New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans - We Are The Mighty
Articles

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

Recent investigations show that the Department of Defense has issued thousands of other-than-honorable discharges to veterans with mental health and behavioral health diagnoses.


U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal and seven other senators introduced legislation to change that.

On April 3, Murphy, veterans, and advocates for veterans held a press conference in Connecticut and called upon Congress to take action.

“I can’t stand the idea of a veteran risking her or his life for this country, suffering the wounds of battle, and then being kicked to the curb as a result of those wounds,” Murphy said. “But that is exactly what has happened to tens of thousands of men and women who have fought and bled for our country.”

“This is common sense,” Murphy added. “We are breaking our promise to those who served.”

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans
In 2014, 6 of the 20 veterans per day committing suicide were users of VA services.

Murphy said there is also a stigma that comes with an other-than-honorable discharge that is a heavy burden for veterans to live with. “A lot of these so-called offenses are very minor,” Murphy said.

The legislation Murphy helped introduce would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide mental health and behavioral health services to diagnosed former combat veterans who have been other-than-honorably discharged. The bill would also ensure that veterans receive a decision in a timely manner and requires the VA to justify to Congress any denial of benefits that they issue to a veteran.

Up until recently, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Murphy said, denied it had the legal authority to provide any care to former combat veterans who received OTH or Bad Paper discharges.

The VA has reversed course on the matter, Murphy said, adding that now it’s time for Congress to act to ensure mental health and behavioral health services are provided to these veterans.

Since January 2009, the Army has “separated” at least 22,000 soldiers for misconduct after they came back from Iraq and Afghanistan, said Murphy.

“These soldiers who fought for our country suffered serious mental health problems or traumatic brain injury as a cost of their service. And we turned our back on them,” Murphy said, adding that they also return home from combat with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

But instead of being directed to the care and treatment they need, they’re being given other-than-honorable discharges or so-called “bad paper discharges,” disqualifying them from VA care, especially the mental and behavioral health services many of them desperately need, said the senator.

Murphy’s strong support for the bill was echoed by Blumenthal, who is a sponsor but was not at Monday’s press conference.

“This bill will make crystal clear that all combat veterans should have access to the full array of mental and behavioral health care they need and deserve,” Blumenthal said. “We cannot wait for a crisis to provide essential mental health to veterans suffering from the terrible invisible wounds of war.”

He said 20 veterans per day are lost to suicide.

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans
Chiefs and chief selects do pushups for the 22Kill Challenge aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). 22Kill is a veterans’ advocacy group that brings awareness to the daily veterans’ suicide rate. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Tristan Lotz/Released)

One of those in attendance at the press conference Monday was Conley Monk, a Vietnam veteran from New Haven who developed PTSD as a result of his military service.

In 2014, Monk and four other plaintiffs brought a class action lawsuit because they were issued OTH discharges. They won the suit, which was brought on their behalf by the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School and the Pentagon agreed to upgrade their discharges to honorable.

Another veteran to speak Monday was was Tom Burke, president of the Yale Student Veterans Council and a U.S. Marine corps veteran.

In 2009, Burke was a Marine infantryman in Afghanistan.

It was when he was in the Helmand Province that he witnessed deaths of many young children who were killed by an unexploded rocket-propelled grenade. One of Burke’s responsibilities was to cart away the dismembered bodies.

“I began smoking hash,” Burke said, adding that in a matter of weeks he was charged for misconduct for his drug use and was told he would be kicked out of the Marines.

Burke said he “tried to commit suicide a few times.”

He said he was later locked in a psychiatric hospital and subsequently given an OTH discharge later in 2009.

In 2014, Burke said he applied for an honorable discharge, but was denied.

Burke tells his story often, these days, not to elicit empathy for his own case, but to try and draw attention to the bigger issue of the thousands like him who are being denied benefits.

“Veterans are dying,” Burke said. “These aren’t men and women who are trying to take advantage of the system.”

Margaret Middleton, executive director of the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, said veterans need relief.

Under the current system, a veteran trying to get an honorable discharge often “requires the expertise and cost of an attorney and lengthy research,” something that veterans returning from combat shouldn’t be forced to endure, she said.

Murphy concluded: “Our veterans made a commitment to our country when they signed up. I introduced this legislation to make sure that the VA keeps its commitment to help veterans with mental and behavioral health issues. I won’t stop fighting until they get the care and benefits they deserve.”

popular

6 awesome Army jobs that no longer exist

Go to an Army career counselor or recruiter and he has all sorts of cool jobs you can sign up for. Soldiers network satellites, engage in hacking wars, and shoot awesome weapons at targets and enemies.


It’s like your childhood video games, fireworks, and backyard games all got awesome upgrades and now you can get paid for it.

But some of the Army’s best jobs are actually in the past, like those that allowed people to get intimately acquainted with tactical nuclear weapons or fire awesome Gatling guns. So here are six of those badass jobs Pvt. Skippy can’t do in the Army anymore:

1. Nuclear weapons basic maintenance specialist

 

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans
(Screenshot: Navy historical documents)

Yeah, the Army used to have a nuclear weapons program and it employed a group of men with a whole three weeks of training to disassemble and repair those weapons.

Not a typo. Three weeks. And the first week was weapons familiarization “taught at the high school level” (not sure what the high school level of nuclear weapons training is).

2. Aeroscout observer

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans
(Photo: U.S. Army)

Back in Vietnam, the Army had people whose sole job was to ride in scout helicopters and help spot targets on the ground while assigned directly to the maneuver forces they were supporting. Aeroscout observers worked with — who else — aeroscout pilots who were also assigned to the ground unit. Eventually, this gave way to pilot/co-pilot teams on OH-58 Kiowa scout helicopters.

Now, even that is falling to the history books. The Army’s active component has retired the last of its dedicated scout helicopters to the boneyards and National Guard in favor of attack helicopters with direct drone control.

3. Army motorcycle riders

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans
U.S. Army Cpl. Gordon C. Powell poses with British Dispatch Rider Baltins Dougoughs on Aug. 27, 1944. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Riding a motorcycle in combat sounds exciting no matter what the job is, from carrying messages to scouting enemy forces. But in World War I, the tank corps included a group of “motorcycle men” whose primary gig was delivering repair parts and replacement crewmembers to tanks under fire.

