. North Korea lodged a formal complaint with the United Nations on June 4, calling the incident proof of American “biological warfare schemes” against its citizens.

Kim’s trip to the biotechnology institute came just two days later, and was clearly intended to send a message, Hanham said in an interview.

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers
(Photo from North Korean State Media)

Some weapons experts were sceptical, noting the absence of biohazard suits and protective gear found in laboratories that work with deadly pathogens. But since the release of the images, subsequent examinations have poked holes in the official story about the factory’s purpose. For one thing, some of the machines shown were not visibly connected to any pipes, vents or ductwork.

Experts also have questioned why North Korea would buy expensive industrial equipment at black-market rates, just to make a pesticide that can be purchased legally, at vastly cheaper rates, from China.

“The real takeaway is that [ North Korea] had the dual-use equipment necessary for bioweapons production,” said Andrew Weber, a former Assistant Secretary of Defence for nuclear, chemical and biological defence programmes. “What the photos show is a modern bio-production capability.”

Read Also: This is what it would take to clear out North Korea’s nukes

That North Korea possesses the basic components for biological weapons is all but settled doctrine within U.S. and Asian military and intelligence establishments, and has been for years.

Although overshadowed by Pyongyang’s nuclear and chemical weapons, the threat of biological attack from the North is regarded as sufficiently serious that the Pentagon routinely vaccinates all Korea-bound troops for exposure to anthrax and smallpox.

But determining North Korea’s precise capabilities — and the regime’s intentions for using such weapons — have been among the toughest intelligence challenges for U.S. analysts.

Questions about North Korea’s capability have taken on a new urgency, as military planners prepare for the possibility that tensions with Pyongyang could lead to war.

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers
An aerial view of North Korean capital Pyongyang, taken by photographer Aram Pam. (Image Youtube)

While U.S. and South Korean aircraft would seek to knock out suspected chemical and biological facilities from the air, the newest plans include a presumption that infantry divisions would have to face an array of chemical and biological hazards on the battlefield — hazards that may be invisible to fast-moving ground troops, current and former U.S. officials say.

A consensus view among military planners is that Kim is choosing to hold his bioweapons card in reserve for now, while his scientists build up a capacity to manufacture large quantities of pathogens quickly.

Joseph DeTrani, a retired CIA veteran who oversaw intelligence collection for North Korea in the 2000s, noted that ambiguity has been a built-in feature of North Korean weapons programmes for decades.

“They talk openly about their ‘nuclear deterrent,’ but with chemical and biological weapons, it’s different,” DeTrani said. “They’ve always played it close to the vest. For them, it’s a real option. But they want to preserve the possibility of deniability.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

How this Vietnam vet’s long lost dog tag resurfaced in Hurricane Irma debris

After serving in the US Navy during the Vietnam War, George Platt faithfully wore his identification tag — informally known as a “dog tag.”


Like every other member of the military, he was originally issued two, but at some point one went missing.

The other one, however, was always with him throughout most of his adult life.

“He had it with him when I first met him,” said his wife of 30 years, Sheila Platt. The couple met in 1983.

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers
Wikimedia Commons photo by Linda Makiej.

Years later, sometime after George Platt was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, the lone tag that he’d worn for so long disappeared.

“I just assumed when I didn’t see it that he put it somewhere in the house, and I would come across it,” said Shelia Platt. “I never did, and I stopped thinking about it.”

Her husband died in 2014 at the age of 67 and she gave his clothing to Goodwill. But she did not find the tag.

Three years passed, and then something happened. Something “amazing.”

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Chain of events

William “Biff” Trimble served in the US Air Force in Southeast Asia about the same time as George Platt.

Today, he volunteers with Disabled American Veterans Chapter 86, driving veterans to medical appointments. As a result, he sometimes has one of the DAV vans parked outside his home.

That fact provided a critical link in the chain of events that was to follow.

On a recent weekend, Trimble’s regular postal carrier was making Express Mail deliveries in the vicinity of Bing’s Landing. Hurricane Irma had swept through and left behind a lot of street debris there. By chance, the carrier spotted a small metal rectangle in the debris and picked it up.

