Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, a Democratic candidate in the 2020 US presidential election, unveiled a plan to combat post-traumatic stress in the military and revealed he sought mental health services following his deployments to Iraq.
Moulton, a retired US Marine Corps infantry officer, deployed four times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He fought in two majorbattles in the Iraq War and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medal with accompanying “V” devices for valor.
“When I came back from Iraq I sought help for managing post-traumatic stress. I’m glad I did,” Moulton said in a tweet on May 28, 2019. “Today, I’m sharing my experience because I want people to know they’re not alone and they should feel empowered to get the treatment they need.”
His experience overseas led him to seek counseling at least once a week, Moulton said to POLITICO.
“I had some particular experiences or regrets from the war that I just thought about every day, and occasionally I’d have bad dreams or wake up in a cold sweat,” Moulton told the publication. “But because these experiences weren’t debilitating — I didn’t feel suicidal or completely withdrawn — it took me a while to appreciate that I was dealing with post-traumatic stress, and I was dealing with an experience that a lot of other veterans have.”
Congressman Seth Moulton speaking with JROTC students.
He continues to sees a counselor once a month for a routine check-up, and he said “there will always be regrets that I have.”
“But I got to a point where I could deal with them and manage them,” he continued in his interview with POLITICO. “It’s been a few years now since I’ve woken up in a cold sweat in bed from a bad dream or felt so withdrawn from my friends or whatever that I would just go home and go to bed because I miss being overseas with the Marines.”
Moulton’s proposal calls for a wide range of changes to diagnosing and treating service members’ mental health — including annual mental health check-ups for service members and veterans, “mandatory counseling” within the first two weeks of service members returning from combat, a program for families of veterans to recognizes symptoms, an exploration of alternative medicines like marijuana at Veterans Affairs hospitals, and the creation of a National Mental Health Crisis Hotline.
Rep. Seth Moulton Makes His Case for the White House
The plan comes amid record-high suicide rates amongst active-duty service members — over 320 service members died by suicide in 2018, according to Military.com. On average, 20 veterans and service members kill themselves each day, according to the latest data from the VA.
His plan also tackles mental health awareness for the general population, and would institute health screenings for high schoolers and education on healthy mental health habits.
“We’re aiming this week to highlight the effects of PTS in the lives of many veterans, including in [Rep. Moulton’s] own experience, and rolling out a plan to address PTS both for veterans and non-veterans alike,” a campaign spokesperson told INSIDER.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress, as well as best practices for professionals and resources to aid in prevention and crisis situations.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The British Ministry of Defence announced July 9 that it’s investing up to $160 million in testing, procuring, and fielding directed energy weapons for their three military branches, starting with tests on Royal Navy ships and Army vehicles by 2023. Directed energy weapons require serious juice from a generator or other power source but can inflict targeted damage without ammo.
Britain’s plans center on three demonstration weapons that use lasers or radio waves to damage enemy forces and equipment.
One is a British-designed weapon that earned a lot of attention. The Dragonfire laser weapon system packs a 50 kW laser that is a significant jump from the American 30 kW laser once deployed on the USS Ponce for training. (The American program aims to eventually support weapons up to 300 kW, and American researchers are part of the current U.K. effort.)
The lasers are primarily aimed at taking out drones, mortars, rockets, planes, and missiles that have already come close to the laser-armed vehicle or ship. Traditional interceptors like missiles will deal with targets further away.
(U.K. Ministry of Defence, Crown Copyright)
In addition to lasers, England will be testing radio frequency weapons that could disable target computers and electronics.
According to a Ministry of Defence press release, “The MOD also has over 30 years’ experience in Radio Frequency DEW, during which time the UK has become a world leader in developing new power generation technologies and a global hub for the performance testing and evaluation of these systems.”
Britain is creating and staffing a joint programme office to oversee this new effort, and they expect that the demonstrator weapons will be ready for broad fielding with 10 years.