For obvious reasons, tank-delivery motorcycle riders were re-classed after the Army figured out how to use tanks to recover one another. (If it’s not obvious, it because repair personnel protected by literal tons of armor are safer than those riding motorcycles and protected by only their uniforms).

4. Heavy Anti-Armor Infantryman

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans
(Photo: U.S. Army)

While the Marine Corps still fields Antitank Missile Gunners under the military occupational specialty 0352, the Army got rid of its 11H Heavy Anti-Armor Weapons Infantrymen. These guys did exactly what their title says; They used heavy weapons to hunt down enemy armor. Nowadays, this capability is handled by general infantrymen assigned to the weapons company.

5. Morse Interceptor

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans
(Photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps)

 

Full disclosure, there are a few different signal intelligence jobs that could have been included in this list. Most of them have been folded into other specialties or been quietly terminated as their own job because the march of technology has made them unnecessary. After all, how much Morse intelligence is there to collect anymore?

The reason that Morse interceptor was selected for the list is that it’s the only one of these lost signal intelligence jobs that was once held by Johnny Cash. Cash did the job in the Air Force, not the Army, but still.

6. Chapparal/Vulcan Crewmember

The Chapparal and Vulcan were M113 armored vehicles equipped with anti-aircraft weapons. The Vulcan packed a six-barrel Gatling gun that could be deployed separately from the M113 when necessary, while the Chapparal carried AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. While the Chapparal role was largely replaced with the Army Avenger program, no direct descendant of the Vulcan exists.

While the Vulcan was largely outdated for anti-aircraft operations, the Army gave up a great ground weapon when it lost the Gatling gun. Vulcan crew members could fire 20mm rounds at up to 6,600 rounds per minute, targeting low-flying aircraft or enemy infantry and vehicles.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of October 25th

So the Expert Soldier Badge is now a thing. And I mean, I get the concept behind it. Army infantrymen and medics go through a rigorous course to prove their merit to be bestowed a shiny badge – their own Expert Infantry/Medic Badge. And it’s not a bad thing for soldiers of every other MOS to have something to strive for. But here’s the thing. Infantrymen and medics don’t give a flying f*ck about the EIB/EMB if they have their Combat Infantry/Medic Badge.

It all goes back to how you earn them. My old infantry first sergeant once told me that “one is because you know your sh*t. The other is because you been through the sh*t.” You can only wear one of them, so everyone picks the one that shows they gave Uncle Sam what their contract says they would.

And I even get that every MOS outside the 11 and 68 series are less likely to earn their Combat Action Badge. But like. The CAB is the one thing you point to to tell everyone you’re not some POG-ass commo guy. But like… One badge says you’re not a POG, and the other says that you’ve read plenty of books on how to be less of a POG… I’m just saying…


Whatever. We all know the ESB was invented just because of some staff officers that got pissy because the Pathfinder Badge isn’t around anymore for them to look slightly more impressive than the other butter bars. Anyways, here are some memes.

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

(Meme via Call for Fire)

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

(Meme via Not CID)

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

(Meme via ASMDSS)

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

Articles

4 amazing military stories that should totally be movies

1. Marine Brian Chontosh’s incredible response to an Iraqi ambush

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans


Working Title: Killing Up Close

Director: Clint Eastwood

Starring: Tom Hardy

Hollywood has a reputation for embellishing “true stories” with an extra dose of drama, special effects, and too-beautiful-to-be-real actors. “Brian Chontosh: The Movie,” however, would require no exaggeration — this story of military valor is unbelievably badass from start to finish.

Then-Lt. Brian Chontosh was a Marine platoon leader during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. On the morning of March 25, he was sitting shotgun in a Humvee when a large berm appeared in the distance. Before he and his men knew what was happening, Iraqi soldiers began showering the vehicle detail with machine gun fire, grenades and mortars from behind the shelter — instantly killing a medic and damaging a tank.

Most people would try to organize a hasty exit at this point. Not Brian Chontosh. As bullets and explosives screamed past their Humvee, Chontosh ordered driver Cpl. Armand McCormick to drive forward, straight through the berm. McCormick floored it as another Marine, Cpl. Thomas Franklin, manned the Humvee’s .50-caliber machine gun, crashing through the obstruction and into the trench on the opposite side.

As Iraqi soldiers began to swarm the Humvee, Chontosh swung out of his vehicle guns-a-blazing, firing from his pistol and rifle until he was out of bullets. Iraqi soldiers dropped dead left and right, and Chontosh continued to pull the trigger, machine gun fire clouding his senses as he pushed his way through the maw. It was the first time he had ever killed anyone.

“It’s nothing like TV,” Chontosh told Newsweek. “It’s ugly. It’s contorted. People fall how they fall. It’s not like the bullet hits and they’re blown back or anything like that.”

When his rifle jammed, Chontosh ripped an AK-47 off of a dead Iraqi, unloading every bullet in it before picking up a second AK as he ran, shooting everything he could. By the end of the battle, he would shoot and kill nearly two-dozen Iraqis single-handedly. At this point the exhausted Marine finally reconnected with his men and headed back towards the Humvee, when they noticed an Iraqi soldier huddled on the ground, playing dead but holding a grenade.

The men scrambled for weapons but were out of ammo. Amazingly, Chontosh saw a cluster of live M-16 rounds glinting in the dirt, where they had fallen when his rifle jammed. He dove for the rounds, loaded a single bullet — and shot the soldier in the head, saving himself and his men. Can you imagine that scene on an IMAX screen?

If that’s not Hollywood-blockbuster enough for you, they still had to get medical help for the Marines who had been wounded. Oh, and a sandstorm rolled in. Totally casual.

Chontosh would later be awarded the Navy Cross and two Bronze Stars for heroism, and is currently considered one of the top CrossFit athletes in the world. If that isn’t prime movie material, we don’t know what is. Your move, Hollywood.