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers
Logo for Disabled American Veterans.

It was a military dog tag belonging to George Platt.

The carrier had the tag with her as she drove her regular route when she spotted the DAV van parked in Trimble’s driveway. She approached Trimble and his wife, showed them the dog tag and said, “I found this on the street; is there anything you can do?”

Trimble accepted the tag and took it to the DAV post, where he gave it to chapter treasurer Larry Rekart.

Rekart checked the chapter’s membership records, but did not find George Platt there. So he turned to the telephone directory.

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers
Photo from Flickr user Jamie.

Home again

At a time when many people rely solely on cell phones and the telephone white pages are shrinking, the Platts’ number was still listed. Sheila Platt had never changed it.

The day the phone rang, she had just returned home after having evacuated because of the storm. It marked the conclusion of an unhappy two weeks for Shelia Platt. She had evacuated just two days after attending her mother’s funeral.

When she answered the phone, the voice at the other end asked to speak with her husband.

She said simply that he wasn’t there, so the caller — it was Rekart — asked if he was speaking with Mrs. Platt.

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers
A Coast Guard flood punt team assists with search and rescue efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. USCG courtesy photo by Chief Warrant Officer Andrew Matthews.

She admits becoming irritated at first but what Rekart said next surprised her. Someone had found her husband’s dog tag and she could pick it up at the DAV office.

She wanted to tell someone about this incredible development, but her confidant had always been her mother. She wondered: “Who do I call for this? Who do I call to tell this story to?”

She settled on her husband’s niece. Then, by chance, the man who served as best man at the Platts’ wedding texted her to find out if she’d returned from her evacuation, so she called him.

“I said, ‘You will not believe this story,'” she said.

At last, Sheila Platt went to the DAV office to retrieve the missing ID. It was an emotional moment.

“I hadn’t cried over him in a long time,” she said, “and when I came here, I started.”

Tag trek

Bing’s Landing is almost nine-and-a-half miles from the Platt home. And it’s on the opposite side of the Matanzas River. By Sheila Platt’s account, her husband wouldn’t have gone there.

So, how did his dog tag end up so far from home?

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers
A Marine from 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment slides his hand down a pair of dog tags as he hangs them upon the pedestal on Marine Corps Base Hawaii. USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Matthew Bragg.

It was a source of speculation when she met with members of the DAV. One person asked if her house had ever been robbed, but she said no. Another asked if she had given any of her husband’s clothing away, and she remembered the Goodwill.

Today, she wonders if the tag had been in a pocket she hadn’t checked before donating the clothing. Still, that may be as close as she ever gets to solving the mystery.

Sheila keeps the tag on a fob for now and plans to do something more permanent with it eventually.

George Platt, she said, “was just a great guy; he was a great husband.”

The tag, she added, was “something that was important to him. The fact that he lost it or whatever I attribute to the Alzheimer’s. Because it was something that he always kept with him.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Secret phone calls reveal new evidence in crash that killed 298 people

Investigators probing the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014 say they have recorded phone calls connecting pro-Russian rebels implicated in the missile strike and a senior aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The international Joint Investigation Team, based in the Netherlands, on Nov. 14, 2019, released the calls involving members of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the armed Russian separatist group that has fought against the Ukrainian government for independence in eastern Ukraine.

“Well, your plans are far-reaching. Mine are not,” Alexander Borodai, the former self-proclaimed prime minister of the DPR, said in one call. “I’m carrying out orders and protecting the interests of one and only state, the Russian Federation. That’s the bottom line.”


Members of the DPR have been found responsible for the downing of MH17. All 298 people on board were killed when the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. In June, four people were charged with murder.

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

(Photo by Alan Wilson)

“The indications for close ties between leaders of the DPR and Russian government officials raise questions about their possible involvement in the deployment of the BUK TELAR, which brought down flight MH17,” the investigators said, adding that the missile system that downed the aircraft originated from “a unit of the Russian armed forces from Kursk in the Russian Federation.”