“Laser and Radio Frequency technologies have the potential to revolutionise the battlefield by offering powerful and cost-effective weapons systems to our Armed Forces” said British Defence Secretary Penny Mourdant.
Every badass commando needs their own fighting knife. When the battle gets up-close and personal, all the rules are thrown out and it’s anything goes. When a suitable blade doesn’t exist, you get one made. On Nov. 4, 1940, John “Jack” Wilkinson-Latham, Charlie Rose, Lieutenant Colonel William Ewart “Dan” Fairbairn, and Major Eric Anthony “Bill” Sykes met at Wilkinson Sword Co. Ltd. to discuss the prospect of engineering a new combat fighting knife.
Each man brought desirable knowledge in practical concepts to the drawing board. Taking three decades of past experience as a peace officer and firearms instructor for the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP) in China, then the most violent cop-beat in the world, Fairbairn had the required intangibles to show up for a conversation. He was one of the original members of the world’s first Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) teams and had expertise in forensic ballistics. These bullet points in Fairbairn’s life were what allied clandestine units eyeballed. “I was in police work in the Orient for 30 years [1907-1940],” he said. “We had a tough crowd to deal with there so you had to be prepared to beat every trick in the book.”
Dermot O’Neill teaches combatives learned from his days as an SMP officer.
A bloody fight in an alleyway hospitalized Fairbairn after he was ambushed by goons from a Chinese separatist gang. Covered in bandages after being stabbed over a dozen times and left for dead, he awoke to notice a plaque on the wall that read: “Professor Okada, Jiu-Jitsu and Bone-setting.” He had an epiphany to use Jiu-Jitsu and combine it with other martial arts such as boxing, judo, and wrestling. He called it Defendu and used it to better protect his officers in these types of melees.
Sykes, a special sergeant attached to the sniper unit, was highly respected by Fairbairn. Together they tussled with street thugs in riots and patrolled among the political unrest across the red light districts. In just 12.5 years, they were present during more than 2,000 riots and fights, 666 of which were shootings. They deescalated 200 of them, a remarkable record considering that a mob can turn into a violent riot fairly quickly. This anomaly exposed them to real-world tactics shaped from classroom theory to results-driven practices. The skill to incapacitate called for a specific level of training because killing was the last resort.
From 1927 to 1940, Fairbairn made connections with the 4th Marine Regiment stationed in China; those from the “China Marines” were exposed to his methods in how to kill with a blade. These connections would prove to be effective down the road in his role with the implementation of unarmed combat within the U.S. military and select special operations units.
A commando concealing his F-S knife in a sheath on his calf.
After retiring from the SMP, the pair returned to the United Kingdom in 1940 and were approached by the Secret Intelligence Service’s (SIS) “Section D” (for destruction) to set up a combatives program for the newly formed Commandos and Special Operations Executive (SOE). Since their November 1940 meeting, it took Rose, the top development engineer at Wilkinson Sword Co. Ltd. Experimental Workshop, 10 days to work out the kinks in the “First Pattern” of the F-S knives. The expedited process ensured a batch of 1,500 daggers would reach schoolhouses across England.
“In modern warfare, the job is more drastic,” said Fairbairn. “You’re interested only in disabling or killing your enemy. That’s why I teach what I call ‘Gutter Fighting.’ There’s no fair play; no rules except one; kill or be killed.” Their nimble design had a long, thin 6.5- to 7-inch blade; the grip was made from solid brass, and the grip handguard was nickel-plated.
Designed for combat applications, the double-edged stiletto could be worn and concealed on the calf of a commando. Its usage was common in the ETO (European Theater of Operations) but saw action among members of SOE’s Force 136, including James Alexander E. MacPherson, who carried it in the Far East.
This lightweight model was then introduced to Lieutenant Colonel Rex Applegate, a counterintelligence officer assigned to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) instructor cadre. Known for his instruction on “Point Shooting” with handguns and a visionary in combat application, he traveled to the U.K. to witness the commandos training firsthand. He and Fairbairn inspected the field reports of the dagger’s effectiveness on body armor, conducted additional training, and met up with Fairbairn’s then-compatriot Sykes. While Sykes remained in the U.K. instructing his “Silent Killing” course, Fairbairn and him had a disagreement that is rumored to have hurt their relationship.
