Military spouses demand an end to the 'Widow's Tax' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

Imagine the worst happens. The person you have loved, your service member spouse, dies. Maybe you have been married for ten years. Or maybe you have been married for fifty years. But you navigated the craziness of military life together only to be told you need to forfeit your Survivor Benefit Plan, the money meant to help you survive this time. This was a part of your deceased service member’s well-planned safety net for you, and the government has yanked it away at your most fragile moment.

It’s called the Widow’s Tax. But it’s not a tax.


Learn more about it here. The date on the article: 2016. But you’ll find articles and editorials on this topic for many years. No one has solved the problem beyond slapping band-aids on it.

No one is getting rich off of the government here. We’re talking widows and widowers whose lives could be greatly impacted by losing the up-to-$15,000 a year in payments they should be (but aren’t) receiving. And the widows and widowers behind trying to correct this error, they are only asking that we change it from now forward. They are not asking to get the hundreds of thousands of dollars back that some of them are owed. You read right: widows and widowers fighting for money that is owed to them.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’
These are the families who are impacted by the Widow’s Tax.

Why hasn’t this problem been solved?

There are about 64,000 surviving spouses who are impacted by the Widow’s Tax. It’s a relatively small group, and that makes solving the offset harder because it can be easily dismissed.

These military spouses didn’t come from a generation of hashtags. They didn’t have the Internet to organize as a group for some time. They were in a Widow’s Fog when it came to sign papers. And, when they learned about this offset, they probably thought it would be quickly remedied because: why would anyone think two programs that are entirely not related would require forfeiting monies for an annuity they paid into for years? It certainly wasn’t mentioned when their spouse paid into it.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’
These are the families who are impacted by the Widow’s Tax.

No. They were not told.

According to the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), a strong supporter of repealing the SBP-DIC offset: No other federal surviving spouse is required to forfeit his or her federal annuity because military service caused his or her sponsor’s death. Additionally, the offset does not apply to surviving military children. Only to the spouse.

Oddly, it also does not apply to widows or widowers who remarry on or after the age of 57.

In fact, the whole situation is odd and why it hasn’t been fixed, that’s the oddest part of all.

These military spouses have been waiting long enough. Now we must all get behind them. #repealwidowstax

This is the call to action!

Call Senators and ask them to cosponsor SA2411 an amendment to the Defense Budget Bill for 2019 with language identical to S.339. This amendment has the same language as S.339. This would eliminate the Widow’s Tax, which is the only insurance one purchases and then is legally prohibited from collecting. This impacts all active duty line of duty deaths and disabled military retirees who purchased SBP, whose SBP is reduced dollar for dollar by DIC, indemnity compensation paid by the VA as a small reparation and to indemnify or hold harmless the government for causing the death.

Here’s how to contact your Senator.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

Articles

US special operators are quietly avenging the attacks in Paris and Brussels

ISIS spends a lot of time celebrating their attacks on foreign soil, making them seem like overwhelming victories in their global campaign of fear. Meanwhile U.S. special operations forces in Iraq and Syria have killed 40 ISIS fighters responsible for those attacks.


Officials from the Department of Defense told Kim Dozier of The Daily Beast that U.S. special forces have killed those “external operations leaders, planners, and facilitators” who were part of those attacks outside the CENTCOM area of responsibility.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

The use of special forces in kill or capture raids (though the capture part tends to happen much less frequently) is a major part of the U.S. counterterrorism plan against ISIS. Those 40 are less than half of the high-value targets that coalition forces have taken out. The U.S. mission also includes curtailing the terror group’s ability to recruit abroad and inhibit their ability to carry out Paris-style attacks. President Obama has ordered 250 more special operators to Iraq to support these operations.

According to Dozier’s report, the effort is seeing results. Those same defense officials estimated that ISIS’ overall fighting force is down to 19,000 – 25,000 fighters, from 33,000 in 2015. Moreover, the influx of new recruits coming into the region is down 90 percent from last year.

Dozier also reports that the Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper warned this week that ISIS cells are already in place throughout Europe. ISIS’ external operations have killed 1,000 people across 21 countries since 2015. But the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) is using a mixture of special operators from many, varied disciplines. Their units include Navy SEALs, Delta Force, and Green Berets integrated in all aspects of the JSOC mission. This ensures the highest performers are on kill-capture raids, and have experience in hostage rescue and working with local opposition forces.

This may be a product of battlefield lessons learned. These days, the CENTCOM AOR is run by Gen. Joseph Votel, who once commanded both U.S. Special Operations Command and JSOC. Lt. Gen. Austin S. Miller, the current JSOC commander, ran special operations in Afghanistan, where he used the mixed special forces tactics with great success.