2. The story of Larry Thorne’s military valor under three different flags

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

Working Title: Soldier Under Three Flags

Director: Ridley Scott

Starring: Aaron Paul

Have you ever watched a movie that you loved so much you didn’t want it to end? This is that movie — and don’t worry about a short running time, either. Lauri Törni’s story is filled with so many twists and turns that even a conservative film adaptation would give The Hobbit’s running time a run for its money — so maybe a two-part series would be best.

Törni’s story begins in Finland in 1938, when he joined the army at 19 years old, determined to fight the Soviet Union. It didn’t take long for his natural leadership skills and military instincts to shine, and he was soon promoted to captain — of a skiing troop. Törni and his men would pursue their enemies on skis, kicking up powder on the Finnish slopes. Is anyone else thinking of that chase scene from The Grand Budapest Hotel? Just add guns and Soviet Russians.

Everything was going great until Törni skied into a mine in 1942, leaving him badly wounded. The young soldier was soon back on his feet, however, and would later be honored with the Mannerheim Cross for his war efforts (the Finnish equivalent of the Medal of Honor).

But Törni wasn’t ready to give up the fighting — though he would give up his Finnish uniform. When Finland agreed to a ceasefire with the Soviet Union in 1944, he decided to switch teams to keep up with the action, joining the German SS for the promise of future combat against the Communists.

Unfortunately, as we know, Törni picked the wrong team. When the war ended, he was arrested by British forces for being a Nazi officer. Didn’t think the protagonist was going to get tangled up with the bad guys, did you? But he wasn’t in prison for long. Törni successfuly escaped his POW camp and snuck back into Finland, where, unfortunately, he was arrested again, this time by his own people. Things really went downhill after that skiing accident.

Luckily, however, the president of Finland had a soft spot for this adventurous turncoat, and Törni only served half his sentence before he was pardoned and released in 1948.

But wait, the story’s not over. In June of 1950, America would pass a law that would create an opportunity for foreigners to serve under the U.S. military, granting them citizenship if they stuck with it for five years. It was called the Lodge-Philbin Act, and it came right around the same time a new military unit was created — The Special Forces.

Törni, along with 200 other Eastern Europeans, joined the American military under this law. This wasn’t merely an opportunity to continue military service, however  — the Soviet Union forced Finland to arrest Törni for his time fighting alongside the Nazis. When he found out he would be shipped to Moscow and tried for war crimes, Törni knew it was time to get out of dodge and start a new life. So he escaped — again — and changed his name to Larry Thorne, ready to embrace an American identity.

Not surprisingly, Thorne thrived in his new military environment. Originally enlisting as a private, he was quickly singled out for his skill and experience, and began teaching at the Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg, where he instructed recruits on guerrilla fighting tactics and survival skills. Soon after, he would become a Captain in Special Forces, and successfully retrieved classified documents from a U.S. Air Force plane that went down in the mountains near the Turkish-Soviet border.

The U.S. Army details:

Thorne quickly made it into the U.S. Special Forces and in 1962, as a Captain, he led his detachment onto the highest mountain in Iran to recover the bodies and classified material from an American C-130 airplane that had crashed.  It was a mission in which others had failed, but Thorne’s unrelenting spirit led to its accomplishment.  This mission initially formed his status as a U.S. Special Forces legend, but it was his deep strategic reconnaissance and interdiction exploits with Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, also known as MACV-SOG, that solidified his legendary status.

If this wasn’t cool enough, Thorne was also awarded five Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star medal for his military bravery. His last ever mission was in Vietnam in 1965, when he led the premiere MACV-SOG cross-border mission into Laos. While his men successfully entered a clearing within Laos, Thorne watched and waited in a chase helicopter, ready to provide assistance if necessary. When his men had made it safe, he began flying his helicopter back to base.

Only a few minutes later, the helicopter lost control and crashed  — likely the result of stormy weather conditions. The Army reported Thorne as MIA, and many of his comrades refused to believe this military legend was dead. Their beliefs were further cemented when the chopper and air crew were found without Thorne’s body, and many hoped that he had escaped the crash and was still making his way out of the jungle.

The legend of Larry Thorne and his mysterious disappearance lived on until 1999, when a second exploration of the crash site produced a body who’s DNA and dental records matched that of the beloved Special Forces soldier. His life was cut short, but the legacy he left behind was larger than life, and completely worthy of a couple hours on the big screen.

3. The story of the orthodontist who became America’s first Navy SEAL

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

Working Title: Another Navy SEAL Movie

Director: Stephen Spielberg

Starring: Christoph Waltz

Everyone loves a good underdog, and Navy Lt. j.g. Jack Taylor is one of the best “little guys” we’ve ever heard of. Before the start of World War II, Taylor was an orthodontist in Hollywood, California. When the U.S. declared war on Japan, however, Taylor swapped his dental scrubs for a Navy uniform, planning to teach boat handling skills to American and Allied servicemen — a pretty safe wartime occupation.

Fate had other plans for Taylor however, and they were way more exciting than pulling teeth or rigging sails.

He didn’t know it yet, but DDS Jack Taylor would soon become Lt. j.g. Taylor, and would prove his worth as the first ever Navy SEAL, undertaking ocean operations in Greece, land operations in Albania, and parachuting into Austria — 20 years before the first SEAL team had ever been assembled.

His military career began when he was ordered to serve with the OSS, or the Office of Strategic Services in 1942. He then became the Chief of the Office of Strategic Service Maritime Unit, and things only got cooler from there.

According to David Nye from WATM:

In the Maritime Unit, Taylor personally commanded fourteen missions into the enemy-occupied Greek and Balkan coasts. He and his team delivered spies, weapons, explosives, and other supplies to friendly forces from Sep. 1943 to March, 1944.

Taylor also commanded a land team in Central Albania around this time, escaping near-capture by enemy forces at least three times. For his valor, he received the Navy Cross.

Unfortunately, Taylor and his men would run into trouble after their drop into Austria during the “Dupont Mission,” where he and his men rallied Austrians sympathetic to the Allied cause, formed a network of cities and towns that would support them, and photographed German defense strategies and equipment.