Applegate and Fairbairn returned to the West to introduce their methods to the Americans at Camp Ritchie, then later at the 275-acre farmland training grounds called STS-3 (Special Training School), or Camp X, in Oshawa, Canada. Camp X opened on Dec. 6, 1941, a day before the attacks on Pearl Harbor. It became an instrumental link between British and American special operations forces who cross-trained before going to war. They eventually made a knife of their own called the Applegate-Fairbairn fighting knife.
The Shanghai connection didn’t stop there. Irishman Dermot “Pat” O’Neill served amongst the SMP, following in his father’s footsteps. As he rose through the ranks, O’Neill earned a fourth dan black belt. His influence was feared — a SWAT cop mingling in the same gyms as Judo students who were trained as spies for the Kempeitai, the Japanese version of the Gestapo. Adding to the heat already upon him was rampant corruption in the SMP, including the chief of detective squad, Lu Liankui. He was a Green Gang boss and disciple of the Ji Yunquing, one of the eight leaders of the Big Eight Mob. O’Neill expected retribution and bailed onto a fishing boat for Sydney; he soon received a telegram from Fairbairn requesting his presence in the United States.
The Fairbairn-Sykes commando knife is present on many modern-day unit insignias, including the U.S. Army Special Forces.
(Open source graphic.)
O’Neill weaved his way to Camp X, where Fairbairn utilized his expertise teaching OSS officers. Here he taught students how to sneak up on sentries and eliminate them. He ran the students through real-world scenarios because shooting paper targets on a range and performing hand-to-hand combat drills on dummies wasn’t going to cut it in war. Fairbairn put students through “indoor mystery ranges” (the “shoot houses” or “kill houses” today’s special operations soldiers are familiar with).
“Under varying degrees of light, darkness, and shadows, plus the introduction of sound effects, moving objects, and various alarming surprises,” Fairbairn explained, “an opportunity is afforded to test the moral fiber of the student and to develop his courage and capacity for self control.” The students referred to these tests as the “House of Horrors” for its authenticity.
Fairbairn’s web of connections brought helped spread the Fairbairn-Sykes combat fighting knife around the world, and it has a lineage in many different historical units. When O’Neill left the OSS, he later joined Lt. Col. Robert Frederick’s First Special Service Force (FSSF), commonly referred to as the Devil’s Brigade. The joint U.S.-Canada team learned quickly that O’Neill wasn’t there to teach them how to incapacitate an enemy — he was there to teach them how to kill.
Frederick developed his own knife called the V-42 stiletto. Inspired by the Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife, Frederick issued his “Cross Dagger” to his commandos. Today, the lineage can be seen in the insignia of the British Special Air Service (SAS), Royal Marines, U.S. Army Special Forces, U.S. Army Rangers, Dutch Commando Corps, and the Australian 2nd Commando Regiment.
Retired General David Petraeus shared lessons learned from over fifteen years of combatting terrorists and extremists in the Middle East and Afghanistan at a forum Sept. 13.
The takeaway: even with all the US’s military’s capabilities, you can’t “drone strike your way out of a problem.”
Speaking at the Intelligence Squared US debate at New York University with the Council on Foreign Relations’ Max Boot, Petraeus — who commanded US and NATO troops in Afghanistan and served as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency under former President Barack Obama — discussed what he views as the five lessons the US should have learned from combatting Islamic extremism.
First, Petraeus said that “ungoverned spaces” in the Muslim world will be exploited by extremists. Second, Petraeus said you need to do something about it, because “Las Vegas rules don’t apply.”
“What happens there does not stay there,” Petraeus added.
Third, the US must lead the charge, Petraeus said, because the US has the assets and the expertise that is “proving revolutionary” even as the military has let other countries’ troops — like the Iraqi and Afghan armies — take the lead on the front lines.