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘Murphy’s Law’ gives context to a controversial veteran-turned-journalist

Jack Murphy is no stranger to controversy. In fact, you might even say that the former Army Ranger-turned-Green Beret-turned-journalist has sought it out, or at least had a laissez-faire attitude toward it over the course of his tenure as an investigative journalist. With the release of his memoir, he has given both fans and haters alike an inside look at how he sees the world — whether they like it or not.


Murphy has penned multiple fiction novels in the past, as well as a New York Times best-selling nonfiction report on the Benghazi consulate attack. But he’s gained the most notoriety as editor-in-chief of NEWSREP.com, formerly SOFREP.com. He’s established himself as a serious journalist by breaking stories that have made international news, but has also faced accusations of operational security violations and betraying the special operations community. Most recently, the release of helmet-cam footage from U.S. Army Special Forces operators killed during an ambush in Niger stoked the heated controversy swirling around the publication.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

“Murphy’s Law” was released on April 23.

(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)

Despite that, Simon and Schuster’s conservative nonfiction imprint, Threshold Editions, published “Murphy’s Law” on April 23. The memoir contains a brief background of Murphy’s upbringing in New York before diving into his military career and, later, the reporting exploits that took him around the world — often to arguably more dangerous corners than he faced while in uniform.

Writing a memoir wasn’t something he was interested in, despite the onslaught of special operations veterans who were publishing books around him. It wasn’t for lack of opportunity though; Murphy had made a habit of avoiding editors trying to convince him to pen his life story. At a book signing for “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi,” Kris Paranto’s editor approached him, and he once again politely declined.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

Murphy in Iraq as a Special Forces NCO training Iraqi SWAT forces.

(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)

But the offer stuck with him, and he brought it up to his friend and mentor, Special Forces veteran Jim West. “I told him that I’ve written all these articles, in-depth pieces — that I’ve basically told everyone’s story but my own,” Murphy said in a phone interview. “He told me that I’m avoiding my past. That was the moment I said, ‘F*ck it, maybe I should confront some of these things.'”

And so he did. The book doesn’t paint a picture of the stereotypical war hero, nor does it show him as a PTSD-riddled veteran who struggles to cope with life after combat. His self-examination is as brutally honest as he aims to be in his reporting, often taking shots at himself in one paragraph before dispelling rumors in the next.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

Murphy preparing for an aerial overwatch mission as a Ranger sniper in Afghanistan.

(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)

He doesn’t expect that the context this book provides will help quiet his detractors though. “I don’t really give a sh*t at the end of the day,” Murphy said, noting that he hopes the book tells the truth while cutting through rumors. “I said what I had to say, and I think the criticism and anger is part and parcel with the job, and if you can’t handle it, you need to find a different profession. I don’t think anyone is going to change their mind after reading this book.”

Indeed, the last chapter of the book is titled “Controversy and Upsets” and directly addresses many of the accusations that have been leveled in his direction. It comes after 100-some pages detailing years of doing a job that many misunderstand or flat-out disdain. For that reason alone, the book is worth the read: more Americans need to understand the great lengths and risk many journalists put themselves through in order to report the news.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

Murphy in Kurdistan while working as an embedded journalist with Peshmerga forces during an offensive.

(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)

And that’s what Murphy will continue to do, which will likely continue ruffling feathers in the process. “Unfortunately, the military sexual trauma story has been something I’ve continued to work on,” Murphy said, before noting that he also plans to finish his fifth novel, which was pushed aside while writing his memoir. “I have a passion for writing, and I don’t think that’s something I’m ever going to stop doing.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Japan’s cybersecurity No. 2 admits he doesn’t use computers

Japan’s recently appointed cybersecurity and Olympics minister has told parliament he has never used a computer in his life, though it’s his job to oversee cybersecurity for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Yoshitaka Sakurada, is the deputy chief of Japan’s vaunted cybersecurity strategy office and is also the minister in charge of the Olympic Games that Tokyo will host in 2020.

Depite these responsibilities, Sakurada has admitted that he has never used a computer, and is more or less baffled by the very idea of a USB drive and what it might do, according to a report the Guardian published on Nov. 14, 2018.

It all began October 2018.


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promoted Sakurada, 68, to the joint posts in October 2018, despite his left-field selection having never held a Cabinet position before during his 18 years in Japan’s Diet or parliament.

It was in the Diet, on Wednesday however, Sakurada came clean and admitted he is not a big computer person.

