Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look - We Are The Mighty
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Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look

Memorial Day is a time to remember the lives lost to preserve American freedom. It’s a solemn holiday most often spent by sharing a day off with loved ones, usually around a grill with a cold one in your hand. But as you enjoy a burger and a beer and share laughs with friends and family, take a minute to remember everyone who can’t be with their loved ones.


It’s really astonishing just how many people celebrate Memorial Day in America by having a cookout, watching a parade, and enjoying a frosty beverage. In fact, a staggering sixty percent of American households will spend one day during the Memorial-Day weekend at a barbecue — second only to Independence Day. Memorial Day is the second biggest period for beer sales in America and $1.5 billion will be spent on meat and seafood.

Even more astonishing is the number of volunteers that go out to cemeteries to plant the Stars and Stripes on the graves of fallen troops and veterans. While 1.5 million people watch more than a thousand active duty service members in the National Memorial Day Parade and 900,000 people gather for the Rolling Thunder Memorial Day motorcycle rally in our nation’s capital, over 260,000 graves at Arlington National Cemetery will be adorned with flags by volunteers.

More than 45 million men and women have served the United States in a time of war (you know, doing that thing we all got our National Defense Service Medal for) and more than 1.35 million American men and women have died fighting in armed conflicts around the globe. So, with all these numbers in your head, remember that the most important of all is “three.” At 3:00 p.m. on Memorial Day, Americans everywhere will put down the burger, turn off the TV, and take a moment in silence.

The National Moment of Remembrance is where we forget our personal and political differences for and come together as a nation to remember those who lost their lives fighting for our rights, freedoms, and privileges as Americans — so we can enjoy that burger, watch that TV, and ride our motorcycles.

So, take a moment. 3pm, Memorial Day. Be there.

Here are a few more interesting numbers surrounding Memorial Day.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This program uses equine therapy to address veteran suicide

To shed light on the epidemic of veteran suicide, BraveHearts — the nation’s leading equine rehabilitation program for veterans — started its first of three Trail to Zero rides Sept. 7, 2019 in northern Virginia.

The 20-mile ride in each city commemorates the number of veterans lives lost on average each day. The ride educates people on equine-assisted services benefits and healing effects.

Army veteran Tim Detert was one of the Trail to Zero riders. Detert served from 2005-2010 with the 82nd Airborne, deploying to Iraq twice for 18-month and 13-month tours. Following his service, Detert said he started suffering from depression and anxiety, turning to alcohol and opiates. Four friends ended their lives. After a suicidal spell, a friend recommended equine therapy to him.


“It’s completely turned around my life,” said Detert, who has been sober two years. “It’s given me a lot of hope and joy. I was so depressed and down before I came to this program. I was just looking for something and I hadn’t found it until I started working with the horses.”

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look

Army Veteran Mitchell Hedlund, one of the Trail to Zero riders, served in Afghanistan in 2011-2012 and now uses equine therapy.

The BraveHearts president and chief operating officer said she’s seen veterans greatly improve their well being through equine therapy.

“I can’t even tell you now how many times I’ve heard veterans tell me personally that they wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the horses,” said Meggan Hill-McQueeney. “They find peace with the horses, they find hope with the horses, and they find purpose with the horses. Alternative therapies like equine therapies are tremendous opportunities.”

Equine programs

Currently, 64 VA medical centers across the country participate in therapeutic riding programs. These programs use equine assisted therapeutic activities recreationally to promote healing and rehabilitation of veterans for a variety of physical disabilities and medical conditions, said Recreation Therapy Service National Program Director Dave Otto. These include traumatic brain injury/polytrauma, blind rehabilitation, other physical impairments, post-traumatic stress disorders and other mental health disorders.

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look

Children on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall talk to a BraveHearts rider Sept. 7, 2019, during the Trail to Zero ride.

Additionally, VA awards adaptive sports grants annually for organizations and groups that provide adaptive sports opportunities for veterans with disabilities, Otto said. These grant recipients also partner with VA facilities within their region to coordinate such adaptive sports opportunities for Veterans. During fiscal year 2018, VA awarded nearly id=”listicle-2640279831″ million to 12 grant recipients providing equine assisted therapy to Veterans with mental health issues. VA will award up to id=”listicle-2640279831″.5 million of these grants in fiscal year 2019.

