Just as a step away from the regularly scheduled news that is probably left in better hands than the “meme guy,” did you know that former President George W. Bush had his museum debut at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington D.C. this week?
Yeah. And I mean, they’re actually pretty good. He’s got plenty of artwork that you can find around, but his most recent series has been stylized portraits of wounded Post-9/11 veterans – with the exception of the veteran’s eyes, which are drawn realistically. I’m no art critic, but I can tell that it draws you in, and you find yourself staring into the very souls of the veterans, and the rest kinda pulls you into how they feel.
I guess that goes to show you that after he got his “Presidential DD-214,” even the former commander-in-chief made a name for himself in the art world. See? Now can you all get off my back for using my GI Bill on a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree?
Anyways, here are some memes while I reevaluate my creative endeavors.
The United States Navy commissioned the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) this past weekend. The ship is noted for many advanced technologies on board, but what is also notable is what the ship doesn’t have.
According to a Navy Times report, though the Ford has a compliment of America’s most advanced fighters, it’s missing urinals in the men’s head.
The Navy claimed that the elimination of the urinals increase flexibility when it comes to shifting berthing arrangements for the crew on board the $13 billion vessel. However, there are some drawbacks to this new arrangement, according to experts.
Chuck Kaufman, president of the Public Restroom Company, is among those critical of the design change. The Public Restroom Company specializes in designing public restrooms that have been used in parks, rest areas, playgrounds – just about anywhere.
“[A toilet is] by far a less clean environment than a urinal. By far,” Kaufman told the Navy Times, citing the fact that men tend to miss normal toilets more often than they miss urinals.
“What is a problem is [with a water closet] you have a very big target and we can’t aim very quickly,” he added, noting that the only way to ensure men didn’t miss was to make them sit down. Furthermore, Kaufman explained, toilets take over twice the space of urinals. The Navy Times noted that about 18 percent of the Navy’s personnel are women.
The Gerald R. Ford replaced the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65), which was taken out of service in 2012.
Saudi Arabia has been on a buying spree as of late, acquiring a lot of high-end weaponry. Much of it has come from the United States, with a focus on dealing with the threat from Iran. However, the Saudis are also looking elsewhere, including an effort purchase the SA-21 Growler from Russia. But that search could lead to a very surprising conclusion — for the Saudis.
According to a report by Swiss Journal, the Saudis are looking at acquiring a third missile defense system. Their choice: Iron Dome, a system developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, a defense technology company with origins in Israel — a country that, historically, hasn’t had good relations with Saudi Arabia.
According to Raytheon, an Iron Dome battery consists of a battlefield radar and three or four launchers, each of which carries 20 Tamir missiles. Israel has deployed ten of these batteries to protect its major cities against rocket attacks.
The radar is able to determine whether a rocket will hit or miss a city. If not deemed a threat, the rocket is ignored. If it is a threat, a Tamir missile is fired to intercept. The Tamir has a maximum range of 37 nautical miles and uses electro-optical guidance to home in on its target.
Despite poor relations, Saudi Arabia and Israel do operate a number of weapon systems in common. Both countries operate the MIM-104 Patriot, acquired during and after Operation Desert Storm to counter SS-1 Scud missiles fired by Saddam Hussein’s regime. The two countries also are both operators of the F-15C/D Eagle and F-15E Strike Eagle.
The Swiss Journal reported that Saudi officials examined the system during an air show in Dubai. The Israelis also recently have offered to work with moderate Arab countries in order to counter the Iranian threat. In the past, Iran has vowed to wipe Israel off the map.
After writing about the potential mass sale of the Army’s surplus .45 ACP M1911 pistols through the government-chartered Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), I received a f*ck-ton of emails over the course of my Thanksgiving travel that broke down into two main categories:
At the moment, details are scarce. The $700 billion 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that authorizes the transfer of weapons “no longer actively issued for military service,” including thousands of M1911 and M1911A1 pistols, to the CMP is currently sitting on President Donald Trump’s desk. And according to the military surplus pipeline, “the limited number and the exceedingly high demand” for the sidearm has sparked congressional scrutiny that’s prompted the board of directors to reexamine how it handles future sales.