According to local media, the newly appointed minister made the admission at a parliamentary committee meeting when an opposition politician asked Sakurada a fairly routine are-you-computer-literate question.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

His response catches in a nutshell concerns that some Japanese lawmakers are growing desperately out of touch in a rapidly aging nation.

“I’ve been independent since I was 25 and have always directed my staff and secretaries to do that kind of thing,” Sakurada replied.

“I’ve never used a computer.”

Sakurada was answering questions from Masato Imai, an independent Lower House lawmaker.

When pursued by the concerned lawmaker about how a man lacking computer skills could be in charge of cybersecurity, Sakurada said he was confident there would be no problems.

“It’s shocking to me that someone who hasn’t even touched computers is responsible for dealing with cybersecurity policies,” Imai said.

He also appeared confused by the question when asked about whether USB drives were in use at Japanese nuclear facilities.

Sakurada also said “he doesn’t know the details” when a member of the Democratic Party for the People, asked him about what measures he had in place against cyberattacks on Japan’s nuclear power plants.

The countdown may already be on for Sakurada in his official role.

According to the Japan Times this is not the first time Sakurada has been in hot water.

At a Lower House Budget Committee meeting Sakurada stumbled and obfuscated when answering simple questions about his organizing committee’s three policy pillars for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and also the games’ budget.

The debate was punctuated with lengthy interruptions as the luckless minister turned to and relied almost entirely on his aides to answer the basic questions.

Sakurada apologized for his performance and the indignity to the Diet four days later.

He may not have gotten the email.

Featured image: toolstotal.com

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

Articles

This is what a $17 million investment in laser technology gets the US military

The US Defense Department is making another multi-million dollar investment in high-energy lasers that have the potential to destroy enemy drones and mortars, disrupt communication systems, and provide military forces with other portable, less costly options on the battlefield.


US Senator Martin Heinrich, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and longtime supporter of directed energy research, announced the $17 million investment during a news conference Wednesday inside a Boeing lab where many of the innovations were developed.

The US already has the ability to shoot down enemy rockets and take out other threats with traditional weapons, but Heinrich said it’s expensive.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’
The Sodium Guidestar at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Starfire Optical Range resides on a 6,240 foot hilltop at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. The Army and Navy is developing its own laser weapons systems. Photo from USAF.

High-energy lasers and microwave systems represent a shift to weapons with essentially endless ammunition and the ability to wipe out multiple threats in a short amount of time, he said.

“This is ready for prime time and getting people to just wrap their head around the fact that you can put a laser on something moving really fast and destroy it … has been the biggest challenge,” said Heinrich, who has an engineering degree.

Boeing has been working on high-energy laser and microwave weapons systems for years. The effort included a billion-dollar project to outfit a 747 with a laser cannon that could shoot down missiles while airborne. The system was complex and filled the entire back half of the massive plane.

With advancements over the past two decades, high-powered laser weapons systems can now fit into a large suitcase for transport across the battlefield or be mounted to a vehicle for targeting something as small as the device that controls the wings of a military drone.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’
USS Ponce conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research-sponsored Laser Weapon System. Navy photo by John F. Williams.

“Laser technology has moved from science fiction to real life,” said Ron Dauk, head of Boeing’s Albuquerque site.

The company’s compact laser system has undergone testing by the military and engineers are working on a higher-powered version for testing next year.

While the technology has matured, Dauk and Heinrich said the exciting part is that it’s on the verge of moving from the lab to the battlefield.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’
A target truck disabled by Lockheed’s ATHENA laser. Photo from Lockheed Martin.

Another $200 million has been requested in this year’s defense appropriations bill that would establish a program within the Pentagon for accelerating the transition of directed-energy research to real applications.

Heinrich said continued investment in such projects will help solidify New Mexico’s position as a leading site of directed-energy research and bring more money and high-tech jobs to the state.

Boeing already contributes about $120 million to the state’s economy through its contracts with vendors.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Zippo lighter became an iconic symbol of the American warfighter

When the U.S. military entered World War II, American businesses geared their entrepreneurial efforts toward supporting the war effort as a means of survival. This meant the majority of raw materials were used to produce weapons, ammunition, armor, aircraft, and other necessary equipment. Zippo Manufacturing Company had a decade of experience selling their flip-open lighters to the consumer market, but during the war they exclusively produced Zippo lighters for American service members.