BraveHearts is the largest Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) program in the country and serves veterans at no cost to veterans. The program offers equine services to provide emotional, cognitive, social and physical benefits. Veterans at BraveHearts have reported increased self-esteem, self-worth, trust for others, community integration, and decreased depression, anxiety, post traumatic disorder symptoms and self-inflicting thoughts.

In addition to the Sept. 7, 2019 ride, Trail to Zero plans rides for Sept. 14, 2019, in New York City and Sept. 28, 2019, in Chicago.

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

Articles

Wounded Warrior Project reportedly accused of wasting donor money

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look
Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden | U.S. Army


The charity for wounded veterans, the Wounded Warrior Project, is facing accusations of using donor money toward excessive spending on conferences and parties instead of on recovery programs, according to a CBS News report.

Army Staff Sergeant Erick Millette, who returned from Iraq in 2006 with a bronze star and a purple heart, told CBS News he admired the charity’s work and took a job with the group in 2014 but quit after two years.

“Their mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors, but what the public doesn’t see is how they spend their money,” he told CBS News.

Millette said he witnessed lavish spending on staff, with big “catered” parties.

“Going to a nice fancy restaurant is not team building. Staying at a lavish hotel at the beach here in Jacksonville, and requiring staff that lives in the area to stay at the hotel is not team building,” he told CBS News.

According to the charity’s tax forms obtained by CBS News, spending on conferences and meetings went from $1.7 million in 2010 to $26 million in 2014, which is the same amount the group spends on combat stress recovery.

Two former employees, who were so fearful of retaliation they asked that CBS News not show their faces on camera, said spending has skyrocketed since Steven Nardizzi took over as CEO in 2009, pointing to the 2014 annual meeting at a luxury resort in Colorado Springs.

“He rappelled down the side of a building at one of the all hands events. He’s come in on a Segway, he’s come in on a horse,” one employee told CBS News.

About 500 staff members attended the four-day conference in Colorado, which CBS News reported cost about $3 million.

Wounded Warrior Project declined CBS News’ interview requests for Nardizzi, but instead sent Director of Alumni and a recipient of their services, Captain Ryan Kules, who denied there was excessive spending on conferences.

“It’s the best use of donor dollars to ensure we are providing programs and services to our warriors and families at the highest quality,” he said.

Kules added the charity did not spend $3 million on the Colorado conference, but he was not there and was unable to say what it did cost. He also told CBS News that the charity does not spend money on alcohol or engage in any other kind of excessive spending.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marine ‘Hero of Nasiriyah’ is retiring

While the saga of Private First Class Jessica Lynch, a soldier assigned to the 507th Maintenance Company who was captured by Saddam’s forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom, is well known, the incredibly heroic story of the attempt to rescue that unit isn’t. Now, the brave Marine behind that rescue attempt is retiring.

According to a report by the Marine Corps Times, Sergeant Major Justin LeHew is set to retire after 30 years of service in the Marine Corps. His most recent assignment has been with the Wounded Warrior Battalion — East, based out of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

LeHew became a legend while serving as a platoon sergeant with Company A, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, Task Force Tarawa during the initial stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom. When the chain of command learned about the dire situation the 507th Maintenance Company was in, they sent LeHew’s unit to try to rescue the soldiers.


According to his Navy Cross citation, when they arrived on the scene, LeHew helped his Marines evacuate four soldiers from the beleaguered maintenance unit. Then, an intense, three-hour-long firefight broke out. When an AAV-7 was destroyed, LeHew sprang into action.

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look

One of the AAV-7s destroyed in the Battle of Nasiriyah. Justin LeHew earned the Navy Cross for heroism in retrieving dead and wounded Marines from a similar vehicle.

(USMC photo by Master Sergeant Edward D. Kniery)

According to a release by the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, he made multiple 70-yard sprints to the destroyed vehicle, retrieving nine dead and wounded Marines, picking body parts out from the wreckage — all while under fire from the enemy.