It’s tricky to speculate on legislation that hasn’t even passed and what will likely become a brand new sale process, but given the excitement over the sidearm that’s accompanied American troops into every conflict zone for more than a century, we can’t help but attempt to read the tea leaves on the future of the legendary pistol.
How many M1911 pistols are going to be available?
The DoD doesn’t publically post arsenal inventories for obvious reasons, but thank God for Rep. Mike Rogers. In 2015, the Alabama Republican introduced a similar transfer amendment to the NDAA, stating that the Pentagon spends “about $2 per year to store 100,000 Model 1911s that are surplus to the Army’s needs.” President Barack Obama later signed an NDAA that included a measure to transfer 10,000 pistols to the CMP, although Guns.com notesthat only around 8,300 have been shelled out in recent years, mostly to local law enforcement agencies through the 1033 program.
So that’s, what, around 90,000 M1911s up for grabs in the long run?
Why is 90,000 a “limited number”?
This year’s NDAA amendment regarding the weapons transfers stipulates that only between 8,000 and 10,000 M1911 pistols will go to the CMP each year, and only for the next two years — which means collectors may have to fight over a scant 16,000 bad boys.
Well, let’s take the worst-case scenario: that only 8,000 M1911 pistols ship to the CMP annually. That shakes out to a little more than a decade of releases assuming the measure passes consistently every two years, which seems likely given its inclusion in the 2015 and 2017 NDAAs.
On the downside, this means competition will be fierce — but on the upside, you’ll have multiple chances to grab an M1911 should you miss your first shot.
Oh sh*t! So when can I grab one?
Well, this annual sale thing assumes that the actual transfer goes smoothly — which it won’t because, you know, logistics. Guns.com smartly notes that all military surplus firearms that originate from the Anniston Army Depot in Alabama go through a rigorous inspection and testing process to assess the condition of each firearm. Given that most of the Army’s M1911 stockpile was manufactured before 1945, a significant portion will require repairs or simply end up as scrap due to missing parts.
This doesn’t just whittle down the available pool of M1911 pistols for eager collectors but slows the actual distribution and sale process to a crawl. “The odds of finding a mint-in-the-box specimen that has escaped 70-years of Army life without being issued will be slim,” as Chris Eger put it, “but even those guns will have to be checked and certified.”
Great, so that’s the “what” and the “when.” Now: How do I get one?
First of all, you’ll need to satisfy the general federal and state-level restrictions (age, background check, etc.) around firearms. But more importantly, you need a membership with a CMP-affiliated club — and luckily for you, the organization has a handy search engine to help you find your nearest favorite new hangout, where membership tends to run around $25 annually.
HOWEVER: If you’re a veteran or a member of one of CMP’s “special affiliates” — congressionally chartered veterans service organizations, professional organizations like the Fraternal Order of Police, or an active-duty service member, reservist, National Guardsman, or retiree — you’re essentially good to go.
Okay, cool, but how do I GET one?
You’ll need to provide proof of American citizenship, through a birth certificate, passport, or another official document. You’ll also need a copy of your official CMP club membership card (duh) or a Club Member Certification Form. (An odd side note: Apparently this means you can only use your military ID as proof of citizenship if you’re E-5 or above? What’s the deal with that? Get at me if you know why.)
No more forms, idiot — HOW DO I GET ONE?
Once the 2018 NDAA passes, the CMP will likely make an announcement on their site regarding sales. And when they do: Holy Ordering Form, Batman!
Army Emergency Relief (AER) was formed in 1942 with the mission to alleviate financial stress on the force. Since they opened their doors they’ve given out $2 billion dollars in aid. They remain a part of the Army, and assistance is coordinated by mission and garrison commanders at Army bases throughout the world. With the continual threat of the coronavirus looming, AER is ready and not just to serve soldiers – but all branches of the military.
Lieutenant General Raymond Mason (ret.) has been the Director of AER since 2016 and feels passionate about his role at AER and what the organization can do for military families. He shared that the one thing that keeps him up at night is the soldier or military member that doesn’t know about AER.