Before Taylor and his men could head to Italy to meet up with American troops, the group was captured on Dec. 1, 1944, and sent to prison in Vienna before being transferred to Mauthausen, a camp that was notorious for its cruel treatment and deplorable living conditions. There Taylor was jailed as a political prisoner, and watched as inmate after inmate was executed — a brutal reminder of what his own fate would surely be.

Taylor was nearly executed on two different occasions. The first time a friend who worked in the camp’s office found his papers among a stack of to-be executed prisoners and removed it, burning it before his superiors noticed it was gone.

Eventually the Nazis realized Taylor had evaded his sentence, and scheduled a second execution. But just when it seemed that his number was up, the 11th Armored Division liberated the camp, only days before he would have been killed.

When an American film crew arrived and asked him for an interview, Taylor got the chance to tell the world what he and so many others had experienced under Nazi prison conditions, later recounting the same information at the Nuremberg trials, where his testimony of the horrors of Mauthausen would lead to the conviction of all 61 camp personnel.

4. “Mad Jack” Churchill’s sword-wielding World War II victories

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

Working Title: Mad Jack

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Star: Harvey Keitel

When it comes to movie characters, American viewers seem to agree on the same cinematic mantra: The more eccentric, the better. If you’re skeptical, just Google John Malkovich, or ponder how “The Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise continues to grind out terrible sequels that people continue to pay for. Sometimes, people don’t want quality, they just want crazy.

Luckily, however, we’ve found a story that fits the bill in both categories: A war account so bizarre it sounds more like an urban legend than a part of America’s WWII history.

Lt. Col. John Malcom Thorpe Fleming Churchill, or “Mad Jack” as he would later be known, may have been one of the most badass — and insane — people to ever walk the earth. Picture the weirdness of Jeff Bridges a la “The Big Lebowski” crossed with sheer majesty of Mel Gibson in “Braveheart” and you’ll be in the ballpark.

Churchill joined the British military in 1926 at age 20, only to leave shortly after to pursue professional bagpiping and compete in the World Archery Championship in 1939 — because why not. But when WWII rolled around, Churchill was more than ready to jump back into the fray, and racked up a war record so unbelievable we’re shocked his story hasn’t already made it to the big screen.

Churchill stormed the beaches of Normandy carrying a Scottish sword, wore his bagpipes in battle and made many of his kills with a longbow he wore on his back. During a night raid on the Nazi lines, Churchill led his men to capture 136 enemy soldiers — and he himself captured 40 plus Germans at sword point. During a different battle on the Nazi-controlled island of Brac, “Mad Jack” fought until he was the last of his men standing. Then when he ran out of ammo, he stood his ground, playing his bagpipes on top of a hill until a grenade knocked him out and he was captured by the Germans. That scene alone could win an Academy Award.

Churchill would later escape his POW camp and meet up with American troops, only to find out — to his profound disappointment — that two atomic bombs had been dropped, and the war was essentially over. According to Vice, Churchill reportedly complained, “If it hadn’t been for those damn Yanks, we could have kept the war going for another ten years!”

Who knows, with the film industry being so sequel-happy these days (we’re looking at you, Peter Jackson), maybe his movies could go on for ten years.

NOW: A WWII veteran has a Nazi doctor to thank for saving his life – twice

OR: The 6 scariest military vehicles of WWI and WWII

Humor

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of Oct. 6

A lot happens in a week. Lately it seems like a lot more happens in a week than usual. Every day seems more eventful than the last. So be ready for anything.


You know what you should really get ready for? Memes. More specifically, military memes.

Even more specifically, these military memes.

Have a good weekend.

1. God – the original drill instructor. (via U.S. Army WTF Moments)

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

2. Now we can stop questioning each other’s patriotism.

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans
For about a week.

3. No matter what the Facebook argument is, keep that ace ready to go.

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans
But this will open up a whole new can of worms if you do it to another vet.

4. Airmen: just own it.

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans
The Air Force does its combatives at 300 mph behind a GAU-8 Avenger.

5. “Mr. A-10, we’re surrounded and need to break out.”

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

6. The Air Force underappreciated until you need them.

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans
You better to pray to St. Mattis that it’s forthcoming.

7. Meanwhile, over at Big Army… (via Decelerate your Life)

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans
When you need an extraction but can’t get one unless you stay put.

8. Better than a high school reunion:

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans
It might be past its sell-by date, but should still do the trick.

9. This is amazing foresight:

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans
Now he can stay up all night on watch.

10. The Guard is the Guard is the Guard (via Coast Guard Memes):

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans
Apparently.

11. His PFT score was AMAZING:

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans
He also has more college credit than you.

12. Here’s a chance to use those Air Force combat training moves.

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans
Unless one of them is in JROTC.

13. Did you volunteer for anything this weekend?

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

 

Hey! All this without mentioning Dakota Meyer or Dan Bilzerian. That’s how it’s done. See you next week.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Scientists have discovered a mysterious lump on the moon’s far side

The far side of the moon is hiding a colossal secret beneath its airless, pockmarked surface.

No one is quite sure what it is — the most precise wording researchers can muster is a “large excess of mass.”

The feature lurks dozens of miles beneath a 1,550-mile-wide impact crater called the South Pole-Aitken Basin, which we can’t see from Earth. Ideas for what the mysterious lump may be include the splattered core of a giant metallic asteroid or an ocean of red-hot magma that slowly froze in place.

“Imagine taking a pile of metal five times larger than the Big Island of Hawaii and burying it underground,” Peter B. James, a geoscientist at Baylor University, said in a press release. “That’s roughly how much unexpected mass we detected.”


James is one of a handful of US scientists who announced their discovery in a study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The gravitational force of “whatever it is, wherever it came from,” James said, is so great that it drags down the floor of the basin by more than half a mile.

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

A rendering of a lunar rover for China’s Chang’e-4 moon mission.

(China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation)

A giant secret below the solar system’s oldest, biggest preserved crater

The South Pole-Aitken Basin is believed to be the site of a horrendous collision that occurred about 500 million years after the moon formed. It’s thought to be the largest and oldest intact crater on any planetary body within the solar system.

Whatever formed the basin nearly 4 billion years ago remains a mystery, but the blow was so strong that it likely punched all the way through the moon’s crust and tossed part of the lunar mantle — a deeper geologic layer — onto the surface.