The investigators said the phone calls indicated that senior members of the DPR “maintained contact with Russian government officials” — including the senior aide, Vladislav Surkov — “about Russian military support.”

According to the call logs published by the investigators, in a conversation six days before the missile strike, Borodai told Surkov he urgently needed military support from Russia, and Surkov replied that Russian “combat-ready” reinforcements would be arriving.

Other intercepted phone calls also implicate the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, and the FSB, Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, the investigators said.

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“It’s a week we’ve directly … [inaudible] to Moscow and we get the orders,” one rebel said during a call in July 2014.

“We get the orders from Moscow as well. It’s the same with us,” another person replied.

“But it’s FSB in your case? Right,” the first rebel asked.

“Yes,” the second person said.

“And it’s GRU in our case. That’s the only difference,” the first rebel said.

“I know about it perfectly well,” the second person replied.

Though former DPR rebels testified in the investigation that they received military help from Russia, both the rebel group and Russia have denied any involvement in the missile strike. A Kremlin spokesman said the call logs should be scrutinized, adding that they came amid a trove of “fake news” about the incident, according to Reuters.

The investigators said the FSB provided telephones that could not be wiretapped.

“How are you about those special communication telephones, you know, that we have? Those that go through the internet, do you know? Secure,” Sergey Dubinsky, a former GRU officer and a member of the DPR, said on a call on July 3, 2014.

He added: “Those are special phones, you cannot buy them. They are gotten through Moscow. Through FSB.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

RAF jets intercepted Jet2 flight after passenger tried to open the aircraft doors

A pair of Royal Air Force Typhoon jets were scrambled to escort a budget airline flight heading from London to Turkey back to British soil on June 22, 2019, because of an “extremely disruptive passenger.”

Flight LS1503, which was flying from London’s Stansted airport to Dalaman in Turkey, turned back 20 minutes after taking off at 5:52 p.m. (12:52 p.m. ET) when a female passenger tried to open the aircraft doors in mid-air, Jet2 told Business Insider in a statement.

Jet2 said their Airbus A321 had “returned to base because of this appalling and dangerous behaviour.”


A Ministry of Defense spokeswoman told Business Insider: “We can confirm that RAF quick reaction alert Typhoon aircraft from RAF Coningsby scrambled to escort a commercial flight into Stansted shortly after take-off due to reports of a disruptive passenger.”

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

One of Jet2’s A321 aircraft.

(TripAdvisor)

Essex Police tweeted on June 24, 2019, to say they had arrested a 25-year-old woman “on suspicion of common assault, criminal damage and endangering an aircraft.”

She has been released on bail until July 30, 2019, they added.

Several passengers onboard June 22, 2019’s flight told The Sun newspaper about the scene inside the plane.

One said: “This lady who was clearly intoxicated gets called to the front of the plane and she starts shouting and screaming and runs to the plane door.”

“The cabin crew grabbed her to stop her and then she starts scratching them and hitting them.”

“She then got pinned to the floor by cabin crew and passengers and a passenger even sat on her.”

Another passenger told The Sun: “The stewards gave her several chances and did the best they could before she became abusive and then made a dash for the cockpit and had to be restrained by staff and passengers.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

World War II Coast Guard veteran turns 100

Born in 1920, Anderson Washington just celebrated his 100th birthday. A Coast Guard veteran of World War II, he’s experienced a lot during his lifetime.

Washington grew up in New Orleans during a time of deep segregation. As a Black man, it was especially difficult for him and his family. When he was asked what it was like as a young boy growing up, he shook his head in sadness. “It wasn’t pleasant,” he shared. Washington said that he tries not to think of those times because they were so bad. He continued, “I try to avoid remembering certain things. So much unpleasantness that I try to block it all out.”


Later in his life during his early 20s, World War II broke out and he watched the United States join the fight after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Washington knew that he would most likely be drafted and wanted to retain some manner of control over where he went. “The day I enlisted was a couple of days after the segregated laws were changed in the military. I chose to join the Coast Guard rather than the Army, where I felt I was sure to have disadvantages,” he explained.