“If a soldier, airman, sailor, marine or coast guardsman is distracted by something in their life…. like finances, they probably aren’t focused on their individual training. They aren’t focused on their unit mission and if we send them into a combat zone with those distractions they are a danger to themselves and their buddies on their left and right,” said Mason. That’s where AER comes in.
AER is a 501c3 non-profit and receives no federal funding; instead they rely on the generous donations of others to make their mission a reality. Mason also shared that AER has close relationships with all of the other services relief organizations, with them often working together to serve those in need. For example, a coastie can walk into an AER office on post and get the same help as a soldier, although the representative they work with has to follow the guidelines of their branch’s relief organization.
Their biggest concern right now is information. “I want to make sure everyone from private to general knows about our program,” said Mason. He touched on the new environment of social media and the exploding availability of aid to military families. While he shared that it can be a good thing that there are so many organizations devoted to supporting the military; there are also some really bad agencies out there. Mason shared that AER is working hard on more strategic communication and marketing of their relief program to prevent that.
“This isn’t a giveaway program, it’s a help up. You get back on your feet and get back in the fight,” said Mason. AER is also open to all ranks, knowing that anyone can need assistance at any time. They can walk into AER and know that they’ll have their back. AER maintains a 4 out of 4 star rating with Charity Navigator, shared Mason, and it’s something they are very proud of.
There are military members who are reluctant to request help through relief agencies out of fear of reprimand or negative impacts to their career. While AER encourages members to go to their chain of command with their needs, even granting approval for first sergeants to sign checks up to 00 – Mason understands it isn’t always easy. As long as they are outside of their initial trainings and have been serving over twelve months, they can go through direct access to get help without involving command.
As the military orders a stand down on travel due to the coronavirus, guard families are concerned. Many of them are unable to hold civilian jobs due to the frequent schools, trainings, TDYs and deployments. With orders being canceled or held, this means financial ruin could be just a paycheck away. AER will be there for those families and stands ready to serve them.
But all of this costs money, something that AER will always need to continue to support military members and their families. They are stepping up their donation requests by engaging with American citizens and corporations. “We’ve never done that throughout our history and we are doing it for the first time,” said Mason. He continued by sharing although they’ve received support from them in the past, they’ve never asked. Now they are asking.
AER just began its annual fundraising campaign, which kicked off on March 1 and will run through May 15, 2020. For the first time, they are really involving the bases and have turned it into a fun event that each group can make their own, Mason shared. There will be an awards ceremony later on in the year to celebrate those who went the extra mile.
He also shared that AER and most relief societies receive a very low percentage of donations that are actually received from active duty, which is concerning. Mason stated that it isn’t about the amount that they give, but that they do give. “Military members fight for each other. When in combat you fight for your buddy on your left or right. If you aren’t willing to reach in your back pocket to help your buddy on your left and right, we have a problem,” said Mason.
“Leave no comrade behind” is the army’s creed – it is a motto that all should take to heart, especially at home.
To learn more about AER and how you can help their mission, click here.
If 2020’s stay-at-home order told us one thing, it’s how much we rely on entertainers to keep us sane. Music, movies and online entertainment have been our lifeline to the outside world. Many of the celebrities who have kept us amused have also spoken out about the importance of recognizing the achievements of Black Americans — and that includes veterans!
Over 160,000 Black people are currently in the United States military, serving a critical role in keeping our country safe, and they’ve been doing so for a long, long time. In fact, many of the Black celebrities you know and love are veterans! Keep reading to learn about 10 of the most famous Black veterans…you might be surprised!
Born in 1956, Montel Brian Anthony Williams is best known for his work as a TV host and motivational speaker. His show, The Montel Williams Show, ran for 17 years, but that’s not his only claim to fame. Williams served in both the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy. After enlisting in 1974, he attended a four-year officer training program, graduating with a degree in general engineering and a minor in international security affairs.
After completing Naval Cryptologic Officer training, he spent 18 months as a cryptologic officer in Guam. He later became supervising cryptologic officer at Fort Meade, eventually leaving the navy after achieving the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
He earned several awards including the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal and the Navy Achievement Medal.