“We are advising and assisting others, and enabling with this armada of unmanned aerial vehicles that a bunch of commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan and I very much sought more of,” Petraeus said, adding that it’s not just the hardware that gives the US an edge, but the manpower and technical knowledge of the people that deploy and operate it.
Fourth, Petraeus said, there’s a clear paradox at play when combating extremist movements — like the Islamic State or al-Qaeda — that are explicitly linked to ideology.
“You cannot counter terrorists like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda with just counterterrorist force operations,” Petraeus said. “You can’t just drone strike or Delta Force raid your way out of this problem. It takes a comprehensive approach.”
The comprehensive approach Petraeus advocated involves not only targeted raids and drone strikes, but a coordinated effort among military, diplomatic, and intelligence channels to change “hearts and minds,” impose the “rule of law,” and work towards reconciliation between opposing sides.
And fifth, Petraeus said, is understanding that these conflicts are “generational struggles,” and they’re not going to be solved in a year, or even a decade.
“It’s going to require a sustained commitment,” Petraeus said. “And in view of that, it has to be a sustainable sustained commitment.”
After Boot asked whether President Donald Trump’s administration was up to the task, Petraeus parried that the “generals” within the White House are highly experienced.
Specifically referring to H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, and Ricky Waddell, McMaster’s deputy, Petraeus said they understand the complexities of prosecuting the war against Islamic extremists.
“These generals know that every problem out there is not a nail, and you just can’t find a bigger hammer,” Petraeus said. “In fact, you generally need a stiletto.”
Petraeus did say that the state of the US’s diplomatic corps — with many crucial positions at the State Department still unfilled, or with acting leaders — is “definitely a big concern,” adding that it “carries much more weight” to have the Senate confirm people to those positions.
The U.S. Navy may have come across a common sense way to save billions on bombs, according to statements made from U.S. officials at the AFCEA West 2017 conference.
For years now, the Navy has been working on the Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) network to help detect, track, and intercept targets using a fused network of all types of sensors at the Navy’s disposal.
Essentially, NIFC-CA allows one platform to detect a target, another platform to fire on it, and the original platform to help guide the missile to the target. The system recently integrated with F-35s, allowing an F-35 to guide a missile fired from a land-based version of a navy ship to hitting a target.
Remarks from Cmdr. David Snee, director for integration and interoperability at the warfare integration directorate, recently revealed that NIFC-CA could also help save the Navy billions on bombs.
“Right now we’re in a world where if I can’t see beyond the horizon then I need to build in that sort of sensing and high-tech effort into the weapon itself,” Snee told conference attendees, as noted by USNI News.
“But in a world where I can see beyond the horizon and I can target, then I don’t need to spend a billion dollars on a weapon that doesn’t need to have all that information. I just need to be able to give the data to the weapon at the appropriate time.”
According to Snee, with an integrated network of sensors allowing the Navy to see beyond the horizon, the costly sensors and guidance systems the U.S. puts on nearly every single bomb dropped could become obsolete.
Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Shirley Shugar, from Joppa, Ala., takes inventory of ordnance in the bomb farm aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Nicholas A. Groesch)
In the scenario described by Snee, today’s guided or “smart bombs” could be replaced with bombs that simply receive targeting info from other sensors, like F-35s or E-2 Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft.
Essentially, the “smart” part of the weapon’s guidance would remain on the ship, plane, or other sensor node that fired them, instead of living on the missile and being destroyed with each blast.
The Navy would have to do extensive testing to make sure the bombs could do their job with minimal sensor technology. But the move could potentially save billions, as the U.S. military dropped at least 26,000 bombs in 2016, the vast majority of which contained expensive sensors.
For the entirety of his Marine Corps career, Donnie Dunagan feared his fellow Marines discovering his pre-Corps life. The last thing he wanted was to be known forever as “Major Bambi.” It was a nightmare he’d harbored for 21 years of Marine Corps service – and it almost came out just weeks before retirement.
