The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

The Philippine president and authoritarian strongman Rodrigo Duterte has threatened war with Canada over a festering trash debacle. That would be an amazing overreach by the bombastic leader, and it would result in one of the most mismatched military engagements in modern history, if the two sides could even manage to hit each other in any real way.


Before we get into why the fight would be so funny, let’s just take a moment to say that there’s almost no chance that a war would break out. The whole argument centers over a mislabeled batch of trash that Canada paid to send to the Philippines. It was supposed to be filled with recyclables, but someone lied on the paperwork and filled it with municipal trash, including food and used diapers, instead.

That meant that it was hazardous waste, and there are all sorts of rules about shipping that stuff. Canada is working with diplomatic staff from the Philippines on how to bring the material back to Canada. But, for obvious reasons, the people on the islands are angry that Canadian trash has sat in the port for years as Canada tried to ship it back.

But the process is underway, Canada has said it will take the trash back, and there would be no good reason to go to war over the trash even if it was destined to stay there. But Duterte is not that logical of a leader, and he threatened war over the issue even though his staff was already working a fix. His military is, to put it mildly, not ready for that conflict.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

Philippine Marines storm the shore during an exercise.

(Petty Officer 1st Class Nardel Gervacio)

First, let’s just look at what forces the two countries can bring to bear. Assuming that both countries were to meet at some unassuming, neutral field, Duterte would still struggle to even blacken Canada’s eye.

Canada is not the military power it once was, but it still has serious assets. Its military is comprised of about 94,000 personnel that operate 384 aircraft; about 2,240 tanks, armored vehicles, and artillery pieces; and 63 ships and boats including 12 frigates, 4 submarines, and 20 patrol vessels.

So, yeah, the top six state National Guards would outnumber them and have similar amounts of modern equipment, but Canada’s military is still nothing to scoff at.

The Philippines, on the other hand, has a larger but much less modern military. Its 305,000 troops operate only 171 aircraft of which zero are modern fighters, 834 armored vehicles and towed artillery pieces, and 39 patrol vessels that work with three frigates, 10 corvettes, and 67 auxiliary vessels.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

So, you don’t want to get in a bar brawl with the Philippine military, but you’d probably be fine in a battle as long as you remembered to bring your airplanes and helicopters.

Canada has pretty good fighters, CF-18 Hornets based on America’s F/A-18 Hornet. So we would expect their unopposed fighter sweeps against Philippine forces to go well, allowing them to progress to hitting artillery pieces pretty quickly.

And Canadian ground forces, while small, are not filled with slouches. Their snipers are some of the best in the world, and their infantry gets the job done.

It sort of seems odd that Duterte thinks this would be a good idea. But, if war between two American allies seems scary to you, even if the closer ally is very likely to win, we have more good news for you.

There is essentially no way that Canada and the Philippines can effectively go to war against each other.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

We’ll grant that the Republic of the Philippines Navy ship BRP Apolinario Mabini looks cool sailing in an exercise, but if it shows up off your shore, you just remove its batteries and wait it out.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mark R. Alvarez)

The Philippines are the ones threatening the war, so they would most likely be the ones who would need to project their military across the Pacific.

They, charitably, do not have the ability to deploy significant numbers of their troops across the ocean to Canada, let alone to open a beachhead against Canadian defenders.

And if Canada decided to launch a preemptive strike against the Philippines after Duterte declared war, even it would be hard pressed to do so. Those 63 boats and ships Canada has? None of those are carriers or amphibious assault ships. None of them are designed to project significant force ashore.

And all of this is without getting into the fact that Canada is a member of NATO. No one in NATO really wants to go to war against the Philippines, but, in theory, Canada could invoke Article 5 and call on the rest of the alliance.

Since the world’s most powerful military is part of that alliance, NATO would probably win a larger war against the Philippines.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways to end the negative military spouse stigma

Military spouses have enough on their plates. They do not need your unsolicited, unfavorable, unmannered, advice. There are so many ways you can help end the falsified image of helplessness military spouses have been forced to live with, within our culture. We are educated, physically strong and well-rounded people. We don’t need a pity party.


What we do need is support for our working military spouses, efficiently running daycare facilities, and units that truly understand that we too are important to the readiness of our service members.

Do you want to strengthen our military communities? If so, here’s how you can help end the negative stigma of the military spouse.

Do Not Contribute to the degradation of our community.

If you hear a rumor don’t repeat it. If you see a hurtful meme, don’t share it. Oftentimes, bullying is concealed and bred this way. Eventually, it spreads into a full-fledged attack on military spouses. Further dividing our community. Be a part of the solution, not the problem.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

cdn.dvidshub.net

Be encouraging to those missing their loved ones.

Every second of every day, a military spouse is left as their service member goes off to training, temporary duty, or war. They may be a new spouse, or maybe not. Either way, when they post about missing their loved one, be compassionate, or be invisible. You don’t have to contribute to every post. Just scroll on by.

Volunteer within the military community.