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

Following basic training, Washington was assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter Comanche in 1942. Although often referred to as the “lifesaving service,” the Coast Guard was so much more than that. Much of the American public may not even realize how involved they were during World War II and how integral their service was to the nation. During the spring of 1940, Nazi Germany had taken over Denmark. Greenland, a Denmark territory, was then assigned to be a part of a defense system.

President Roosevelt put the Coast Guard in charge of it.

In Greenland, the Coast Guard was responsible for search and rescue operations, convoy assignments and defending it from Nazi invasion. One of the cutters assigned was Washington’s. One of the others, the Northland, was actually the first American unit to engage with the enemy during World War II. They would go on to support land, air and sea forces in all of the combat theaters during the war.

When Washington was asked what it was like to serve in the Coast Guard as a Black man, he was conflicted. “At the time, it was pretty bad with ups and downs throughout. Looking back, it was a good experience for me though. It was a great chance to see the world,” he said.

Washington was a Coxswain during his time in the service. “We were on troop transport, bringing troops overseas,” he explained. He remembers bringing soldiers and marines to places like North Africa and along various stops in Europe. In 1943, a German submarine launched torpedoes on the convoy his cutter was escorting. A torpedo hit the USAT Dorchester on her starboard side.

It exploded and sank almost immediately.

Washington’s cutter sped ahead alongside the Escanaba to rescue survivors. Together, they managed to save the lives of 229 men. Hundreds died in the water, mostly likely due to hypothermia. Four of the men that would perish aboard the Dorchester were Army Chaplains, who gave up their own life preservers for others. Reports later detailed this heroic act and how they came together in prayers as the ship sank.

The Coast Guard is often overlooked when discussions of the Battle of the Atlantic arise. But her fleet served a vital and important role in convoy escort and combat. Her warships not only protected allied convoys but sank enemies and captured their crews.

The Coast Guard even helped plan the naval operations for the D-Day Invasion of Normandy.

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

In 1945, the war was ending. The Coast Guard captured the first enemy vessel once American joined the war and then she captured the last of them as it ended. Washington left the Coast Guard in 1946 and came home to a segregated United States. “It was miserable,” he said. Despite serving his country proudly during the war, he was still looked at as less than due to the color of his skin when he returned.

Washington would become integral in the fight for Civil Rights. “I was one of three plaintiffs who fought and sued to desegregate New Orleans,” he shared. He is the only plaintiff still alive from that successful suit today.

When asked what advice he would give to activists who are still fighting for social justice and equal rights, Washington got right to the point. “Any way you cut it or talk about it, it boils down to voting,” he explained. He encouraged those championing causes to find their platforms, use their voices and vote.

Washington never dreamed he’d make it to 100 years old.

Despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the city of New Orleans and the United States Coast Guard came together to safely celebrate his big day. Washington also didn’t realize how many lives he had touched with his own. At his celebration, he was saluted by Captain Michael Paradise, the commanding officer of Coast Guard Base New Orleans and thanked for his dedicated service.

Washington is grateful for his long life and hopeful for the future for this country. He knows the best is yet to come.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Congressman calls on Marines to relax haircut rules during pandemic

When Marine Corps family members in Maryland reached out to their congressman with concerns about crowded base barber shops, Rep. Jamie Raskin said that — of all the challenges the country faces during the coronavirus pandemic — this was an easy one to solve.

“The people who joined the Marines are protecting us and we have an obligation to protect them,” Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, told Military.com. “[Grooming standards] can be relaxed in a way that does not endanger our national security.”


Raskin, who wrote a letter to Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger on Tuesday, is the latest to question the service’s adherence to strict grooming standards during the global pandemic. A video shared on social media that showed Marines without masks lined up to get their hair cut prompted Defense Secretary Mark Esper to ask, “What don’t you guys understand?”

In his letter, Raskin urged Berger to relax Marine Corps grooming standards temporarily “to protect both Marines and the barbers and hairdressers who serve them.”

Berger has received the letter but wishes to keep private his communication with lawmakers, Maj. Eric Flanagan, the commandant’s spokesman, said.