The classic Zippo design garnered respect among the millions of Americans serving overseas. These steel-cased lighters had a black crackle finish and no customization, engravings, or art work on them but were durable and could function no matter what elements troops found themselves in. An ad in 1942 wrote, “Zippo Windproof LIGHTERS have acted as rescue beacons for men in open boats, as a guide through dense dark jungles and as a means for lighting fires for food and warmth.”


Ernie Pyle, a famous war correspondent and newspaperman, developed a special relationship with George Blaisdell and personally received a shipment of 50 Zippos prior to the D-Day invasion. “And another 100 will be sent to Ernie every month for the duration,” Blaisdell added.

Pyle famously penned a letter to Blaisdell on Oct. 29, 1944: “If I tried to tell you how much these Zippos are coveted at the front and the gratitude and delight with which the boys receive them, you would probably accuse me of exaggeration,” he wrote. “There is truly nothing the average soldier would rather have.”

Following Pyle’s tragic death in the Pacific in 1945, Blaisdell immediately sent 600 Zippo lighters engraved with “In memory of Ernie Pyle” to the captain of the USS Cabot to hand out to the crew who counted Pyle as one of their own.

Post-World War II, the increasingly popular Zippo lighters became available to the general public once again. The connection between Zippo and the U.S. military didn’t stop there, and during the Vietnam War Zippo emerged as the most popular item carried in the pockets of American service members. Unlike the cigarette lighters from previous wars, these Zippos were personal mementos specifically customized with unit logos, maps of Vietnam, and both humorous and crude slogans.

“You had people who were discontent people who wanted to express heartfelt emotions,” said Bradford Edwards, a Vietnam-era Zippo collector and artist. “And here was a small canvas that may be the last thing some of these guys had to say.”

One soldier’s Zippo had the logo for the United States Army Air Defense Center in Fort Bliss, Texas, on the front, while the lid reads, “When I die bury me face down so the whole world can kiss my ass.” On the back, the case reads, “5th Special Forces Group – 1st Special Forces Viet Nam 69-70” with an engraving of a U.S. Army Special Forces green beret. The lid reads, “Nha-Trang Viet Nam.”

During the Vietnam War, Zippos were sold at the PX or by locals operating the street side black markets. Their popularity in wartime culture surged with “Zippo Tracks” being adopted as a nickname for flame throwing tanks, and “Zippo Raids” used to describe the actions of soldiers burning down hooches or villages.

Although Zippo remained a treasured collector’s item, during the 1980s a surge of fake lighters saturated the market. Zippo continues to produce military-themed lighters to commemorate their storied legacy, although the artwork is more general. The Zippo/Case Museum in Bradford, Pennsylvania, is home to Zippo and Case Knives flagship stores, where collectors and tourists alike can take a deeper dive into the history of Zippo and their involvement with American service members.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The KGB tailed this Frenchman for 8 years, but was he a spy?

Fifty-five years ago, on Sept. 11, 1963, a plane took off from Kyiv for Vienna. On board was Julien Galeotti, a French citizen accused of espionage and expelled from the Soviet Union.

Recently released documents from the KGB archive in Kyiv have revealed details of Galeotti’s story and brought to light the remarkable photographs he took during his travels in the Soviet Union. For eight years, KGB agents followed the man they called “The Moustache.”

But was he a spy?


Galeotti made his first trip to the Soviet Union as a tourist in 1955, with stops in Moscow and Leningrad, which is now St. Petersburg. From the beginning, he attracted the attention of the KGB.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

Julien Galeotti.


According to reports filed on him, KGB agents believed the snap-happy Galeotti was trying to make secret “compromising photos” in the Soviet Union aimed at “discrediting and mocking intentionally created ugly images and insignificant aspects” of Soviet life.

In one photograph taken in front of the newly constructed main building of Moscow State University, the KGB alleged Galeotti had set up “clearly posed French citizens depicting unemployed people.”

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

Soviet citizens relaxing on a Moscow bench or French tourists posing as the unemployed?

The next year, Galeotti was back, this time taking a cruise from the southern French port of Nice on to the Black Sea, with stops in Odesa, Sevastopol, and Yalta in Ukraine, as well as Sochi in Russia and Batumi in Georgia. He made similar cruises in 1957, 1959, 1961, and 1963.

Over the years, he took photographs of Soviet citizens standing in lines for basic goods. He photographed a beggar in an Odesa market and military vessels in port.

“At 14:00, he went into the courtyard of Lenin Street, No. 59, and took a photograph of a trash container,” a KGB report from August 12, 1957, said about Galeotti’s time in Odesa. “Then, walking along Provoznaya Street, he photographed poorly dressed citizens.”

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

Residents of Odesa at a public transport stop in 1963.