Food Network personality Sunny Anderson grew up as an Army brat. Her family’s ongoing travels and her parents’ love of food gave her a chance to explore international cuisines, inspiring her future career. After graduating high school in 1993, she joined the United States Air Force, where she earned the rank of Senior Airman. She also worked as a military radio host in Seoul, South Korea, going on to work for the Air Force News Agency radio and television in San Antonio from 1993 to 1997.
Stanley Kirk Burrell, better known as MC Hammer, is one of the most well known American rappers of the late 80s. He rose to fame quickly both as a rapper, dancer and record producer, coming out with hits like “U Can’t Touch This” and “2 Legit 2 Quit.” In addition to creating the famous “Hammer pants” and his successful entertainment career, Burrell served in the Navy for three years as a Petty Officer Third Class Aviation Store Keeper until his honorable discharge.
Tracy Lauren Marrow, AKA Ice-T, is a multi-talented entertainer with a tumultuous background. He had more than one run-in with the law in his youth, but after his daughter was born he decided to join the Army. Marrow served a two year and two month tour in the 25th Infantry Division.
Military life wasn’t for him, however, and he used his status as a single father to leave the Army and begin his career as an underground rapper. Since then, he has made a name for himself as a musician, songwriter, actor, record producer and actor, starring as a detective on Law Order SVU and hosting a true-crime documentary on Oxygen.
Jamaican-American singer, songwriter, activist and actor, Harold George Bellanfanti Jr is no stranger to hard work. He enlisted in the Navy at the start of World War II while he was still finishing high school. After an honorable discharge two years later, he focused on his music career, bringing Caribbean-style music to the US. One of his first albums, “Calypso,” was the first million-selling LP by a single artist.
He was also a passionate supporter of the civil rights movement, going on to advocate for humanitarian causes throughout his life. Since 1987, he has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and currently acts as the American Civil Liberties Union celebrity ambassador for juvenile justice issues.
Ever heard of Orville Richard Burrell? Don’t worry, I hadn’t either, but you probably know his stage name: Shaggy. Burrell was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1968. He began taking voice lessons in the early 80s, filling the streets with music. His talent was apparent early on, but in 1988 he joined the Marine Corps, serving with the Field Artillery Battery in the 10th Marine Regiment during the Persian Gulf War. He achieved the rank of lance corporal, and continued to sing while he did it. He went on to earn seven Grammy nominations, winning twice for Best Reggae Album.
James, better known as Jimi, Hendrix, began playing guitar in his hometown of Seattle at just 15 years of age. After enlisting for a short time in the Army and training as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division, he continued his music career to become one of the most renowned guitarists of all time. His music career, much like his military career, was brief, but powerful. He earned a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which describes him as “the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music.”
Berry Gordy Jr
American record, film, and tv producer and songwriter Berry Gordy Jr didn’t get his start in the music industry. He dropped out of high school to become a professional boxer, which he excelled at until he was drafted by the U.S. Army in 1950. He was first assigned to the 58th Field Artillery Bn., 3rd Inf. Div. in the Korean War, later playing the organ and driving a jeep as a chaplain’s assistant. When his tour was over in 1953, his music career took off.
He founded the Motown record label, which was the highest-earning African American business for several decades. Several of his songs topped the charts, and he’s known for helping budding artists like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and the Supremes achieve greatness.
2016 Invictus Opening Ceremony
Actor and film narrator Morgan Freeman is yet another famous veteran. He earned a partial drama scholarship from Jackson State University, but he turned it down to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. There, he served as an Automatic Tracking Radar Repairman, rising to the rank of Airman 1st Class.
After being discharged four years later, he moved to Los Angeles and studied theatrical arts at the Pasadena Playhouse. Considering he has since won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award and many Oscar nominations, it looks like his hard work paid off!