For these reasons, geologists are eager to explore the basin to glean clues about the moon’s formation and composition. In fact, China recently landed its Chang’e 4 mission there (specifically within a roughly 111-mile-wide crater called Von Kármán) to study part of the basin.

James and his colleagues discovered the anomaly beneath the basin by merging data from two NASA missions at the moon. One is the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which continues to constantly photograph the lunar surface and has led to high-definition surface elevation maps.

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

The mysterious lunar lump exists below the surface of the lunar South Pole-Aitken Basin (in blues and purples).

(NASA/LROC/Arizona State University)

The other mission was the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), which involved two spacecraft — GRAIL A and GRAIL B — working in tandem to detect variations in the strength of the moon’s gravitational field. Larger variations helped tease out information about the moon’s core, and subtler ones revealed unseen mineral deposits, asteroid impact sites, and subsurface features.

“When we combined that with lunar topography data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, we discovered the unexpectedly large amount of mass hundreds of miles underneath the South Pole-Aitken basin,” James said. “One of the explanations of this extra mass is that the metal from the asteroid that formed this crater is still embedded in the moon’s mantle.”

If the mass is a metallic asteroid core, it didn’t get stuck inside the moon intact; instead, computer simulations suggest it could have spread out as it struck. The researchers think such splattering may have kept the metal floating about 186 miles beneath the crust; otherwise it might have sunk down into the moon’s core, which starts about 310 miles deep.

Another explanation is that, following the impact that formed the basin, a huge ocean of metal-rich magma pooled inside of the lunar crust and solidified into a dense slab.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This company wants to make the Army’s M17 into way more than a pistol

Warfighting, like any line of work, gets much easier when you have the right tools for the job. A long barrel and high powered optics may make you a lethal opponent in the long-range shootouts of Afghanistan, but that same loadout could quickly become a liability in the close-quarters battles of Baghdad. Of course, some circumstances may call for both accuracy at a distance and the rapid target acquisition of an in-your-face fight, and in those situations, you’ve got to make do with what you’ve got.

That’s where platforms like FLUX Defense’s MP17 for the new Army standard issue M17 pistol could come in. Instead of replacing the Army’s existing sidearm, FLUX Defense went to work on finding ways to make Sig Sauer’s M17 more lethal and efficient in situations where one might not normally reach for a sidearm. In order to do that, they found what the M17 really needed was a third point of contact on the user’s body.


New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

A soldier firing the M17 like a stockless chump.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Samantha Stoffregen)

Most special operators rely on a pistol as a secondary firearm, using their primary weapon (commonly an assault rifle or submachine gun) whenever possible thanks to its greater degree of control, accuracy, range, and often, ammunition on hand. A sidearm like the Army’s M17 pistol is often seen as a weapon of last resort, or at the very least, a weapon with advantages under only specific circumstances.

The FLUX Defense MP17, however, adds a retractable stock (though, it’s important to note, it’s not legally considered a stock) and accessories to the standard Sig Sauer M17. The retractable stock and custom holster means the pistol still rides on a soldier’s hip like the M17 normally would, but instead of drawing the weapon and firing it like a traditional pistol, the user can deploy the stock and shoulder the weapon like a rifle — adding a great deal of stability, accuracy, and recoil control that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

While current M17s come standard with either a 17-round or extended 21-round magazine, the MP17 increases that capacity to 43 rounds, thanks to a second magazine holder that doubles as a forward grip. It also offers a rail for mounting lights or lasers and optics mounts on the back. Importantly, beneath that optic mount is a gap that allows users to continue to use the pistol’s iron sights even while it’s housed in the FLUX brace.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAirGk_hVsc
The new Flux Defense MP17 // FluxDefense

youtu.be

According to the manufacturer, you can convert your standard-issue M17 into the MP17 in as little as 60 seconds, and it weighs in at just 2.8 pounds with the firearm (and no ammunition) installed.

FLUX advertises that the platform “shoots like a primary, holsters like a pistol,” and for many special operators or even those with concerns about home defense, that’s an offer that’s too good to ignore. This system could also serve as a significant benefit for personal security details and pilots — both of whom are constantly balancing security and preparation against a lack of usable space.

Last year, fighter pilots began carrying a new M4 variant dubbed the GAU-5/A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon, which breaks apart to be easily stowed in the cockpit. A platform like the FLUX MP17, however, could be used to those same ends without requiring assembly after a crash.

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

The holster allows for suppressors, flashlights, lasers, or whatever else you crazy kids are using these days.

(FLUX Defense)

Civilian customers can purchase the brace system without its custom holster for around 0, or with the holster for 0. As FLUX will point out, there aren’t currently any other holster options available on the market for the platform, however, so you’ll probably want to spring for the full package. That duty holster is open near the muzzle, allowing for a wide variety of flashlights, suppressors, or other tacticool (or legitimately tactical) add-ons. They also sell variants for use with Glock pistols.

Of course, despite being classified as a pistol brace rather than a stock, there could potentially still be legal issues with picking up your own MP17. While FLUX doesn’t sell their brace kit as a Short Barrel Rifle kit (SBR) and they say it doesn’t fall under the ATF’s AOW (All Other Weapons) category to require a special stamp, the ATF is sometimes slow to make rulings about new products. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with any state or local laws pertaining to the use of SBRs before you make a purchase.

Provided you can get your hands on the FLUX Defense MP17 legally, it may be just what you need to turn your standard sidearm into the right tool for the job, even if the job at hand is something pistols have no right to be doing.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS has been beaten from its caliphate to caves

At one time, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria controlled a self-proclaimed caliphate that stretched from Syria to Iraq, but now that force in Iraq has been degraded so much that the remnants are hiding in caves, deep wadis, and tunnels in the desert and hills of western Iraq’s austere terrain, the commander of Task Force Rifles told Pentagon reporters Dec. 11, 2018.

Army Col. Jonathan C. Byrom, who also serves as deputy director of Joint Operations Command Iraq, spoke via video teleconference from Baghdad.

Kurdish peshmerga and Iraqi security forces are conducting continuous clearance operations against these small pockets, the colonel said.