Soviet agents followed him the entire time, watching him both on board the cruise ship and ashore. According to their reports, Galeotti tried to become friendly with the crews of the ships, showed an interest in Soviet ports and whether military ships were present, and organized anti-Soviet shows and skits aboard the cruise ships.

On his final trip to the Soviet Union in 1963, Galeotti was back in Sevastopol, the Crimean Peninsula port city that was home to the Black Sea Fleet. The KGB arranged to have civilian militia (druzhinniki) headed by KGB agents stationed at sensitive viewing points overlooking Soviet military vessels in anticipation that Galeotti would want to take photos there.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

Galeotti’s photo of the Soviet tank rolling down an Odesa street in 1963.

An operational group was set up with the intention of detaining him. The pretext for arresting him was based on the “statements of Soviet citizens,” including a letter from the captain of the cruise ship.

When agents arrested Galeotti in Sevastopol on Aug. 22, 1963, they didn’t find any film on him. He’d managed to pass his rolls to another French citizen who, according to the intelligence reports, hid them in the seat of his Soviet tourist agency bus. That French citizen spent the rest of the cruise aboard ship without disembarking in the Soviet Union again, and the KGB eventually recovered the rolls of film from the bus.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

A market in Odesa in 1963.

Galeotti spent nearly three weeks in custody, first in the Crimean capital, Simferopol, and then in Kyiv, where he was taken for further questioning.

At first, Galeotti denied being a French agent. He said all of his photographs were taken out of personal interest. But eventually he confessed that he had worked with the French secret services, but only during his last trip to the Soviet Union when he’d been asked to photograph military objects in Sevastopol. Later in the interrogation, he admitted that he’d carried out such assignments from his first trip to the Soviet Union.

He said that when he returned to France after each trip, he sent the film to the photo studio of his father, a former French intelligence agent.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

A KGB surveillance photo of Galeotti in Odesa in 1963.

Galeotti “repented of his actions, saying that he had made a terrible mistake that he would never repeat,” the KGB reported following his interrogation.

According to the file, Moscow decided merely to expel Galeotti because, at the time, two KGB operatives had gone missing in France. It was decided “to exploit the situation as part of a more comprehensive plan.” KGB agents continued to follow and photograph The Moustache until the very moment that his plane left the ground.

Upon returning to France, Galeotti told journalists: “I can’t go back to the Soviet Union anymore. But then again, I don’t want to.”

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Twitter thinks Optimus Prime is the most inspirational dude ever

Normally, asking which of two beloved characters with rabid fanbases is a way to rile people up, to start up a spirited debate. Kirk vs. Picard is the classic example of this kind of question: there’s no right answer, which is why it’s fun to talk about.

So when a Twitter user asked who gives the better speeches, Captain America or Optimus Prime, we didn’t expect anything approaching a consensus to emerge. And yet, one did.


It’s Optimus Prime, by a mile. And honestly, after we rewatched the speeches people posted in the replies, it’s hard not to agree. It might not be fair—he’s a massive robot after all—but he has more gravitas than Cap. There’s also the fact that the Transformers stories present plenty of opportunities to talk about the future of the human race and that, in the Avengers films at least, Cap is one of dozens of characters competing for screen time.

As a refresher, here is one of Optimus Prime’s best speeches from the Transformers films.

And here’s one of Cap’s, from Winter Soldier.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=110&v=yv-lEtzVK8I&feature=emb_logo
Captain America’s Epic Speech Scene – Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) HD

www.youtube.com

If you need a moment to wipe away those tears, we understand. Once you’re ready, you can check out some of the clever replies fans posted in response.

This one is cool because you get to see Peter Cullen, the voice actor who absolutely kills it as Optimus.

But it wasn’t unanimous, and Cap still has his defenders.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

What a ‘designated survivor’ does during the State of the Union

With President Donald Trump’s first official State of the Union address on Jan. 30, the White House’s security apparatus is making preparations for a grim worse-case scenario.


If there was a targeted attack on the Capitol, someone would have to take over the government.

Excluding the years immediately after a new president is elected, one member of the president’s Cabinet has been selected every year since the 1960s to be the “designated survivor.”

They sit out the State of the Union far away from the House chamber, so that in case there is a catastrophe, a Senate-confirmed official could take the reigns of the presidency. Since 2005, a designated survivor from Congress has also been selected in order to rebuild the legislative branch.

Also Read: A World Trade Center survivor left an amazing goodbye to his family

This year’s designated survivor has not been announced yet. Although highly unlikely, this doomsday scenario has captured the imaginations of screen writers and TV producers, spawning a an entire show on ABC called simply “Designated Survivor.”