He received the Navy Cross for his actions while on another deployment to Iraq with C Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. Around the time he was awarded the Navy Cross, he would again distinguish himself in combat — this time in Najaf. During a battle against insurgents, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire, helping, once again, to evacuate the wounded, including taking one Marine with a sucking chest wound straight to a forward operating base. For his actions, he received the Bronze Star with the Combat Distinguishing Device in 2005.

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look

After his second tour in Iraq, LeHew held a number of senior leadership positions.

(USMC photo)

Since then, LeHew has held a number of senior NCO assignments. LeHew has also an obstacle in the Crucible named in his honor. In the opinion of this writer, LeHew also makes the short list of people who deserve having a ship named after them.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These armored M1s were nothing like the Abrams

The M1 Abrams tank is arguably the best in the world — there are many reasons why it dominates the battlefield. But it’s not the only vehicle to have been called the “M1.” Prior to World War II, there were two other M1s in service, and neither were anything like the Abrams. In fact, these vehicles were downright puny. That being said, these little vehicles were important in their own way.


It might not seem like the greatest lot in life, but some people leave a legacy of being an example of what not to do. That also apply to tanks and other armored vehicles — see the Soviet-era T-72 for a prime example of this, both in terms of design and operational experience. This was also the case with America’s earliest M1s.

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look

The M1 armored car was so bad, America only bought a dozen.

(US Army)

The first of these vehicles was the M1 armored car. Looking at it, this vehicle lacked intimidation factor. It was best described as a funky-looking 1930s car with a turret that housed an M2 .50 caliber machine gun with two additional .30 caliber machine guns. Only about a dozen of these were built.

The vehicle only powered the rear four wheels. Even though it packed two spares, the biggest problem with this armored car was its off-road performance. As it turns out, all-wheel drive is necessary when not exclusively travelling on paved roads.

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look

Civil War veterans inspect a M1 “combat car” at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York.

(DOD)

The other M1 was the M1 “combat car.” This ‘car’ was, in reality, much closer to a light tank, but there was a specific reason for the semantics. In the years between World Wars, cavalry was prohibited from operating tanks. So, instead, they created an “armored car” with a tank’s armaments: one M2 .50-caliber machine gun and one .30-caliber machine gun. A grand total of 113 M1s were purchased, and it hung around until 1943.

Neither of these M1s saw any combat — which was a good thing for their four-man crews. Still, these vehicles, made major contributions to the war effort by teaching America what was needed to create a truly modern armored force.

Learn more about these vehicles — and see how far armored vehicles have come in terms of design — in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3snjE5Ss1e0

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How to invest in your community and the veterans that will rebuild it this Christmas

‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.


For yourself and everybody else:

~ the gift of renewed purpose and civil service deployed where it’s needed ~

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look

 

The promotional media that The Mission Continues posts on its website and social media repeatedly puts the full weight of modern digital video production behind an idea that strikes us as so self-evident, so perfect and air tight, we’re left wondering who it is rattling around out there who needs convincing?

In the words of Army vet and Mission Continues volunteer, Bradford Parker:

“Every veteran, no matter who you are, everyone gets that moment when they get out when they’re like, oh man, I should re-enlist. This is what you’re missing from the military and this is where you’re gonna get it.”

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look
The Mission Continues in Orlando.

Vets come home from service and are struck by the demands of a civilian life that seems both isolating and bereft of greater purpose.

Meanwhile, communities all over the country are sorely in need of highly skilled volunteers with honed leadership experience to spearhead the betterment of their living situations.

This is a match made in heaven, an easy pairing. But as these things tend to go, it required someone to come along, recognize the potential, and make a dancefloor introduction. Spencer Kympton, former Army Captain and founder of the organization, would probably step in here and assure us that it took a little more than that to get the whole thing humming. We’d certainly believe him, but it wouldn’t quash our enthusiasm for The Mission Continues one sand flea-sized bit.

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look
See? In this context, the log carry is…fun.