The commandant has left decisions about relaxing standards to stem the spread of coronavirus up to commanders, but Raskin said the massive health crisis the pandemic presents calls for top-down guidance.

“This calls for precisely the kind of institutional leadership and cohesion that the Marines are famous for,” he said. “The commandant can act here to prevent high-risk situations from materializing.”

I’m asking the @USMC Commandant to temporarily relax grooming standards in the Marine Corps during the COVID19 pandemic to avoid putting Marines base barbers at unnecessary risk of infection. Our fighting forces protect us we must protect them (with no risk to nat. security).pic.twitter.com/meuZG9ToOv

twitter.com

Having Marines wait in lines for haircuts as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in the military ranks is unnecessary, Raskin said. The ongoing public health struggle against coronavirus, he said, requires leaders to help reduce any unneeded close physical contact.

Each of the military services has issued its own guidance on how to enforce grooming standards during the pandemic. The Navy, the service hit hardest by the coronavirus crisis, was the first to give commanders the authority to relax male and female hair-length rules on March 18.

The Air Force also issued guidance last month to commanders about relaxing grooming standards. Soldiers have been told to follow the service’s hair regulations, but not to be overboard with extra cuts to keep it super short during the outbreak.

In his letter, Raskin stressed that it only takes one infected Marine or barber to spread COVID-19. That could lead to a chain reaction of COVID-19 cases in the ranks, he warned.

The congressman acknowledged that military leaders have a lot to consider when it comes to new policies during the unprecedented situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. But if family members are worried about their Marines’ safety, public leaders have an obligation to consider their concerns, he said.

“I hope the commandant can strike the right balance,” Raskin said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Navy will be deploying its ‘floating hospital’ to help in the coronavirus fight in New York

The US Navy is deploying a hospital ship to assist health care providers in New York who could be strained with resources amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Navy announced that efforts to deploy the USNS Comfort to the state were underway. Cuomo said his discussions with President Donald Trump on the coronavirus were productive, and the plan was approved. The governor activated the state’s National Guard on March 10, as the number of cases in the state jumped to over 2,300 as of Wednesday morning.

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

“This will be an extraordinary step,” Cuomo said on Wednesday morning. “It’s literally a floating hospital, which will add capacity.”

Defense Secretary Mark Esper previously confirmed he ordered the Navy to “lean forward” in deploying two of its hospital ships, the Comfort and the USNS Mercy, during a press conference on Tuesday. The Comfort, based in the East Coast at Norfolk, Virginia, is currently undergoing maintenance; while the Mercy is at port in San Diego, California.

Navy officials stressed that preparations for the Comfort, which have been “expedited,” will take weeks before it is ready to assist. The Mercy is expected to be ready to assist “before the end of this month,” Esper said.

The ships are staffed by 71 civilians and up to 1,200 sailors, according to the Navy. Both ships include 12 fully-equipped operating rooms, a 1,000-bed hospital, medical laboratory, and a pharmacy. The ships also have helicopter decks for transport.

The two ships will specifically focus on trauma cases if deployed. The plan is to alleviate the burden on traditional hospitals dealing with a high number of patients with the coronavirus.

“Our capabilities are focused on trauma,” Esper said at the Pentagon. “Whether it’s our field hospitals, whether it’s our hospital ships … they don’t have necessarily the segregated space as you need to deal with infectious diseases.”

“One of the ways by which you can use either field hospitals, hospital ships, or things in between, is to take the pressure off of civilian hospitals when it comes to trauma cases, and open up civilian hospital rooms for infectious diseases,” he added.

The extended timeline for the Comfort’s deployment was not only incumbent on its scheduled maintenance or the amount of medical equipment on board. The number of qualified medical staff aboard the ship was a primary concern for the Navy, according to Esper.

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

“The big challenge isn’t necessarily the availability of these inventories — it’s the medical professionals,” Esper said. “All those doctors and nurses either come from our medical treatment facilities or they come from the Reserves.”