In the real world, designated survivors have often tended to be low-ranking cabinet members, and until 9/11, had spent their evenings away from Washington, DC, in a variety of ways. Almost all choose to kick back, relax, and enjoy the perks of the presidential treatment for a few short hours.

Here are how past designated survivors have spent their State of the Union addresses as the possible president-to-be:

A designated survivor has been selected for the State of Union address since sometime in the 1960s, but the first one documented person was secretary of housing and urban development Samuel R. Pierce Jr. at former President Ronald Reagan’s in January 1984.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’
Official portrait of then-Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Samuel Pierce.

Source: The American Presidency Project

In 1986, agriculture secretary John Block spent Reagan’s address from his friend’s house on the shores of Montego Bay, Jamaica. “I was having a glass of wine probably,” Block said after the fact.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’
John Block (Official US Secretary of Agriculture photo).

Source: ABC News

In 1990, secretary of veteran affairs Ed Derwinski had a pretty casual experience as the designated survivor. He had pizza near his home while his security detail stood by.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’
Former President George H.W. Bush’s cabinet, with Derwinski standing in the top row, third from the right. (Wikipedia)

Source: ABC News

In 1996, secretary of health and human services Donna Shalala spent the State of the Union address in the White House. She reportedly ordered pizza for her staff after former President Bill Clinton told her, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’
Donna Shalala (Wikipedia)

Source: ABC News

In 1997, secretary of agriculture Dan Glickman visited his daughter in Lower Manhattan to hang out at her apartment — “nuclear football” and all. But after the State of the Union ended and Secret Service left, they were left looking for taxis in the pouring rain.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’
Dan Glickman, 26th Secretary of Agriculture, January 1995 – 2001. (Wikipedia)

Source: CBS News

In 1999, then-secretary of housing and urban development and now-governor of New York Andrew Cuomo opted to stay home to spend quality time with his kids.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’
Andrew Cuomo as HUD Secretary (Wikipedia)

Source: ABC News

In 2000, secretary of energy Bill Richardson spent his time as designated survivor hanging out with his family in coastal Maryland. They dined on roast beef and drank beers as the Secret Service watched over them.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’
Bill Richardson at an event in Kensington, New Hampshire. (Wikipedia)

Source: ABC News

But after the 9/11 attacks rocked the world, the role of designated survivor took on new gravity. From then on out, designated survivors were taken to an undisclosed location and didn’t speak to reporters about their experiences.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’
U.S. President George W. Bush at the 2002 State of the Union address in January 2002. (Wikipedia)

Source: ABC News

“I think 9/11 created a new aura of reality,” said interior secretary and 2011’s designated survivor Ken Salazar. “It added a dimension of seriousness to that kind of protective measure.”

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’
Official portrait of Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar (Wikipedia)

Source: ABC News

In 2006, secretary of veterans affairs Jim Nicholson had to deal with this new level of seriousness when he was transported via helicopter to an unknown location and given a security briefing. But was able to enjoy a steak dinner in the process.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’
Jim Nicholson, Secretary of Veterans Affairs. (Wikipedia)

Source: ABC News

In 2010, an unusual circumstance meant that two designated survivors were selected.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’


Source: Washington Post

Then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton was abroad in London during the State of the Union, but secretary of housing and urban development Shaun Donovan was also named designated survivor.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, 2009 (Wikipedia)

Source: Washington Post

Had anything happened to the president, Clinton would have succeeded former President Barack Obama because she was next in the line of succession, but because her location was known, another survivor had to be selected.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’
Photo by Marc Nozell | Wikimedia Commons

Source: Washington Post

Thankfully — outside of the fictional TV show on ABC — no real designated survivors have had to fulfill their doomsday missions.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’
Kiefer Sutherland plays President Tom Kirkman, who finds himself unceremoniously dumped into the Oval Office as the Designated Survivor. (Wikipedia)

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the elite PJs rescue troops in the mountains of Afghanistan

US Air Force Pararescue specialists, or PJs, are one of the most elite special operators in the world.

Consisting of about 500 airmen, PJs “rescue and recover downed aircrews from hostile or otherwise unreachable areas,” according to the Air Force.

These “highly trained experts perform rescues in every type of terrain and partake in every part of the mission, from search and rescue, to combat support to providing emergency medical treatment, in order to ensure that every mission is a successful one.”

“One of the challenges [in Afghanistan] is the altitude and terrain because we are surrounded by mountains,” Maj. Jason Egger, 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron commander at Bagram Airfield, said in a Defense Department news release on the training.