An organization whose mission positively serves both sides of the equation, veterans and community members, creates a very rare thing indeed, a common ground, a space in the middle where truly constructive work can be done. What other opportunities does civilian life present in which your hard won skills are so readily valued, in which the experience you bled for can be put to such grateful use?

Says Army vet Matt Landis:

“One of the things that I think the military does better than anyone else is get people to work together. From all different cultures, from all different walks of life–[if] you sweat and bleed together, you’re brothers.”

This Holiday Season, give yourself the gift of renewed purpose and give the gift of your time and effort wherever The Mission Continues would see you deployed.

The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.

Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of October 18th

As you may have heard already, the U.S. pulled out of Syria. Catch literally any other news agency for a hot take on that one. Me? I’d just like to point out the little things that also happened with that event. Namely, Russian troops immediately seized control of the compound the U.S. troops previously occupied.

The U.S. troops must have known something was up because they took the time to clear out literally every scrap of U.S. military hardware while not giving a single sh*t about their trash in the DFAC – much to the dismay of every DFAC NCO ever. Best of all, is the board with the Russian flag dong and other obscenities, mostly in Russian, sprawled across for the Ruskies to find.


All I’m saying is that I’m proud of you motherf*ckers is all. You’re doing Uncle Sam’s work. Anyways, here are some memes you glorious bastards.

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look

(Meme via ASMDSS)

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look

(Photo via Infantry Follow Me)

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look

(Meme via On The Minute Memes)

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look

(Meme via Call for Fire)

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look

(Meme via Not CID)

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look

(Meme via Private News Network)

Just for my own personal reasons, which post of mine was the final straw? Just curious…

Funny how “Ride or Die” just went until “we had a minor disagreement over something stupid.”

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look

(Meme via Thank You for My Service)

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

MIGHTY CULTURE

No, you don’t need to shave your beard to prevent coronavirus

All around the world, countless men may suddenly believe they just got a free pass to bring back the Burt Reynolds stache or the Sugar Ray/Smash Mouth soul patch. Shaving-off our full beards and replacing those with smaller, more compact facial hair will help halt the spread of coronavirus, right? Wrong. A widely circulated infographic from the CDC is not about preventing coronavirus, and, has nothing to do with the effectiveness of conventional face masks. Here’s what’s really going on.


This week, the internet exploded when a 2017 CDC infographic started making the rounds. Naturally, because the infographic resurfaced around the same time that the CDC sent out very real warnings about how to prepare for the coronavirus, unsuspecting readers of the internet linked the two things. But, the truth is, this 2017 infographic is about using a respirator with facial hair, not a conventional face mask. (Which, by the way, if you aren’t sick, you don’t need anyway.) If you look closely at the graphic (after you look at all the different names for beards) you’ll notice in the fine print this was created in conjunction with OSHA, and is in fact, from 2017. (2017 is even in filename of the PDF when you go download it!)

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look

In fact, in its FAQ about the coronavirus, the CDC statement is: “the CDC does not recommend the routine use of respirators outside of workplace settings.”

So, get excited about this funny 2017 infographic all you want. Just maybe remember it was created by the CDC for workplaces in which employees routinely use actual respirators on a day-to-day basis. It literally has nothing to do with coronavirus or how you put a surgical mask on your face. A surgical mask, by definition, does not need the face seal that this infographic is talking about. Only respirators require that seal. If you shave and put on a respirator, and you’re not sick and don’t need a respirator at your job, you’re just doing some Breaking Bad cosplay. Which, fair enough!

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look

So, if you feel so moved, widdle your full beard down to a Van Dyke or soul patch, go for it! Just don’t expect us to start singing “I Just Want To Fly” again. And, certainly don’t congratulate yourself for saving the world.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Are you born a warrior? Is it learned? A Delta Force Perspective

It is my staunch belief that warriors are born and not created. In the case of either you can trace back through your past to your first ever action that made you realize — though not likely back then at the time — that you were destined to take the warrior’s or the leader’s path through life.


I came up through Army infantry at 19 years old gravely afraid of heights, a condition that kept me from becoming a paratrooper, the gateway training to the elite forces. After two years in the infantry, I was ready to jump even without a parachute if that was what it took to get me out of that horror show.