James Earl Jones
Few voices are as iconic and recognizable as that of American actor James Earl Jones. Before launching his acting career, Jones served in the military, receiving his Ranger tab and helping to establish a cold-weather training command at the former Camp Hale. During his time in the military, he was promoted to first lieutenant. Following his discharge, he served his country in a different way, with over seven decades of theatrical excellence. In addition to winning numerous Tonys, two Emmys and a Grammy, he was presented with the National Medal of the Arts by President George H.W. Bush in 1992. Nearly two decades later, President Barack Obama invited him to perform Shakespeare at the White House. Wow!
These Black veterans aren’t the only ones we should care about.
The history of African American military personnel is as old as our country itself. Countless Black Americans have made their mark on U.S. Military history, and they continue to do so today. Click here to explore the firsthand experiences of Black vets, or learn more about how to support them here.
A decorated US Marine Corps veteran, who a federal judge ruled was an American citizen, is facing deportation to Mexico in a case that has been criticized as a cruel and extraordinary application of immigration laws.
The US government’s ongoing effort to deport George Ybarra, who is currently locked up in an Arizona detention center, has shed light on the vulnerabilities of foreign-born Americans who have served in the military, along with the deportation threats that can plague even those who are deemed to be citizens and have deep ties to the country.
Ybarra, who was honorably discharged after serving in the Persian Gulf war and earning numerous badges and medals, is facing deportation due to a criminal history that his family says is tied to mental health struggles and post-traumatic stress disorder from his service. While there have been growing concerns about the removal of veterans and the harsh policies of deporting people for minor crimes, Ybarra’s case is particularly troubling to immigrant rights’ advocates given a judge’s acknowledgement that he is US citizen.
“George hopes he will be able to stay in the country he fought for,” Luis Parra, Ybarra’s attorney, told the Guardian. “He is a third-generation [US] citizen … It would be a very extreme hardship for George to have to relocate to Mexico.”
Ybarra, whose story was first reported in the Tucson Sentinel, has a complex immigration and citizenship battle dating back more than a decade, including deportation threats under Barack Obama’s administration.
Ybarra, also known as Jorge Ibarra-Lopez, was born in Nogales in Mexico, just south of the Arizona border, in 1964, according to his court filings. He moved to the US months after he was born, and his maternal grandfather was a US citizen, born in Bisbee, Arizona, his lawyers wrote. Ybarra has long argued that he has “derivative citizenship,” meaning he is a citizen by virtue of his mother’s status.
An immigration judge eventually agreed that there was “sufficient evidence” that the 52-year-old father of five should be considered a US citizen, but the US Department of Homeland Security challenged that decision in 2011 and has since continued to try to deport him, records show.
The deportation proceedings stem in part from a number of criminal offenses, including drug-related charges. He was also convicted of firing two rounds through the front door of his home in Phoenix in 2011 in the direction of two police officers, according to the Sentinel. The paper reported that no one was hurt and that Ybarra said he was suffering from a PTSD-induced episode of delusion at the time and believed federal authorities were coming to “take away” his family.
Ybarra ultimately served a seven-year sentence in state prison for aggravated assault, but instead of returning to his family after he completed his time, he was transferred into the custody of federal immigration authorities last month. Ybarra and his family now fear he could soon be deported.
Parra argued that Ybarra should be released while the ongoing dispute about his citizenship is resolved. US Citizenship and Immigration Services had previously denied his application for a certificate of citizenship, but there are numerous ways he can have his status formally recognized, according to Parra.
His family has argued that he should get treatment and other government support as a disabled veteran with PTSD.
“He basically has no family in Mexico,” said Parra, noting that Ybarra’s children and grandchildren and other relatives in Arizona are all US citizens. “He has a very supportive family living in the Phoenix area, including his mother, who depends on George.”
Ybarra is distraught and worried about his continued detention, Parra said. In a Sentinel interview last month in an Arizona state prison, Ybarra said, “I’ve got a lot of anger, a lot of anxiety over this. They know I’m a citizen, they know I’m a combat veteran. I don’t see where they’ve ever shown that they care.”
A spokeswoman for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not respond to questions about Ybarra’s case, but said in a statement that the agency “does not knowingly place US citizens into removal proceedings”, adding, “ICE deportation officers arrest only those aliens for which the agency has probable cause to believe are amenable to removal from the United States.”