“We overcome that challenge by working with the Army pilots, which gives us the capability to get to the altitude we need and insert the teams,” Egger added.

Here’s how PJs rescue troops in the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan.


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US Air Force PJs on the ground during a training mission in Afghanistan on Nov. 5, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

A CH-47 Chinook helicopter takes off during a PJ training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

After getting a call, the PJs load into an Army CH-47 Chinook, which they often use for transports in rescue missions in Afghanistan.

“Most of the central and northern Afghanistan area is very high altitude, and that’s where the CH-47s can really provide some special capability because of their ability to get to that high altitude area and insert the team,” Eggers said.

Read more about Chinooks here.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

A CH-47 Chinook helicopter flies over an MRAP during a PJ training mission on Nov. 5, 2018 in Afghanistan.

(US Air Force photo)

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

An Air Force PJ fast-ropes down to the ground during a training mission in Afghanistan on Nov. 5, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

At the site, PJs fast-rope down to the ground to get the troops in need.

PJs can also insert from higher altitudes, and therefore train in high altitude jumps from fixed-wing aircraft.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

PJ operators perform rescues during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

A PJ operator helps an service member with a simulated injury during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

PJs provide first aid to wounded service members during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018. The wounds were simulated for the training’s realism.

(US Air Force photo)

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

PJs flying in Chinook helicopters during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

PJs carrying a service member with a simulated wound during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

PJs conduct combat arms training Nov. 1, 2018 at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

(US Air Force photo)

But PJs also undergo intense combat arms training as well, which is needed in certain rescue scenarios.

“The PJs and the combat rescue officers have a pretty broad skill set, and it’s pretty difficult to stay sharp on all those skills,” Eggers said. “So continuing to keep them engaged through training, it keeps those skills sharp throughout the entire deployment.”

Watch the full interview with Eggers here, and the PJ training videos here, here and here.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The top 6 Army-Navy Game uniforms ever worn for the big rivalry

For the past few years, both Army and Navy break out with new uniforms to honor some aspect of their service or academy heritage during the much-anticipated Army-Navy Game. The 2019 game will feature the Black Knights honoring the 1st Cavalry Division with their uniforms while Navy is wearing throwback unis reminiscent of the days of Navy legend Roger Staubach – who will surely be in attendance.

While it’s cool to see all the thought and effort that goes into making one of college football’s biggest rivalries an epic game, not all of the uniforms were on target. Here are a few of the all-time best.


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6. Navy’s 2013 “Don’t Give Up The Ship”

These majestic blue and gold digs honored not only the traditions and history of the Naval Academy but also included a traditional design with a historical, entirely relevant message underneath the uniform. Navy didn’t give up the ship, beating Army 34-7.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

5. Army’s 2012 “1944” Tribute

This year, Army sported black and gold uniforms that honored its World War II heritage, incorporating real-world battle maps of the 1944 Battle of the Bulge. Their helmets this year also featured the black spade logo to honor the 101st Airborne Division. But badass uniforms were not enough to beat Navy, who won 17-13.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

4. Navy’s 2015 Ship Helmets

While Navy’s uniforms this year may be par-for-the course college football jerseys, each helmet was specifically painted with a different kind of ship in the Navy’s fleet. Ranked Navy beat Army 21-17.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

3. Army’s 2017 10th Mountain White-Outs

Almost as if Army predicted the weather, the Black Knights’ 2017 all-white tribute to the 10th Mountain Division came when the game was pretty much played in the middle of a snowstorm. Army topped Navy 14-13.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

2. Navy’s 2019 Staubach-Era Throwbacks

Yes, it may seem unfair to add this year’s Navy uniform to the list, but choosing to honor the Staubach-era Navy team by wearing a throwback to their uniforms is a thoughtful touch for the aging “Comeback Kid,” who will turn 78 in 2020. Staubach led the Mids to numerous come-from-behind victories, including over vaunted rival Notre Dame. The Heisman Trophy-winner then led the team to the 1964 National Championship, but fell to number one Texas in the Cotton Bowl.

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

1. Army’s 2018 “Big Red One” Uniforms

In 2018, the Black Knights honored the 100th Anniversary of the End of World War I with an homage to the 1st Infantry Division with these sweet black and red combo uniforms. I’m not saying this is why ranked Army topped Navy for the third year in a row, but I’m also not ruling it out.