I made it into the Green Berets only to be met with great disappointment, as in those years between wars I felt we were more of an in-case-of-war-break-glass unit with peacetime ambition and an equally disappointing budget. The thought of going to war with my Green Beret A-Team scared me to the extent that I ran arms-flailing to the Delta Force, where I immediately faded into anonymity by a sea of raw talent and sheer badassery. I was home.

But even after arriving at the unit, which requires one of the toughest selections on the planet, I came to realize that the essence of my warrior spirit had been with me all along. I can finally go back to the very early days of my own basic army training and identify an event that has stayed with me for so many years. Finally, I think I understand what it meant and why the simple memory has remained close to my heart for so many decades.

Search as I have for hints of warrior potential during my coming of military status in basic training, I’m put finally in mind of a trivial incident that remains to impress me still today. I have thought of it often in attempts to make sense of it. Since it is mine, I shall own the interpretation.

It was during my own Infantry Basic Training in Sand Hill Georgia, where my platoon and I were waiting in the pine woods for a couple of hours between training events. At times like those, there was nothing to do but notice and complain about how hot it was, and it was plenty hot.

We boys huddled under the shade of an awning in our steel helmets. In that year I learned that shade was indeed only a state of mind, and had little physical impact on the Georgia swelter; where a boundary blocked the direct sun’s rays, the humidity served to usher the heat around obstacles, presenting it to who would cower. “We” huddle and bitched and complained and moaned, making it all the worse. I quickly grew annoyed with the negative attitude of the group to the extent that I, but for slight, sniped at them verbally.

The “group” — my group: the hayseed from under the Bible Belt who spoke maybe just a little too fondly of his female cousin, the guy who came in for college; he already had one semester and constantly wanted everyone to know that by saying things like: “Yeah, but that doesn’t detract from or minimize the context of what I’m saying,” the fellow who was given the choice by a judge of either the Army or jail, the black man whose dad and grandad were both in the Army before him, the white dude who felt a patriotic debt to the country but really had no clue what that meant, the Chicano who wanted something different out of life… anything other than what he was living at the time.

And then there was — OMG! — that Asian fellow who during a group debate on race and equality announced to the group: “If there is a man here who can sh*t with his pants on, let him stand now and show it!” As God as my witness, he did say that. I resigned to the notion that he was trying for something along the lines of “We all put on our trousers one leg at a time.”

I suffered too from the heat, but the urge to bellow seemed so futile, only adding to the misery. Knowing no better, I decided to remove myself from the crowd, so I stood and stepped some fifty feet away in direct view of the blazing sun. There I squatted in the muddy sand and hung my head and thought:

“The heat is bad, but it’s better than being in the shade with the pity patrol. Bad means there is a worse; there is even a worse than this… somewhere. This too is bearable. All things, no matter the intensity, are always bearable. Here, I’m setting an example for all my platoon — see me here, guys? It’s not so bad!”

Indeed remarks wafted over:

“What the hell’s the idiot doing?”

“He can’t last out there like that.”

“Someone needs to go get him; he’s delirious, he is.”

“Yeah, holy crap, man!”

You see, now no longer were they absconded in their own misery; they were submersed in mine. I had taken their suffering away, even if for this brief bout of minutes. “I complained because I had no shoes, and then I saw a man who had no feet.” Bad begets worse, and even worse is tolerable.

I think by wanting to be alone I had only drawn attention to myself… but it was done, and now I would give them a show. This is how we deal with the pain. This is how we stand up and take it… how we shake it off and defy it! This is how a much grander force within us makes a thing like the Georgia swelter such an insignificant trifle — “pour it on, Blythe! Fire your weapon!”

From the nose of my drooped head, beads of sweat were queued up and falling in serial. I decided that I would count off 100 of them before I went back to the shade. When 100 beads had fallen, I decided that I would let yet another 100 fall before I relented… then another 100, followed by another then another concatenation of 100.

After 500 had fallen, I stood and removed my helmet. I shook my face wildly, like a dog shakes off pool water upon exit. I wiped my face with my sleeves as I trudged back to the shade and the group. I remarked as I squatted back down:

“Yep… it’s a real scorcher out there today, brothers.”