When ICE does detain US citizens, the statement said, it’s usually because there is a misunderstanding about their status.
“The job for ICE deportation officers is further complicated by some aliens who falsely assert US citizenship in order to evade deportation, which is not uncommon,” the statement continued.
A Northwestern University analysis of government data found that hundreds of US citizens have, in fact, been detained by immigration authorities.
Margaret Stock, an immigration attorney and expert on military cases, said the deportation of veterans has been an ongoing challenge under both Obama and Donald Trump, but that she has never seen a case like Ybarra where the government threatens to deport someone ruled a citizen by a judge.
“If you can deport this guy, you can also try to deport all kinds of other people,” she said.
The US military destroyed its own anti-ISIS headquarters in Syria, The Wall Street Journal reported Oct. 16, 2019, to prevent them from falling into the hands of fighters backed by Turkey.
According to WSJ, Turkish-backed troops advanced on the facility, which had been used to equip and train SDF fighters against ISIS, on Oct. 15, 2019, leading US officials to quickly withdraw US troops and destroy the base on Oct. 16, 2019.
As the Turkish-back fighters moved closer, US troops attempted to repel them, using F-15s and Apache helicopters as a show of force to warn them away while US troops were still there. But, according to The Wall Street Journal, the airpower failed to dissuade the Turkish-backed forces; SDF fighters fled and set fire to their part of the base, and US troops left before US assets destroyed the base.
Insider reached out to the US operation in Syria to request more information about what assets were used to destroy the base, but did not receive a response by press time. It is also unclear what was being held in the base, although The Wall Street Journal noted that it had previously been used to store light arms and ammunition for the SDF.
An AH-64D Apache Longbow.
Oct. 11, 2019, Turkish forces fired at an American position in Syria; while no casualties were sustained it came after reassurances from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley that Turkey knew where US troops were stationed. An officer familiar with the situation told The Washington Post that the incident was likely not accidental, as Turkish forces were aware of the US position, and had been for months.
“#Coalition forces continue a deliberate withdrawal from northeast #Syria. On Oct. 16, 2019, we vacated the Lafarge Cement Factory, Raqqa, and Tabqah,” Col. Myles. B. Caggins, a spokesperson for the US-led coalition to defeat ISIS, tweeted Oct. 16, 2019, referring to the base, the LaFarge Cement Factory, on which US forces carried out strikes.
Two F-15E Strike Eagles conducted an airstrike on the LaFarge factory to keep munitions and military equipment from the hands of the Turkish-backed armed groups, a coalition spokesman said.
F-15E Strike Eagle.
Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are on their way to Ankara to try and broker a ceasefire. The two officials are set to meet with Erdogan, according to The New York Times.
The US has already imposed sanctions on Turkey due to its incursion in what was Kurdish-controlled northeastern Syria, but pressing pause on a 0 billion trade deal between the two NATO allies and re-imposing a 50% tariff on Turkish steel exports has not deterred Erdogan. Pence and Pompeo, along with the State Department’s special envoy for Syrian affairs James Jeffrey and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, are expected to threaten harsher sanctions should Erdogan refuse a ceasefire.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said the country will begin the installation of Russian-made S-400 antiaircraft missile systems in October 2019, state media reported.
The Anadolu news agency quoted Akar as saying on Oct. 25, 2018, that selected personnel will be sent to Russia to receive training from the beginning of 2019.
Russia’s state arms exporter, Rosoboronexport, had already announced in August 2018 that it will begin delivering its advanced S-400 air-defense systems to Turkey in 2019.
The United States and other NATO member states have voiced concern over Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 missiles.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.
The United States has warned NATO-member Turkey that going through with the purchase could result in Washington imposing sanctions and halting other existing procurements.
Ankara has pressed on with the deal, saying its Western allies had failed to cooperate in its efforts to boost its defense capabilities and that Ankara has had to look outside of the military alliance to meet its needs.