Volunteering is a great way to learn about the needs of a community. This can help you get to know the struggles military spouses face and how you can be a source of strength and compassion for them. If you have time, go volunteer at the local USO. If you don’t have time, but would like to donate resources, the USO is always in need of items such as; candy, coffee, greeting cards, and other basic care essentials. Reach out to your local USO and find out how you can help.

Be an advocate.

Speaking up about the struggles affecting military families helps start the much-needed conversation about the services or lack thereof within our community. Many services and programs specifically for military spouses aren’t well supported throughout the military for various reasons. We don’t need our hands held but we would like those in high places to advocate the need for the funding of enrichment programs.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

Hear our stories.

We all come from different walks of life. We are derived from diverse cultures and have unique skill sets. Learn about who we are. Some of us are doctors, some scientists, engineers, and many have served within the military ranks. Allow spouses to speak at military town halls, and conferences about those things that are in our lane of expertise.

Let’s end the negative stigma of military spouses. Learn who we are, be encouraging, be an advocate, and most importantly, do not contribute to the spreading of rumors or the bullying of military spouses. We deserve to be treated with respect. As our service members fight the battles abroad, we shouldn’t have to fight ones at home. We too matter.

Lists

10 military spouses you should unfriend on Facebook immediately

Often, there comes a point when people decide to give their Facebook friends list an overhaul.

They completely change their social landscape online by avoiding accepting friend requests from certain types of people, and they give their current friends list a good, hard scrub.

Everyone has their reasons. Maybe they’re doing it for security purposes, or because a handful of people’s posts drive them crazy or they want to keep a more professional profile. Military spouses in particular might do so because they want to focus on positive, stress-free relationships – that is, the ones that bring wine, wear sweat pants, and check judgment at the door.


If you’re a military spouse considering an overhaul, these 10 characters are some of the folks who might not make the cut…

1. The Gossip

At first, reading The Gossip’s witty quips about annoying moms at Starbucks or fashion faux pas might be hilarious. Scrolling through The Gossip’s posts could be an easy way to burn an hour outside baseball practice… until you find yourself the subject of one of The Gossip’s posts.

For The Gossip, everything is fair game. When people listen to The Gossip, or “like” or comment on The Gossip’s posts, the rumor mill churns. And every milspouse knows that the rumor mill is pretty damaging – especially if you live on base. So, if you receive a friend request from The Gossip, think twice before clicking “Accept.”

2. The Negative Nancy

Sometimes we might like seeing The Negative Nancy in our feed. If we’re already down, her critical gaze on life’s horizon validates our own low feelings. But this is dangerous – beware! The more you read her negative posts, the more you’ll feel negative, depressed and weary. In fact, research shows that negative thoughts and emotions can reduce your brain’s ability to function effectively and even weaken your immune system.

That is the LAST thing you need when you’re holding down the home front during a deployment or a long TDY! Do yourself a favor: if The Negative Nancy’s posts are breeding the blues in your life, make the call: hit “Unfriend,” lift your chin up, and notice the sun rising on the horizon.

3. The Stranger

The Stranger piques your interest. Coming out of nowhere, The Stranger has something in common with you and might need help. Maybe The Stranger claims to be stationed at the same installation and needs help finding counseling for marital troubles. Since your profile says you work at Family Advocacy, The Stranger thinks you can help…

At this point, revert to every OPSEC (Operational Security) commercial you’ve ever seen and don’t respond (and tighten up your profile privacy). The Stranger is up to nothing but finding out military-related information or stealing money; you don’t want to take part in either one of those nightmares!

And, don’t be so sure that this scenario is far-fetched. A woman in Pensacola impersonated a military wife to trick service members and spouses into giving her money for supposedly sick children. It could happen on Facebook, too, and if it does, tuck your sympathy away and save it for a real friend who truly needs it.

4. The Selfie Addict

The Selfie Addict manages to capture herself (okay, or himself) in the most attractive poses, accentuating her most beautiful features, against the most impressive landscapes. And remarkably, she captures said images ALL. THE. TIME.

Looking through her series of carefully crafted selfies, you might start to believe (erroneously) that her whole life is perfect; worse, you might make comparisons to your own life and decide it’s pretty dull. Research shows that these comparisons can chisel away at your self-esteem and it’s all for nothing! Perfection is an illusion, after all. Hit “Unfriend,” and focus on relationships that are real and meaningful instead.

5. The Soapboxer

The Soapboxer can’t stop ranting. Whether it’s something going on in the local community, the government, the war or the nation, The Soapboxer has an opinion and feels compelled to share the details. What’s worse, if you post a comment that disagrees just a bit, The Soapboxer will drill into it and make you feel like complete mush for sharing your voice. There’s no room for respectful debate here!

Much like Negative Nancy, The Soapboxer has a way of creating unnecessary stress and frustration. If that’s what The Soapboxer is doing in your life, it’s a signal to end your virtual relationship. After all, you’ve got a PCS to plan for, a deployment on the horizon, and a surprise visit from Murphy – there’s no time to waste stressing over The Soapboxer.

6. The Ex

Friending The Ex might be tempting. Perhaps Facebook recommended The Ex in “People You May Know,” so, out of curiosity, you skimmed unsecured photos and posts. And now you’re inclined to send a friend request. We’re all adults, so it couldn’t hurt, right? Wrong!