Donnie Dunagan as a Marine Corps officer in 1974.
Dunagan was a Marine recruiter’s dream – except he was never recruited. He was drafted into the Corps in 1952, which certainly made his life interesting, but it was already interesting. As a young child, Dunagan’s family struggled with poverty in Tennessee. After young Dunagan won 0 in a talent competition, the family moved to Hollywood where he became something of a child star. His last role was as the voice of Disney’s beloved baby fawn, the title role of Bambi.
His Hollywood past was a sharp contrast to his teen years. He earned money as a lathe operator in a boardinghouse before being drafted into the Marine Corps. But he took to the life of a Marine. He was promoted 13 times in his 21 years, which was a record at the time. He was also the youngest drill instructor to ever don the campaign hat. All the while, he harbored a secret he was desperate to keep from his fellow Marines.
This f*cking adorable secret could have wrecked him.
He fought three tours in Vietnam and over the years earned a promotion to Major along with a Bronze Star and three Purple hearts. A few weeks before he was set to retire from the Corps, secret intact, he was called into his CO’s office. The CO wanted him to “audit the auditors” – and When the Major asked when he would ever have the time to do what his commander asked, the CO patted a big red folder and said:
“You will audit the auditors. Won’t you, Maj. Bambi?”
His secret finally caught up to him.
Things like this don’t just go away when you’re a Marine.
“I have some holes in my body that God didn’t put there. I got shot through my left knee. Got an award or two for saving lives over time,” Dunagan told StoryCorps. “But I think I could have been appointed as the aide-de-camp in the White House, it wouldn’t make any difference — it’s Bambi that’s so dear to people.”
Great aircraft and vehicles aren’t very useful without somewhere to park them, and troops need good cover to keep them safe from attacks. So, for all the innovations coming out of DARPA and the weapons being developed by the military, it’s the humble Hesco barrier that became an icon of security in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The barriers are a staple of deployed-life where they formed many of the outer perimeters and interior walls for NATO installations.
Originally invented by a former British miner to shore up loose earth in his backyard, the Hesco was first used for military defense in the Gulf War. The basic Hesco design is a wire mesh crate with fabric liner that can be folded flat for storage and transportation. To deploy them, engineers simply open them up and fill them with dirt and rocks. When they want to get fancy about a permanent wall, they can then apply a concrete slurry to the sides and top to seal them.
Even without a slurry added, the walls provided impressive protection. A group of engineers in Afghanistan in 2005 had a limited space to build their wall and so modified the barriers to be thinner. They then tested the modified version against static explosives, RPGs, and 40mm grenades. This thinner version was heavily damaged but still standing at the end of the test. In the video below, go to the 0:45 mark to skip straight to the tests.
Hescos even provide concealment from the enemy while troops are putting them in.
The famous Restrepo Outpost was constructed by soldiers who slipped up to a summit they needed to capture at night and began building fortifications around themselves. They dug shallow trenches for immediate cover and then began to fill Hescos with dirt and rocks for greater protection. When the enemy fired on them to stop construction, some troops would fire back while others would get down and keep pitching rocks into the barriers.
Though the original Hesco were great, the company still updates the design. When the military complained that breaking down Hesco walls took too long, the company created a recoverable design with a removable pin that would allow the dirt to fall out. Later, they developed an apparatus that could be attached to a crane to remove multiple units at once.
To rapidly build new perimeter walls like those needed to expand Bagram Airfield as the NATO footprint grew, a trailer was developed that could deploy the barriers in a long line. Each trailer can deploy a barrier wall over 1,000 feet long.
The barriers were so popular with troops that multiple people named animalsrescued from Afghanistan after them.
The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron started flying into Hurricane Michael Oct. 7, 2018, and over the next four days observed it intensify from a possible tropical depression to a Category 4 storm, which made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 10, 2018.