Articles

The Biden Administration is set to release three Guantanamo Bay detainees

President Joe Biden has renewed President Barack Obama’s pledge to draw down the number of detainees currently being held at a secure facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There are now nine detainees set to be released out of the 40 still held there after 20 years. 

According to the New York Times, the United States is set to release 73-year-old Saifullah Paracha, 54-year-old Abdul Rabbani and 40-year-old Uthman Abdul al-Rahim Uthman. Uthman is a citizen of Yemen. The other two detainees are from Pakistan. 

None of the men have ever been charged with a crime. When releasing “Gitmo” detainees, the U.S. usually asks the receiving country to place special security precautions and travel restrictions on them, but the United States isn’t sure where to send the recent list of soon-to-be-freed prisoners. A total of nine are set to be transferred to other countries.

The entrance to Camp 1 in Guantanamo Bay’s Camp Delta. The base’s detention camps are numbered based on the order in which they were built, not their order of precedence or level of security. Photo by Kathleen T. Rhem (Wikimedia Commons)

Some of the previously cleared prisoners have waited for more than a decade for some other country to take them in. The other 31 prisoners have either been charged with war crimes, are considered too dangerous for release or have been convicted on charges. 

Paracha, Rabbani, and Uthman were approved for release in a joint decision from the attorney general, the director of national intelligence, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the secretaries of state, defense and homeland security. These offices maintain seats on the Periodic Review Secretariat, a kind of parole board that reviews the records of detained persons in the camp. 

A total of 775 detainees were brought to the U.S. Navy installation on Cuba in the years following the September 11 attacks. Most of these prisoners were released without charges, after being held for years on end. The last time a prisoner was transferred out of the camp prison was 2008, when one of the former detainees was returned to Pakistan. 

Guantanamo Bay
A Soldier stands guard on a cell block inside Camp Five at the Joint Task Force Guantanamo detention center at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Nov. 14, 2006. Camp Five is one of six camps that comprise the dentention center, and has been built with many features that can be found in many maximum security prisons in the United States. Camp Five is where the most non-compliant and hostile detainees are held. ( Photo by Staff Sgt. Jon Soucy, National Guard Bureau)

After 20 years of detention, the stigma of being held in one of the world’s most notorious prisons and the ailing health of Saifullah Paracha, it’s unlikely for them to find a new home anytime soon. 

In 2003, Paracha flew from his home in Karachi, Pakistan to Thailand by FBI agents who believed he helped the September 11th plotters make financial transactions in the wake of the attacks. He admitted he held money for them, but denied knowing who they were or what the money was for. 

Rabbani was captured by Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence in a 2002 raid along with his brother. Both were accused of being members of al-Qaeda, of staying in al-Qaeda safehouses, undergoing military training in Afghanistan, and becoming an al-Qaeda operative. 

The two brothers were held by the CIA for more than 500 days before being sent to Guantanamo Bay. They were also held at the CIA black site code named “Cobalt” – also known as “The Salt Pit” – and may have endured the torture experienced by many of the site’s detainees. 

Uthman was brought to Camp X-Ray in 2002, captured and held on charges of being one of Osama Bin Laden’s many bodyguards. 

None of the men have any future plans for how they can support themselves once released, and no country has stepped forward to take them in. 

The Periodic Review Secretariat published its rationale for releases, security assurances, and recommendations for future resettlement for all released detainees on its public website

Humor

5 awful hand salutes that don’t even come close

From greeting a superior officer, showing homage to the American flag, or paying respect to a fallen comrade — saluting is a powerful non-verbal communication gesture for showing proper respect.


With no real written record of how or where the tradition began, the salute dates back far in history when troops would raise their right hand (or their weapon hand) as a signal of friendship.

Back in the days, the subordinate person hand-gestured first in the presence of a superior who would then respond accordingly, which is the same practice used today — lower-ranking personnel salute higher ranking first.

Recruits learn how to hand salute in boot camp and demonstrate it hundreds of times before heading out to active duty. The gesture becomes instant as muscle memory takes over.

But many civilians nowadays salute as a form of celebration — and they get it so so wrong.

Related: 35 technical errors in ‘Rules of Engagement’

So check out our list of awful hand salutes that weren’t even close.

(Seriously — where are the military consultants?)

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

The over-the-top salute. (Image via Giphy)

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

He needs lessons…badly. (Image via Giphy)

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

Chris Evans (some talk show)

Also Read: 5 epic military movie mistakes

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

He made this list freakin’ twice. (Image via Giphy)

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

You know we couldn’t leave this one out. (Source: WB/ YouTube/ Screenshot)

Steven Seagal (Under Siege)

Can you think of any others?

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