Checkpoints along the Iraq-Syria border have now been reopened, and Iraq’s border guard and security forces are operating along that border to prevent ISIS from crossing, he said. That includes “intense cross-border fires” by Iraqi and coalition forces in consultation and coordination with Syrian Democratic Forces, he added.

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

U.S. Marines with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command fire 120mm mortars in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve operations Sept. 18, 2018. CJTF-OIR is the military arm of the Global Coalition to defeat ISIS in designated parts of Iraq and Syria.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gabino Perez)

Iraqi security forces are large-scale clearance operations and are hunting ISIS leadership and trying to take out the terrorist group’s media, propaganda, and financial capabilities, Byrom said.

Assistance from U.S., coalition forces

U.S. and coalition forces are advising, assisting, and enabling Iraqi forces, he said, support that includes providing them with joint fires, intelligence, aerial surveillance, and training, along with some equipment. “It’s a good partnership” that’s preventing a resurgence of ISIS and continues to degrade their numbers and effectiveness, the colonel said.

Byrom emphasized that the Iraqis are conducting their own missions and making the decisions. “They are effectively targeting ISIS and regularly conducting operations that disrupt ISIS and preventing their resurgence,” he said.

Asked how many ISIS fighters remain in Iraq, Byrom said he doesn’t focus on the number. “What we’re really focused on is the capability and whether they can translate this capability into destabilizing or resurging,” he explained.

The good news story, he said, is that ISIS attacks “are not having that much of an impact on the population.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Where the Air Force may test their new bomber is no surprise

When the Air Force has looked to test out cutting-edge technology, like the U-2 Dragon Lady, SR-71 Blackbird, and the F-117 Nighthawk, they have had one piece of real estate they turn to. It’s an air base whose existence was denied until 2013. In the 1996 film Independence Day, the rumors about alien technology being tested at what was the DOD’s biggest open secret were used as a plot point.


Yeah, we’re talking about Groom Lake, also known as Homey Airport, Dreamland, or Area 51. According to a report by the Aviationist, the latest in a long line of high-tech aircraft to be tested there could be the upcoming B-21 Raider. A bomber being tested here? Well, author Dale Brown did have a bomber get tested at Groom Lake, a kick-ass B-52 called the Megafortress in Flight of the Old Dog and sequels like Night of the Hawk and Sky Masters.

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans
Artist rendering of B-21 Raider bomber. (Photo from U.S. Air Force)

Construction has been going on at the air base, to include a massive new hangar, estimated to be 250 feet by 275 feet. Two weapon storage areas have been built at the air base, which is officially known as the Nevada Test and Training Range and has been closed to the public.

Other programs that could be tested at Groom Lake include the RQ-180, an unmanned aerial vehicle capable of carrying out reconnaissance missions. This vehicle has a range of over 2,400 miles and can fly as high as 40,000 feet, according to MilitaryFactory.com. In the past, the base has also been used to test some Soviet-era planes that were “acquired” by the United States and/or its allies in one fashion or another.

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

The Air Force plans to buy at least 100 B-21 bombers to replace the Air Force’s inventory of B-1B Lancers. The effort to develop the B-21, previously known s Long-Range Strike Bomber, or LRS-B, comes as Russian compliance with a number of arms control treaties appears to be non-existent, prompting the United States to begin development of a ground-launched cruise missile.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mexico’s new security law could turn the country into a war zone

Mexican senators on Dec. 13 approved an Internal Security Law, which would formalize the military’s role in the country’s domestic security.


Their votes came despite protests from their Senate counterparts, international organizations, and Mexican citizens. The bill faces further discussion but could get final approval by Dec. 15. It was first approved by Mexico’s lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, during a contentious session on Nov. 30, and throughout deliberations, opponents inside and outside congress have railed against it.

Mexico’s constitution limits the military’s domestic actions during peacetime, but the armed forces have been deployed to combat drug trafficking and organized crime since the first days of 2007, when then-President Felipe Calderon sent troops into his home state of Michoacan just a few weeks after taking office.

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans
President George W. Bush exchanges handshakes with Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon Monday, Aug. 20, 2007, as they met for a bilateral discussion during the North American Leaders’ Summit in Montebello, Canada. (White House photo by Eric Draper)

The bill — proposed by members of the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI — would create a legal framework for the public-security functions the military has been carrying out on an ad hoc basis for more than a decade, like manning highway checkpoints and pursuing and arresting suspects.

Supporters say it would address legal issues around those deployments. The bill would set guidelines for the president’s ability to authorize military action, but critics have said it makes it too easy to send the armed forces into the streets and opens the possibility they could be used against protests. They’ve also said the bill could allow deployments to be extended indefinitely.

A new initiative proposed by the bill would have the military provide intelligence to the government and its security agencies. The measure would also establish a group of government officials who would make decisions about the implementation of new measures the president could then, if needed, invoke to restore “internal order.”

Also Read: These are the only 3 countries who protect the right to bear arms

“The thing that I hear from a lot of people is, ‘Yeah, but aren’t they already doing it? And isn’t this just sort of bringing that under code of law?’ And that’s a reasonable point,” Everard Meade, the director of the Trans Border Institute at the University of San Diego, told Business Insider.

“Creating some more law and clarifying the legal framework is not a terrible idea, even if you think, as I do … that it’s not a good idea,” Meade said. “The broader point is they’re already doing it, and they’re often doing it under really shady jurisdiction.”

‘Mexico without war!’

Criticism has come from all sides. Opposition legislators have called for calm, detailed discussion about the bill, rather than the previous fast push through the Chamber of Deputies that apparently left no time to read or debate it.

Lawmakers and civil-society groups inside and outside of Mexico have also charged the bill gives the military too much leeway in its domestic actions. Legislators have also criticized measures within the bill regarding the use of force as “cosmetic” and said that changes made by Senate committees are “insufficient” or “superficial.”

Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission has said the law is vague and doesn’t include objective definitions of “internal security” and opens the possibility for it to be applied in “any” situation.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticized the premise of the law, saying it provides no exit strategy for the military and is “ill-conceived.”