And there was nothing but silence and a man who reached out his canteen my way, which I graciously declined.

Sometimes we imagine the Earth was gifted with us, to just be us, our mystical, magical, wonderful selves. Other times we might wonder if the planet might get along just swimmingly without us. Ask ten people if they “march to the beat of a different drum,” and you will get ten affirmative answers every time. Now watch when the different drumsticks start their cadence how many stand, step out, and march… and keep marching until 500 beads of their sweat have rolled from their nose and hit the ground.

As I have searched and debated over the years to answer the question are warriors born or made, I often think back to the quote from Heraclitus nearly 2,000 years ago,

“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.” (Heraclitus c. 535 – c. 475 BCE)

Articles

Congress wants to make it easier to fire bad VA employees

Congressional Republicans and Democrats have reached agreement on a bill to make it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire its employees, part of an accountability effort touted by President Donald Trump.


The deal being announced May 11 could smooth the way for final passage on an issue that had been largely stalled since the 2014 wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center. As many as 40 veterans died while waiting months for appointments as VA employees created secret waiting lists and other falsehoods to cover up delays.

The Hill deal followed a fresh warning from the VA inspector general’s office of continuing patient safety problems at another facility, the VA medical center in Washington D.C. After warning of serious problems there last month, the IG’s “rapid response” team visited the facility again on Wednesday and found a patient prepped for vascular surgery in an operating room, under anesthesia, whose surgery was postponed because “the surgeon did not have a particular sterile instrument necessary to perform the surgery.”

The team also found “surgical instruments that had color stains of unknown origin in sterile packs,” according to the IG’s letter sent Wednesday to the VA. The IG again urged the department to take immediate action to ensure patients “are not placed at unnecessary risk.”

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look
Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the Honorable David J. Shulkin, visits the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, April 27. Shulkin, who visited the medical center for the first time, spoke with various providers throughout the facilities to learn about the medical care given at the hospital. (Photo by Megan Garcia, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Command Communications)

The new accountability measure, led by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., softens portions of a bill that had passed the House in March, which Democrats criticized as unfairly harsh on workers. Sens. Jon Tester of Montana and Johnny Isakson of Georgia, the top Democrat and the Republican chair on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, agreed to back the new bill after modifications that would give VA employees added time to appeal disciplinary actions.

House Veterans Affairs’ Committee Chairman Phil Roe, sponsor of the House measure, said he would support the revisions.

“To fully reform the VA and provide our nation’s veterans with the quality care they were promised and deserve, we must ensure the department can efficiently dismiss employees who are not able or willing to do their jobs,” Rubio told The Associated Press.

It comes after Trump last month signed an executive order to create a VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, with an aim of identifying “barriers” that make it difficult for the VA to fire or reassign bad managers or employees. VA Secretary David Shulkin had urged the Senate to act quickly to pass legislation.

The GOP-controlled House previously approved an accountability bill mostly along party lines. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., argued the House should embrace language instead from a bipartisan bill by Isakson from last year with added due process protections for workers.

The Senate bill to be introduced Thursday adopts several portions of that previous Isakson bill, including a longer appeal process than provided in the House bill — 180 days vs. 45 days, though workers would not be paid during that appeal. VA executives would be held to a tougher standard than rank-and-file employees for discipline. The Senate bill also codifies into law the VA accountability office created under Trump’s order, but with changes to give the head of the office more independent authority and require the office to submit regular updates to Congress.

Conservative groups praised the bill.

“These new measures will disincentivize bad behavior within the VA and further protect those who bravely expose wrongdoing,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director of Concerned Veterans for America, pointing to a “toxic culture” at VA.

The agreement comes in a week in which Senate Democrats are standing apart from Trump on a separate issue affecting veterans, the GOP bill passed by the House to repeal and replace the nation’s health care law. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., warned the House measure would strip away explicit protections to ensure that as many as 8 million veterans who are eligible for VA care but opt to use private insurance would still receive tax credits.