“We’ve got to be very conscious of and careful of as we call up these units and use them to support the states, that we aren’t robbing Peter to pay Paul, so to speak,” Esper added.

Most of the medical staff for the Comfort is based at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center in Virginia. The ship has made several deployments since 1987, including to Puerto Rico for relief efforts after Hurricane Maria in 2017.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Army Green Berets trained some airmen — here’s what they put them through

Throughout the Pacific Theater, US military units must overcome jungle terrain riddled with cliffs, poisonous creatures, dense foliage yielding mere yards of visibility, and muddy slopes that threaten to launch anyone down 30-foot ravines of twisted roots and jagged rocks.

Welcome to the jungle.

US Army Green Berets from 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), invited Team Kadena airmen to train with them at the US Marine Corps Jungle Warfare Training Center (JWTC) at Camp Gonsalves, Okinawa, Japan.

“The Special Forces detachment incorporated airmen from around Okinawa to attend a training exercise to bridge the gap in small unit tactics, communication techniques, and patient extraction procedures between our airmen and the Green Berets,” said US Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Triana, an independent duty medical technician paramedic (IDMT-P) from the 67th Fighter Squadron.

“Each airman is trained in a different specialty providing various perspectives to achieve the tactical objectives presented by the detachment in the jungle.”


Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

A US Army Green Beret and Air Force Staff Sgt. Mike Triana establish a security perimeter during a small unit tactics exercise, at the Jungle Warfare Training Center, Camp Gonsalves, Japan, Aug. 21, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

The Kadena airmen’s familiarity and experience with deployments to countries such the Philippines and Thailand enabled them to withstand the Green Berets’ jungle training program. The training enabled Triana and other airmen to expand their deployment skillsets in a severely restrictive jungle environment.

“As an IDMT-P the didactic aspect of the training improved our capabilities to deliver immediate medical care at the point of injury,” said Triana. “Learning patient extraction techniques provides the capability to safely gain access to an injured patient and remove them from an adverse situation such as a cliff or ravine.”

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

This integration enabled the airmen to train in basic US Army Infantry squad and platoon tactics for the first time while simultaneously allowing the Special Forces detachment to hone its combat lethality and readiness posture for high intensity conflict against a near-peer adversary, according to a 1-1 SFG (A) command vision document.

“Small unit tactics and patient extraction training provided the skills necessary to perform the duties required in a tactical element or combat scenario,” said Triana. “This training opportunity has enhanced our readiness to respond to humanitarian relief efforts and deploy to a declared theater of armed conflict.”

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

Team Kadena airmen receive weapon familiarization training from a US Army Green Beret after a land-navigation course at the Jungle Warfare Training Center, Camp Gonsalves, Japan, Aug. 20, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

US Air Force Master Sgt. Thomas Donahue establishes a security perimeter during a small unit tactics exercise at the Jungle Warfare Training Center, Camp Gonsalves, Japan, Aug. 21, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

They are capable of conducting the full spectrum of special operations to identify and target threats to US national interests.

“We deploy to countries throughout the INDOPACOM area of responsibility to bilaterally train with partner nations. This partnership enhances capabilities to combat internal threats from violent extremist organizations or other hostile actors,” said a Special Forces detachment commander.

“This enables us to enhance not only our readiness and lethality to respond to a contingency or crises scenario, but also provides our foreign counterparts the skills they need to protect their sovereignty.”

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

The Special Forces detachment is optimizing the joint training opportunities present on Okinawa, Japan. Working with adjacent military units from the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Army allows the detachment to enhance its advisory capacity and maintain readiness before deploying to a foreign country.

“Training with these airmen opens different channels in terms of capabilities, resources, and training value,” said a Special Forces medical sergeant.

“For our Air Force counterparts, it provides a valuable opportunity for them to learn tactical skills they may never have been taught. For us, seeing them motivated, aggressively engaging in these drills, and advancing in their understanding of small unit tactics is valuable feedback for an instructor and adviser on our skills.”

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

US Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force service members conduct intravenous hydration during a multi-day training event at the Jungle Warfare Training Center, Camp Gonsalves, Japan, Aug. 22, 2019.