“This storm started out as a low level investigation with the possibility of it reaching tropical storm status by the end of the first flight,” said Col. Robert J. Stanton, 403rd Wing vice commander and navigator who was on the mission. “We had a challenge on the first entry into the storm trying to find the center because the eye of this storm was oval shaped and roughly 30 to 40 miles long.”
Stanton said that during the next two passes into the eye, they were getting better readings because the storm was developing throughout the course of their mission.
The track was predicted to hit the Florida Panhandle from the start. It was named Michael Oct. 7, 2018, and was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane by Oct. 8, 2018.
“Michael was different than others, because the track pretty much stayed the same from day one,” said Capt. Kelsie Carpenter, 53rd WRS aerial reconnaissance weather officer, who flew into the storm on Oct. 9, 2018. “We sent the data to the National Hurricane Center and watched it go from a Category 1 to a Category 2 storm while we were fixing the center and it appeared to be intensifying.”
The 53rd WRS “Hurricane Hunters” were inside the storm as it made landfall in Florida as a Category 4.
Hurricane Michael on Oct. 10, 2018, after the storm made landfall as a category 4 hurricane over the Florida panhandle.
The 53rd WRS is the only Defense Department unit that flies reconnaissance missions into severe tropical weather during the hurricane season, June 1 through Nov. 30, to gather data for the National Hurricane Center to improve their forecasts and storm warnings. In all, the squadron flew nine missions into Hurricane Michael to gather this information.
While the model forecasts have improved for tracking, Maj. Jeremy DeHart, 53rd WRS ARWO, said intensity forecasts are tricky to predict.
“Data from our drop today indicated that it continued to strengthen right up to landfall,” said DeHart. “Our last dropsonde measured a central pressure of 919 millibars, which was lower than both Katrina and Andrew.”
“This was such a powerful storm for building up in the Gulf of Mexico. It doesn’t happen often that you see a storm increasing intensity while making landfall,” said Lt. Col. Sean Cross, 53rd WRS pilot.
While inside the eye, the crew could see the storm surge hitting the coastline of Florida, said Cross.
“The eyewall also looked different than others I have flown because it was like we were inside an 18-mile-wide barrel or drum, with the eyewall going straight up and down,” he said.
Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle with 150 mph winds near Mexico Beach, causing massive damage.
“After our experience here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Katrina we understand how difficult it is to experience and recover from a devastating storm,” said Stanton. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who are being impacted by Hurricane Michael today.”
An American detainee wearing an orange jumpsuit with his hands bound resists questions from a sadistic, faceless interrogator. Faced with repeated torture and more questions, it’s only a matter of time before he cracks.
The scene is from a short film called “Prisoner of War,” released on Veterans Day 2015, and it shows the internal struggle that some combat veterans face after they take off the uniform.
“This is an emotionally charged short film that will leave a lot of people speechless,” Executive Producer Marty Skovlund, Jr. told The Havok Journal. “Thanks to the exceptional performance that Josh [Kelly] put on, as well as the creative genius of both director Matt Sanders and the director of photography Chris Koser, we have something here that will send shockwaves through the audience.”
ISIS fighters brutally committed a campaign of forced conversion and genocide against the Yazidi religious minority. After overrunning a Yazidi village, ISIS killed the men and took able-bodied women and girls as sex slaves. When one Yazidi slave gave birth, she was not permitted to feed her newborn son, according to Fox News. When the baby cried, the woman’s ISIS master beheaded him.
Xate Shingali shows other Yazidi women how to handle firearms during a display for visiting CNN journalists. Screenshot: YouTube/Hiwa Marko
Some Yazidi women want to punish ISIS for what they did to their people. Xate Shingali, a 30-year-old folk singer, leads the Sun Brigade. The Sun Brigade is part of the Women’s Protection Unit, abbreviated as the YPJ, an all-female branch of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units.
Many volunteers have friends and relatives kidnapped by ISIS. One of the unit members told CNN, “We are Yazidi. We are women. And we will destroy you and anyone who touches our women and dirties our lands.