Many veterans use a private insurer if they feel a VA facility is too far away, or if they don’t qualify for fuller VA coverage because they have higher incomes or ailments unrelated to their time in service, said Duckworth, a combat veteran who lost her legs and partial use of her right arm during the Iraq war. A group of GOP senators is working to craft their own health bill.

“Trumpcare threatens to rip health care out of their hands,” Duckworth said at a news briefing this week. “The question left is what will Senate Republicans do?”

Congress has had difficulty coming to agreement on an accountability bill after the Phoenix VA scandal. A 2014 law gave the VA greater power to discipline executives, but the department stopped using that authority after the Obama Justice Department deemed it likely unconstitutional.

Critics have since complained that few employees were fired for various VA malfeasance, including rising cases of opioid drug theft, first reported by the AP.

MIGHTY TRENDING

America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan

A US service member died in a non-combat incident in Afghanistan Sept. 4, 2018, marking the second American death in two days in the war-torn country.

The incident is currently under investigation, according to an Operation Resolute Support press statement that was decidedly short on details. The fallen’s name will be released 24 hours after the individual’s next of kin have been notified.


Articles

Everything you need to know about the Civil Reserve Air Fleet

Historically, civil air transport has played a major role in U.S. military mobilization. During the first two years of WWII, the Air Transport Association moved much of the military’s personnel and equipment by air until the Air Transportation Command built up its fleet of planes and trained crews to take on the strategic airlift mission.

In 1952, civil aircraft were again used to support a military mission during the Berlin Airlift. Following this, it was decided that a more defined agreement was needed for civil air transport to support the military during emergencies. The result was the Civil Reserve Air Fleet.

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look
Civil aircraft were instrumental in the Berlin Airlift (Public Domain)

CRAF is divided into international and national segments. The international segment is further divided into long-range and short-range sections while the national segment serves all domestic requirements within the U.S. This reserve fleet can be called upon for minor contingencies all the way up to national defense emergencies.

The long-range international section is comprised of passenger and cargo aircraft capable of transoceanic flights. These aircraft augment the Air Mobility Command’s C-5 Galaxies and C-17 Globemaster IIIs in long-range inter-theater airlift operations. The short-range international section is made up of medium-sized passenger and cargo aircraft. They support offshore and intra-theater airlift operations.

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look
The C-5 Galaxy (background) and C-17 Globemaster III (foreground) are the Air Force’s heavy lifters, but even they can’t do it all (U.S. Air Force)

Civilian carriers voluntarily join the CRAF. These carriers contractually pledge aircraft to CRAF segments to serve military missions if required. In return, the DoD brings business to the partner carriers by booking flights and shipping cargo with them to meet a predetermined dollar amount. For example, in 2005, the DoD guaranteed $418 million in business to CRAF airlines.

To be eligible for the CRAF international segment, carriers must meet certain requirements. First, they must be US registered. Second, they must maintain a minimum commitment of 40% of its CRAF-capable fleet. Third, they must commit and maintain a 4:1 flight-deck crew ratio for each aircraft accepted into the fleet.

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look
Airmen board a civilian passenger jet (U.S. Air Force)

As of August 2021, 24 carriers and 450 aircraft are enrolled in CRAF. This includes 37 aircraft in the national segment, 145 in the short-range international section, and 268 in the long-range international section. The Air Force notes that the numbers are subject to change on a monthly basis

The CRAF is activated in three escalating stages. Stage I is in response to minor regional crises. Stage II is used for major theater war. Stage III involves a full national mobilization. With orders from the Secretary of Defense, the commander of U.S. Transportation Command is the activation authority for all three stages of the CRAF.

Upon activation, carriers have 24, 48 or 72 hours to have its aircraft ready for a CRAF mission depending on which CRAF stage is activated. The aircraft are maintained and operated by the carriers, however, AMC will assign their mission. The CRAF was previously activated to support Operation Desert Shield/Storm from August 1990-May 1991 and Operation Iraqi Freedom from February 2002 to June 2003.