(US Army/1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group)

The Marine Corps JWTC further enhances the Green Berets’ mission capabilities, offering a low cost, highly versatile training platform across more than 8,700 acres of heavily vegetated, mountainous terrain, according to the JWTC cadre.

“In preparation for high-intensity conflict against a near-peer adversary, our training methodology must adapt from our experiences conducting counter terrorism and counter insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said the Special Forces detachment company commander.

“The opportunity to enhance our relationship with the Marine cadre at the JWTC has enabled my teams to train in the jungle, reinforcing the skills we require for this near-peer high intensity conflict.”

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Nathan Shelton guards his fire team’s retreat during a break-contact combat exercise as part of a multi-day training event at the Jungle Warfare Training Center at Camp Gonsalves, Japan, Aug. 22, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

A US Army Green Beret coordinates fire-team movements during a break-contact combat exercise as part of a multi-day training event at the Jungle Warfare Training Center, Camp Gonsalves, Japan, Aug. 22, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

US Army Green Berets conduct a multi-day field training event with Team Kadena airmen at the Jungle Warfare Training Center, Camp Gonsalves, Japan, Aug. 21, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

“Every country we operate in, we enhance our partnerships and alliances with our foreign counterparts,” said the SF detachment commander.

“When it comes to security, we are the preferred partner choice that shares their values and principles. The US is ready to assist them in preserving their sovereignty, and will maintain the rules-based free and open Indo-Pacific that has assured an unparalleled prosperity in the last 30 years,” the commander said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Martin Luther King Jr.: Planting trees in whose shade he would never sit

On September 20, 1958, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. arrived at the Blumstein’s department store in Harlem, New York for a book signing. His new book “Stride Toward Freedom” chronicled the Montgomery bus boycott that began when Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat on a public bus to a white passenger. The boycott had come to a close in December of 1956, when the Supreme Court ruled that the segregation of public buses was indeed unconstitutional. It was a watershed moment for both the Civil Rights movement and for America itself.

As a crowd formed in the shoe section of Blumstein’s, King took his seat behind a roped-off section of the store. Soon, eager readers were lining up to catch a moment of the influential figure’s time and his signature for their book. He exchanged brief pleasantries with each person as they approached the table, and as a 42-year-old woman in a stylish outfit and sequined cat’s eye-glasses took her turn, King’s demeanor was no different.

“Are you Martin Luther King?” The woman reportedly asked through a notable southern accent.

“Yes,” King replied, but before he could go on any further, the seemingly ordinary woman threw herself at the table and the man behind it, plunging a seven-inch pen knife into King’s chest.

Bystanders responded by pulling the woman away from King and pinning her on the floor as she shouted, “I’ve been after him for six years. I’m glad I done it!”

King, a man who was no stranger to threats, seemed somehow stoically calm, despite the serious bleeding from his chest. As his fans and supporters surrounded him, ushering him toward medical help, he was heard counseling them, soothing their collective anxieties as though he knew everything was going to be okay.

“That’s all right. Everything is going to be all right,” King was heard saying.

Of course, King couldn’t know it would be all right. Maybe it was just in his nature to ease the burden on others. With the knife still in his chest, King was lifted in his chair and carried out to an ambulance that would rush him to Harlem Hospital. Shortly thereafter, the police would march the same dangerous woman back into King’s company. This time there were no books to sign. The police wanted him to confirm that the women they had in custody was indeed his attacker. When they’d placed her under arrest, they also recovered a loaded .25 caliber pistol from her bra.

Related: THE STUNNING COMBAT HISTORY OF THE TUSKEGEE AIRMEN

Despite the terrible attack, King was lucky. The seven-inch knife had punctured his chest just a fraction of an inch away from his aorta, or the main artery that carried blood from his heart to the rest of his body. King, who remained conscious and soothing throughout the ordeal, had only narrowly escaped death, but the risk hadn’t passed. He was rushed into surgery, where he had two ribs removed from his side to allow the knife to be pulled out without causing further damage.

“The X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery,” Dr. King later said in his famed ‘I’ve been to the mountaintop’ speech.