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans
The Allée des Nations in front of the Palace of Nations (United Nations Office at Geneva). (Photo by MadGeographer)

The UN’s high commissioner for human rights said formalizing the military’s role in domestic security was “not the answer” and that doing so reduces incentives for civilian authorities to act in their traditional roles.

The Washington Office on Latin America — which noted that the military was still operating in 23 of Mexico’s 32 states a decade after its first “temporary” deployment — has cautioned that the measure as is would likely lead to more abuses and hinder transparency.

Mexican protesters took to the streets of Mexico City during the Senate’s deliberations on Dec. 13, chanting “Mexico without war!” and calling for the law to be rejected.

‘We still need the army in the streets’

The PRI and parties allied with it have touted the necessity of the bill, dismissing international criticism and stressing the importance of a legal framework for the military’s domestic operations.

“The issue of human rights is covered, and covered well” in the law, PRI congressman Cesar Dominguez said at the end of November. “But we cannot guarantee liberties and the full exercise of rights if there isn’t a climate of public safety and peace.”

“Blah, blah, blah. The truth is you always vote against everything,” said Arturo Alvarez, a congressman from the Green Party, a PRI ally. “The fact is we still need the army in the streets.”

The military’s activities “have been limited by the lack of a normative framework that regulates actions they can perform during times of peace,” Cristina Diaz, a PRI senator who heads the Senate’s governance commission, said Dec. 13.

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans
Mexican army soldier at the Independence Day Parade, September 16, 2013 in León, Guanajuato, Mexico. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Tomas Castelazo, www.tomascastelazo.com)

The continuing threat posed by powerful criminal organizations and their often more violent offspring undergirds many arguments in favor of the bill. But most admit the military’s training is incompatible with policing.

Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, called the measure a “double-edge sword,” because while the military had the capability to confront heavily armed criminal groups, it is not trained or equipped to carry out law-enforcement jobs, like gathering evidence or interrogating suspects.

“If you use the military, the allegations and the issues of human-rights violations are probably going to continue,” Vigil told Business Insider. “But at the same time, if you don’t use them, then Mexico is really sticking its neck out in terms of being able to provide nationwide security against these complex drug-trafficking consortiums.”

David Shirk, the director of the Justice in Mexico program at the University of San Diego, differed, saying that lack of investigative capacity was disqualifying.

The military “can’t identify, track, and … they don’t have the necessary intelligence and, importantly, the evidentiary basis on which to bring people to justice that a part of a vast criminal conspiracy,” Shirk told Business Insider. “The problem is neither does the Mexican police force.”

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans
A soldier carries out surveillance in the municipality of San Fernando in the Mexican State of Tamaulipas. (EFE photo by Miguel Sierra)

Shirk noted that the Mexican military has been involved in domestic operations for decades, with some arguing its role extends back the middle of the 20th century. By 1995, he said, there were calls to include the armed forces on the national public safety council.

But the expanded deployment in 2007 — rising from 20,000 to 50,000 soldiers — was intended as a short-term solution until criminal groups could be suppressed and police forces could be better trained.

Those troops are still in the streets. In places like Guerrero, riven by drug-related violence, they remain deployed to augment or replace local police. Tamaulipas, the northeast Mexican state that is the home turf of the Gulf and Zetas cartels, depends entirely on the military for order, after all the state’s city and town police forces were dissolved because officers were linked to cartels fighting in the state.

Mexico’s military remains one of the country’s most trusted institutions, and the army is its most trusted security branch. But many see these prolonged deployments as directly responsible for more human-rights abuses and for increased violence throughout Mexico.

Shirk, citing a 2012 Justice in Mexico report, noted that allegations of rights abuses by the military increased as their deployments increased in 2007 and 2008. There continue to be over 1,000 complaints annually.

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans
(Image from the University of San Diego)

The Washington Office on Latin America found that, between 2012 and 2016, there have been 505 criminal investigations by the Mexican attorney general into crimes and abuses by soldiers but just 16 convictions.

Researchers have found that between 2007 and 2010, there was “a causal effect between the deployment of joint military operations and the rise in the murder rate” in states where those joint operations took place, with data indicating there could have been nearly 7,000 fewer homicides in 2008 and 2009 had the military not been deployed.

The military has been implicated in abuses in recent years, like the killing of 22 suspects in central Mexico in 2014 and the disappearance of 43 student-teachers from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero state, also in 2014. Between 2015 and September 2017, the Mexican government reportedly paid out more than $6 million in compensation for human-rights violations by federal authorities, including defense forces.

“So to me, it’s absolutely clear that if we see this government or another government that comes next turn to even more military involvement or start deploying the military more, we’re going to see more people get hurt,” Shirk told Business Insider.

‘A very long-term project’

The Mexican military currently operates domestically under a vague clause allowing it to “aid” civilian law enforcement when asked to do so.

Military leaders have expressed “unease” about domestic operations, and the Mexican government has taken steps to hold military personnel accountable for abuses committed while acting in a public-security capacity.

Under a law approved in 2014, soldiers accused of violating civilians’ rights are tried in civilian courts.

Also Read: The 50 most violent cities in the world

“That’s a big deal” and an important part of making sure abuses are dealt with transparently, Shirk said, though he doubted there had been enough time to assess whether that policy was being used well and had been effective in protecting against violations. (The Washington Office on Latin America has said that reform has not been fully implemented.)

Mexico has made little progress in reforming and reconstituting local and state police forces, which were often ineffective or infiltrated by criminal elements, and has shown little interest in doing so. Critics of the bill have charged that it removes incentives to carry out those reforms, but even a sincere effort to effect them would “be a very long-term project,” Vigil said.

“It’s going to take decades before they’re up to speed,” he told Business Insider, “and in the meantime they’re going to have to use … the military to conduct a lot of those [law-enforcement] operations.”

Articles

This circus song was supposed to be a badass military marching theme

Czech-born composer Julius Fucik was known for his love of military marches. So much so, he was the “Bohemian Sousa.”


The classically-trained music producer trained under such legendary composers as Antonín Dvořák and served in the Austro-Hungarian Imperial Army with the “Austrian March King” Josef Wagner.