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look
Troops arrive in Saudi Arabia via a CRAF aircraft (U.S. Navy)

On August 22, 2021, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered the commander of USTRANSCOM to activate Stage I of CRAF for Operation Allies Refuge. The activation augments the DoD’s support to the Department of State in the evacuation of U.S. citizens and personnel, Special Immigrant Visa applicants, and other at-risk individuals in Afghanistan. A total of 18 aircraft have been activated: three each from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Airlines, and Omni Air; two from Hawaiian Airlines; and four from United Airlines.

CRAF aircraft will not fly into Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. The DoD says, “They will be used for the onward movement of passengers from temporary safe havens and interim staging bases.” This allows military aircraft to focus on flights in and out of Kabul.

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look
823 Afghans were evacuated on a single C-17 (U.S. Air Force)

Already, Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar has reached its capacity to house Afghan evacuees. Bahrain recently allowed the U.S. to fly evacuees to Isa Air Base to continue flights out of Afghanistan. Once evacuees are processed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, they are flown to other overseas bases and on to the U.S. for medical screening and further administrative processing. It is likely CRAF aircraft will augment the AMC in the latter aspect of the operation.

The DoD has confirmed that Fort Lee in Virginia, Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, and Fort Bliss in Texas will house Afghan evacuees. Individual states including New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Georgia, Utah, and Iowa have also pledged to accept Afghan refugees.

Memorial Day 2018 by the numbers: a quick look
Cargo pallets are staged for loading on a Kalitta Air Boeing 747 at Dover Air Force Base (U.S. Air Force)

Feature Image: U.S. Air Force photo

Humor

6 of this year’s April Fools’ pranks around the military

April Fools’ Day has come a long way from the silly pranks we pulled in our youth. These days, pranks are much more sophisticated, landing on our news feeds from official sources who are allowed to let loose for a single day of the year. Everyone gets in on the fun — and the military and veteran community is no exception.


Here are some of the highlights from April Fools’ Day 2018:

Marlow White Uniforms

Marlow White Uniforms has been the official manufacturer of Army, Navy, and First Responder dress uniforms since 1879. That’s right, these are the guys responsible for the Army’s “throwback” to Pinks and Greens.

Chances are the people that got hyped by this video are the same people waiting on the sequel to Star Wars: Rogue One.

Ranger Up Military and MMA Apparel

Ranger Up stuck with an oldie-but-a-goodie.

Plenty of folks in the comment section caught on before it was too late. Others now have one of the catchiest 80s songs stuck in their head.

Terminal Lance

Terminal Lance has been setting up this joke for a while now. Previously, they ran a poll on whether the titular character, LCpl. Abe, should re-enlist. Overwhelmingly, fans didn’t want the comics to turn into a story about being a veteran.

Then, Uriarte published some comics about talking to a prior-service recruiter on Mar. 31 — followed by a few posts that said he was talking to a prior-service recruiter.

The joke actually has multiple layers considering it’s been a yearly tradition to give other ranks, branches, and even British Marines their time in the spotlight. Many expected Max to follow suite this year. Nope. April Fools’ Day doesn’t work like that (sorry to all of you still waiting on Terminal Airman comics).

Disgrunted Vets

There’s always been a healthy dose of confusion between Dysfunctional Veterans and Disgruntled Vets. The same thing happens on Reddit when people mix up Terminal_Lance and TLCplMax (Hint: the term isn’t exclusive to the webcomic).

Disgruntled Vets masterfully added to this confusion.

10th Combat Aviation Brigade

The U.S. Army has command over every realm of fighting — except one: underground.

They thought we wouldn’t notice if they took a still from a ShutterStock animation, but we did. Well played, 10th CAB. Well played.

Official Twitter of the U.S. Marine Corps

And the winner of this year’s April Fools’ Day, hands down, goes to the official Twitter of the United States Marine Corps.

While everyone was busy putting an immense amount of time into their pranks, all the Marine Corps social media team needed to do was say they were going to do just one thing like the Army and everyone lost their collective sh*t. Lucky for us, nobody ever actually reads articles on April Fools’ Day before heading to the comment section.

Whoever made this tweet is a credit to the Corps and everything it stands for. BZ.

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