“And once that’s punctured, you’re drowned in your own blood — that’s the end of you.”

He would leave the hospital days later with a new scar in the shape of a cross over his heart. Despite the brutal attack, he was resolute when questioned by the press: He bore no ill will toward the woman who had stabbed him and reaffirmed his position that non-violence is the only way to manifest the type of positive change he sought for his country.

The attacker, whose name was Izola Curry, didn’t look like the sort of person most would expect to attack Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Curry was a fashionable middle-aged Black woman, but beneath her polished exterior laid a turbulent and troubled mind. Curry was a paranoid schizophrenic who had struggled with her mental health for years. In her confused state, she’d grown convinced that King and the NAACP were conspiring with communists against her. To King, however, the attack was a symptom of a greater illness than even Curry’s schizophrenia.

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

“A climate of hatred and bitterness so permeates areas of our nation that inevitably deeds of extreme violence must erupt,” he said at the time.

“The experience of these last few days has deepened my faith in the relevance of the spirit of nonviolence, if necessary social change is peacefully to take place.”

King would continue to change the world for another decade, before yet another act of violence would rob him of the remainder of his life. It could be argued that, as of that fateful day in 1958, he was acutely aware of the risk his efforts posed to his safety. If he did feel fear somewhere beneath the obvious empathy he felt for the woman who attacked him, however, it never showed. King did not shy away from his work, nor his beliefs, no matter the risk.

Related: 3 BLACK SERVICE MEMBERS WHO HELPED SHAPE HISTORY

Now, as we prepare to honor the memory and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. some 63-years after his death, the story of the near fatal attack offers some uncomfortable parallels with today’s America. As rhetoric about race, mental illness, and the danger of radicalized beliefs permeate our national discourse today just as it did in 1958, we could all learn something from King’s ability to find a catalyst for positive change in even the darkest of places.

In King’s final public speech, he recalled the 1958 attack and how close he came to death… but even amid telling the story, King’s focus was not on his own mortality, but rather on the goodness he found in others as a result of the experience, and the progress he envisioned for America to come.

He told the story of a 9-year-old white girl who wrote to him to say that she’d read that if he had sneezed while the blade was in his chest, he almost certainly would have died.

“And I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze,” King recounted.

King went on to echo the young girl’s sentiment, using it to remind the audience about the important steps the Civil Rights movement had made in the years that followed. King didn’t recount these events like he was listing his own victories, but there was an air of pride about his statements. King, like so many great Americans before him, saw each victory and failure as another part of the struggle that has defined America since its very inception. America, he knew, has always been defined by the aspiration for a better tomorrow, the drive to become a more perfect union.

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers
(Public Domain)

“If I had sneezed — If I had sneezed I wouldn’t have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been down in Selma, Alabama, to see the great Movement there.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been in Memphis to see a community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering.

I’m so happy that I didn’t sneeze.”

For all of his philosophical wisdom, King was, at his heart, a pragmatic man. He saw the complexity, the hate, the love, the anger, and the joy all woven into the fabric of his nation. He knew his goals were grander than one man, no matter his eloquence and empathy. He knew that the progress he helped usher in was delicate, and that the fight for our nation’s soul was far from over. King knew America would never be perfect… but importantly, he knew that it was in the effort, in the aspiration, that America’s true greatness had always, and will always, lie.

Related: GENERAL CHARLES “CQ” BROWN CONFIRMED AS AMERICA’S FIRST BLACK SERVICE CHIEF

In a way, it’s deeply tragic that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was able to look out over the crowd of supporters that had gathered on that April day in 1968 and know that he wouldn’t be there to see America embrace the equality he longed for… but King was a great American. Like our Founding Fathers, King knew that a society grows great when men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. Progress, like a tree, needs time to take root.

Today, our nation continues to struggle with some of the same issues it faced during King’s days of fighting for equality, as well as daunting new ones that stretch beyond the horizon. America has always been imperfect, but our greatness doesn’t lie in what we are. The real America has always been found in what we, its people, strive to become.

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”

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

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