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans
Julius Fucik in Imperial Army uniform.

Fucik so loved to compose marches, he pretty much served in the Austrian military just to do that. By 1897 he had joined the Army twice in order to play music.

It was that same year, while in the 86th Infantry Regiment in Sarajevo that he composed “Einzug der Gladiatoren” — “Entrance of the Gladiators.”

More than 120 years later, the cultural meaning of the song has sure changed. No longer associated with martial might, the song is now more easily teamed up with clowns, lions, and everything else in a modern three-ring circus.

What happened was his work was rearranged for a smaller band by Canadian Louis-Philippe Laurendeau in 1910, who called his version “Thunder and Blazes.”

The music website Sound And The Foley points out that this was the same time when circuses like PT Barnum’s and the Ringling Brothers’ were becoming a strong cultural phenomenon in the United States.

Though no one knows just how and when the song first became inextricably linked with the circus or even which circus used it first, the fact is that the two are now culturally linked.

Both Laurendeau and Fucik died in 1916, never knowing their work become synonymous with the circus…instead of being battle anthems.

Articles

This was the most powerful explosion ever . . . by a lot

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans
Model of the Tsar Bomba in the Sarov atomic bomb museum. Photo by Croquant


Russia’s Tsar Bomba is the single most physically powerful man-made explosion in human history. And it will probably remain that way forever.

On October 30, 1961, at 11:32 Moscow time, the 50 megaton behemoth detonated over the Mityushikha Bay nuclear testing range above the Arctic Circle. By comparison, the most powerful nuclear device ever detonated by the U.S. was the Castle Bravo hydrogen bomb over Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954, which yielded the same energy as 15 megatons of TNT. The blast produced by the Tsar Bomba is the equivalent to about 1,350 – 1,570 times the combined energy of the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, according to John D. Bankston in his book “Invisible Enemies of Atomic Veterans and How They Were Betrayed.”

Or as the Discovery Channel video below puts it, “It contained the equivalent of 58 million tons of TNT or all the explosives used in World War II, multiplied by ten.”

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans
A Russian Tu-95 Bear ‘H’ photographed from a RAF Typhoon Quick Reaction Alert aircraft (QRA) with 6 Squadron from RAF Leuchars in Scotland. Photo by Ministry of Defense

The explosion was so powerful that the modified Tupolev Tu-95 strategic bomber—Russia’s version of the B-52—was almost knocked out of the sky. The mushroom cloud it produced was about 40 miles high, over seven times the height of Mount Everest.

The bomb destroyed all the buildings in a village 34 miles away from ground zero and broke windows in Norway and Finland. The explosion’s heat caused third-degree burns on people 62 miles away. One test participant saw the flash through his dark goggles and felt the bomb’s pulse 170 miles away. The bomb’s shock wave was observed 430 miles from the ground zero, and its seismic activity was measurable even on its third passage around the Earth.

This Discovery Channel video shows rare footage of the Tsar Bomba’s detonation:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMYYEsKvHvk

serasvictorias, YouTube

Articles

How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans


The Mud March, an offensive launched into Virginia by the Union army on Jan. 20, 1863, was the perfect storm of bad luck, poor logistical planning and atrocious weather.

It was a huge operation aimed at striking a mortal blow to the Confederacy that ended up collapsing under its own sodden weight in the mud, with practically no combat to speak of.

Following the disastrous Union defeat at Fredericksburg, Virginia on Dec. 13, 1862, morale among Union soldiers and the public was hitting a new low.

The Union Army of the Potomac, under the command of the newly appointed Gen. Ambrose Burnside, had hoped to quickly cross the Rappahannock river at Fredericksburg and race to Richmond, the Confederate capital. The Army of Northern Virginia under Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was waiting for them.

The Union suffered nearly 13,000 casualties, mostly in doomed frontal assaults against dug-in rebel troops on Marye’s Heights, who had ideal shelter behind an existing stone wall. The Confederacy had taken less than half as many losses, and the Union army was sent reeling back.

Burnside was desperate to retrieve his reputation, which the slaughter at Fredericksburg had left in tatters. He proposed a bold new offensive against Lee’s left flank, drawing the enemy into the open from their defences where they could be destroyed. January had been mild and dry so far, and the need for a quick victory to make up for Fredericksburg was paramount.

But when the army departed on Jan. 20, a drizzling rain gradually became a total downpour that lasted for days. Pontoon bridges to be laid over the Rappahannock river were delayed by logistical problems and huge traffic jams developed. Two entire corps were misdirected through the same crossroads becoming completely ensnarled.

Artillery and wagons became hopelessly mired in the muddy roads. Hundreds of draft animals dropped dead of exhaustion trying to pull their loads. Some units could move less than two miles a day.

Faced with miserable soldiers shivering in the mud, Burnside decided to lift their spirits by ordering a ration of whiskey issued to the army. But the liquor was distributed a little too freely,and many units started to descend into drunken squalor. A brawl broke out between two regiments with a history of rivalry, leading a third regiment to intervene in an effort to break it up.

The resulting chaos may have been one of the largest fistfights in American history.

All surprise had been lost. Lee and his army were dug in on the other side of the Rappahannock. Confederate scouts and pickets observing the Union army jeered and shouted insults, waving signs emblazoned with “Burnside’s Army Stuck in the Mud” and “This Way to Richmond” with arrows pointing in the opposite direction.

The ill-fated offensive was called off. It was such a fiasco that Burnside was relieved as commander of the army on Jan. 25 and replaced the next day by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker.

Burnside had never wanted the job of replacing general George B. McClellan, his predecessor, believing himself unfit for an army level command. He took it only after being informed that the command would go to Hooker, whom he greatly disliked and distrusted.

Following the disasters of Fredericksburg and the Mud March, Hooker ended up with the command anyway. Hooker went on to face calamity at the battle of Chancellorsville, where his army was routed by Lee despite outnumbering him by over 2-to-1.

The Union Army had faced a string of defeats in the Eastern Theatre, from the first Bull Run to the abattoir at Fredericksburg. But the Mud March shows how bad weather and bad planning can stop even a powerful army in its tracks as effectively as rifles and artillery.

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