Recently, I had the honor of sitting with five Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) from VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System in a quiet private airport in Reno, Nevada. We were waiting for their jet, courtesy of the U.S. Air Force, to arrive and whisk these heroes away to New Jersey. They were on their way to provide relief to the weary practitioners fighting the pandemic.
These LPNs volunteered to go to New Jersey to assist medical staff in nursing homes, where staff has been stretched to the breaking point caring for their high-risk senior population.
As I sat with them, I realized that I had an honest admiration not only for these five individuals, but also for my entire VA health care team.
Not one of them expressed regret with their decision to volunteer. Each would be working nonstop, 12-hour shifts (maybe longer) with complete strangers, caring for senior citizens on the East Coast. They spoke with compassion and used phrases like, “This is what I was born to do.”
Nurses on their way to help in New Jersey.
We need nurses now more than ever
One even stated she has no family here in Nevada and if requested to extend her short tour in New Jersey, she gladly would. She said she hoped she would inspire someone to consider a career in health care. “We need more nurses,” she said, “now more than ever.”
The small Air Force C-21 jet arrived and three young crew members stepped down onto the tarmac. Through the waiting lounge window, the six of us made comments about the crew’s appearance in their military issued olive green flight suits.
We started making Top Gun references. “That one looks like Maverick,” said one. “If there’s a Goose, we are screwed!” said another. We all burst into laughter, which increased even more as the three young service members entered the airport with looks of bewilderment at our good humor. Their faces quickly transformed into comforting smiles. They understood that this moment was necessary.
“God speed and safe travels”
The pilot assured everyone that once the plane is fueled, loaded, and pre-flight checks done, they would be on their way. The flight crew graciously humored me with pictures of them with our nurses and the plane.
I assisted with loading the LPN’s bags onto the jet and bid everyone a safe journey. I remained in the small airport to watch through the window until the wheels were off the ground.
“God speed and safe travels,” I said aloud. I heard an “Amen” from behind me and turned to see a baggage handler had come to watch as well.
To the nurse who claimed to have no family here in Nevada, I beg to differ. You have VA. Together we are strong, and together we are a family.
President Donald Trump signed a bill into law on June 23 that will make it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire employees, part of a push to overhaul an agency that is struggling to serve millions of military vets.
“Our veterans have fulfilled their duty to our nation and now we must fulfill our duty to them,” Trump said during a White House ceremony. “To every veteran who is here with us today, I just want to say two very simple words: Thank you.”
“What happened was a national disgrace and yet some of the employees involved in these scandals remained on the payrolls,” Trump said. “Outdated laws kept the government from holding those who failed our veterans accountable. Today we are finally changing those laws.”
The measure was prompted by a 2014 scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, where some veterans died as they waited months for care. The VA is the second-largest department in the US government, with more than 350,000 employees, and it is charged with providing health care and other services to military veterans.
Federal employee unions opposed the measure. VA Secretary David Shulkin, an Obama administration holdover, stood alongside Trump as the president jokingly suggested he’d have to invoke his reality TV catchphrase “You’re fired” if the reforms were not implemented.
The legislation, which many veterans’ groups supported, cleared the House last week by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 368-55, replacing an earlier version that Democrats had criticized as overly unfair to employees. The Senate passed the bill by voice vote a week earlier.
Paul Rieckhoff, founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, applauded the move, saying, “In a nasty, partisan environment like we’ve never seen, veterans’ issues can be a unique area for Washington to unite in actually getting things done for ordinary Americans.”
The bill was a rare Trump initiative that received Democratic support. Montana Sen. Jon Tester said the bill “will protect whistleblowers from the threat of retaliation.”
The new law will lower the burden of proof to fire employees, allowing for dismissal even if most evidence is in a worker’s favor.
The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, opposed the bill. But the Senate-passed measure was seen as more in balance with workers’ rights than a version passed by the House in March, mostly along party lines. The Senate bill calls for a longer appeal process than the House version – 180 days versus 45 days. VA executives would be held to a tougher standard than rank-and-file employees.
USMC Photo by Sgt. Justin M. Boling
The bill also turns another of Trump’s campaign pledges into law by creating a permanent VA accountability office, which Trump established by executive order in April.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, called the bill signing “a significant step to reform the VA with a renewed purpose and ability to serve our veterans.”