The Yazidi women share the sentiment of the Kurdish women. CNN interviewed a 21-year-old Kurdish YPJ commander, known as Tehelden – the Kurdish word for ‘revenge.’ ‘They believe if someone from Daesh [IS] is killed by a girl, they won’t go to heaven. They’re afraid of girls.’
The United States says it is halting deliveries to Turkey related to the F-35 fighter-jet program in response to Ankara’s decision to move ahead with the purchase of Russian air-defense system.
“Pending an unequivocal Turkish decision to forgo delivery of the S-400, deliveries and activities associated with the stand-up of Turkey’s F-35 operational capability have been suspended while our dialogue on this important matter continues with Turkey,” a Pentagon spokesperson said on April 1, 2019.
Washington has been warning Ankara for months that buying the S-400 system would jeopardize its planned purchase of the advanced fighter aircraft.
Turkey has said it is committed to a deal to buy S-400 missile-defense systems from Russia.
Team Red, White Blue’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. This effort is focused on bridging the civilian-military divide through a shared interest in physical activity like running, hiking, CrossFit workouts, and yoga classes, along with participating in social and service-oriented events. Spread across 199 chapters all over the world, the 110,000-member veteran’s group established in 2010 is geared toward creating a place for former servicemembers to meet and do a little PT — and invite their friends and family along to join them.
But while having lots of members and a host of chapters across the country is a great thing for a young veteran service organization, there’s a challenge in keeping it all connected. That’s why Executive Director Blayne Smith and his colleagues decided to link up with Team Red, White Blue’s various members with a little run among friends.
And what if this little run wasn’t so little? What if it spread across the entire country?
“We really wanted this to be a unifying event for the organization and to demonstrate the power and the inspiration that comes with a community of veterans working on an epic undertaking together,” Smith said. “We figured if we could run a single American flag averaging 60 miles a day … that would be a demonstration of the good that we could do together if we all worked together formed as a team and committed to a big goal.”
So in 2014, on a shoestring budget and with just a couple company reps doing most of the logistical legwork, the Old Glory Relay was born. Now spanning 4,216 miles and involving upwards of 1,300 runners and cyclists, the 2016 Old Glory Relay will see an American flag passed between participants — including veterans and their supporters — down the West Coast, across the desert Southwest, through the Deep South, and ending in Tampa, Florida, after 62 days culminating in a Ruck March on Veterans Day.
“For this year we decided to go even bigger. It’s a bit more ambitious, it’s a longer route but more members and more chapters will get to participate,” Smith said. “There’s something really powerful about running a few miles carrying an American flag. It’s really invigorating to run with it and hand it off to the next person knowing you’ve done your part to get it across the country.”
With the support of the presenting sponsor, Microsoft, along with other partners, Amazon, Westfield and Starbucks, the race began at the Space Needle in Seattle on Sept. 11. The relay will be following a route through Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles through the end of the month. The relay then turns east, through Phoenix, Tucson and San Antonio before crossing the South through the Florida Panhandle to Tampa.
Team Red, White Blue has done a ton of legwork to prepare for the relay, mobilizing local chapters to help carry the flag and get their communities energized to cheer runners along. Smith said school kids, local police and fire stations and residents along the way all turn out to motivate the runners and keep the relay going. And while the event is geared toward unifying the chapters and its members in a good cause, it’s the spirit of shared sacrifice and appreciation for the men in women who served in uniform that really makes the Old Glory Relay special.
“This is what happens when you slow people down enough to move on foot through a town with an American flag and see what happens. All those human connections start to happen,” Smith said. “America is a beautiful place. But the most beautiful terrain in America is the human terrain, and you don’t see it if you don’t slow down. And that’s what this is all about.”
You can support Team Red, White Blue and the Old Glory Relay by following the Old Glory Relay website, sharing your own photos and videos with the hashtag #OldGloryRelay, and by tracking Old Glory via the “OGR Live” webpage for up-to-the-minute information on the runners’ and cyclists’ status.