“The ultimate goal is nothing less than a transformation of the culture within the VA so that our veterans receive the best care possible,” McCarthy said.
The VA has been plagued for years by problems, including the 2014 scandal, where employees created secret lists to cover up delays in appointments. Critics say few employees are fired for malfeasance.
Everyone wants to throat-punch ISIS, right? Right!
But what is ISIS…really? And who attacked the World Trade Center? And what’s the deal with Syria?
Keeping track of terrorist groups can be confusing, so here’s the quick and dirty on three hard-hitting groups the U.S. is currently fighting:
1. Al Qaeda
Al Qaeda is a Sunni Islamic militant organization founded by Osama bin Laden circa 1988 and is responsible for the attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
Originally organized to fight the Soviet Union during the Afghan War, al Qaeda continues to resist entities considered corrupt to its leaders, including differing Islamic interpretations and foreign (read: U.S.) occupation of their lands.
Al Qaeda operates under the belief that it is their duty to kill non-believers, including civilians.
After 9/11, a U.S.-led coalition launched an attack in Afghanistan to target al Qaeda, which had been operating under the protection of the Taliban government in the country. Operation Enduring Freedom successfully toppled the Taliban and dispersed al Qaeda throughout the region, but U.S. forces remain unable to fully eradicate the group.
From 1979-1989, the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Afghanistan. Afghan fighters known as the mujahedeen resisted, finally forcing the Soviet Union to withdraw from the country. In the aftermath, there was a power vacuum, with fighting among the mujahedeen until the Taliban was established in 1994.
The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan and imposed strict Islamic laws on the Afghan people. A Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement, the Taliban harbored al Qaeda operations, including bin Laden’s stronghold, which led to the U.S. invasion Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks.
Today, largely funded by opium production, the Taliban fights to regain control of Afghanistan, engaging with military forces in-country and claiming responsibility for terrorist attacks in the region.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or just the Islamic State, is a Salafi jihadist Sunni Islamic militant group established in 1999 with the intention of establishing their God’s rule on earth and destroying those who threaten it.
They are known for being exceptionally brutal, utilizing publicity and the social media to broadcast mass executions, beheadings, and crucifixions.
They once pledged allegiance to al Qaeda, but separated from it in 2014 and concentrated their attention on Syria and Iraq.
In January 2014, ISIS captured the city of Raqqa, Syria. For the next six months, the group overtook major Iraqi cities like Mosul and Tikrit before self-declaring a caliphate, an Islamic State with authority over the global Muslim population.
In August 2014, President Barack Obama approved airstrikes against ISIS.
Personnel other than grunts, or POGs, are an essential part of the fight. POGs make up the majority of the military and they perform every job that is not specifically reserved for infantry.
Any non-03 or 11B (Marine and Army infantry MOSs) that gets butthurt when someone reminds them that they do not hold a very specific MOS may need to look in the mirror and do some soul-searching. The offended are, essentially, upset that someone said they aren’t a security guard.
Infantry soldiers and Marines enjoy ribbing non-infantry personnel with the term, but when examined further, there is really nothing condescending about it.
Talk to any motor transport operator serving in Iraq between 2003 and 2008 and they will tell you that there is no guarantee of safety provided by your occupational specialty.
2. Infantry is ineffective without them.
This one might cause some friction, but any unit that thinks they can sustain themselves without food, water, supplies, and munitions is kidding themselves.
There are zero infantry leaders that aren’t appreciative of their logistician peers.
3. It’s a fact, not a state of being.
Whether you hold an administrative position behind a desk at the headquarters building on mainside or you’re an explosives ordinance disposal specialist clearing enemy IEDs, you are a POG. The only people who are not have an 03 or an 11B on their occupational specialty.
4. POGs learn useful skills for future employment.
Unless you want to be a security guard or security contractor, the skills mastered by infantry are not very relevant on the outside.
Of course, leadership and ability to operate under extreme pressure are handy, but these skills are not exclusive to the infantry.