Distance has a way of magnifying worries. If your service member is deployed or TDY for a long time, he or she doesn’t need the added worry or stress of seeing The Ex’s comments on your posts or photos. Even if you think the connection is totally harmless, think of your service member and nix the virtual friendship.

7. The Acquaintance

It’s become common practice to meet someone briefly at a party or barbeque, only to find a friend request hours later. Regardless of whether or not The Acquaintance knows a friend of yours, pause before accepting the friend request.

Honestly, what do you really know about The Acquaintance? How will a Facebook relationship deepen your relationship? Odds are, it’s only going to invite snooping – snooping from a person you barely know. Would you invite a mere acquaintance to come into your home and dig through your photo albums and drawers containing other personal information while you’re not home? No? Didn’t think so. Friending The Acquaintance on Facebook isn’t much different. So, wait till you meet The Acquaintance a few more times before you are comfortable enough to leave him or her in your “home” unsupervised.

8. The Judge

If there’s one thing military spouses know, it’s that time is important. When our service members are about to deploy, all of our focus is directed at spending meaningful time with them. That usually comes at the expense of time spent with others, and it can mean declining invitations from close friends.

Most friends understand this, but The Judge does not. If you decline an invitation and later post a selfie of your family relaxing at home, The Judge might comment, “Looks like you weren’t so busy after all.” Or, if you opt out of a lunch date so that you can FaceTime with your deployed service member, only to post later that you’re “feeling sad” because you never got to talk to him, The Judge will comment, “You should have just come to lunch!”

Military spouses are under enough pressure to hold down the home front, keep day-to-day operations running smoothly and support our service members who endure high-stakes careers; we don’t need the added stress of feeling the need to please The Judge. Unfriend!

9. The Drama Queen

When you think of The Drama Queen, think of one word: Perception. Virtual relationships with The Drama Queen could reflect poorly on you, too, because her personal drama might end up appearing on your Facebook page. The Drama Queen might comment on your posts with inappropriate gifs or memes, tag you in photos that depict you in an unfavorable light, or write posts on your wall that are better suited for a private message or phone call.

Everyone else can see these posts, and they associate them with you and possibly your service member, as well. If that’s not how you want to be perceived, then keep your Facebook feed Drama Queen-free.

10. The Boss

When you arrive at a new assignment, your service member’s commander and commander’s spouse might offer a genuinely warm welcome. In some situations, their commander and commander’s spouse might welcome you, too.

This is all well and good, and it’s appropriate to accept their welcome kindly, but be sure to respect the professional line that exists between your service member and The Boss… and The Boss’ Boss. Friending The Boss can cross the line of professionalism, inviting The Boss into your personal world and asking if you can enter his or hers. Generally, people need to maintain their personal space, so while it’s perfectly fine to enjoy friendly conversation at unit barbeques, allow everyone some breathing room on Facebook.

Who would you add to this list?

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Tampa Bay Buccaneers name General H Norman Schwarzkopf Army Family of the Year

On Monday December 14, 2020, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers surprised an unsuspecting Army family.

Staff Sergeant Ulisses Bautista and his wife, Marla, were having a quiet afternoon when their doorbell rang and they heard loud banging. Ulisses went to the door first to see what was going on, naturally concerned. But there was no need – he was met with a smiling team member from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who asked him to get his entire family outside as quickly as possible for a surprise.

“There were about 10 people including two Tampa baby Buccaneers Cheerleaders in our driveway, cheering, clapping and congratulating us,” Marla said. It was then that they realized they had been selected as the General H Norman Schwarzkopf Army Family of the Year. “I was speechless! I think I said ‘Oh my gosh’ 50 times while they were outside my home. We were blown away!”

The Central Florida USO along with the Buccaneers were proud to recognize and honor this Army family. Each year, one family from every branch of service is recognized for their contribution to the military community. They are chosen based on their integrity, courage, commitment and service before self. The awardees selected for 2020 were extraordinary. Stories of life-saving missions, launching non-profit organizations to support the homeless and military family mentorship were just a few of the reasons this year’s families were chosen.

Normally the celebration is held as a large event but with COVID-19, adjustments had to be made. This year it was coordinated through socially-distanced home visits with the Buccaneers Street Team RV, cheerleaders and the mascot to make the presentation. While outside the family received a special message from the co-owner of the Buccaneers and the wife and daughter of the late General H Norman Schwarzkopf.

The family runs The Bautista Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving homeless veterans and displaced youth. The work they do is personal for both of them. “I’m a soldier and servicing my country is something I’ve done for 17 years,” Ulisses explained. “Traveling around the world, I’ve been exposed to different ways of life and unfortunately, different views of poverty. First and foremost, I do what I do because I enjoy doing it but also, I believe what we do will give people in need a sense of self-worth.”

‘When I heard we were selected as the General H Norman Schwarzkopf Army Family of the year I was in shock. I mean there are so many amazing Army families doing great things. However, my family is truly honored to receive this distinguished recognition,” Ulisses said. The award also includes a fun two-night stay for each military family at Tradewinds Island Grand Resort and gift cards courtesy of Lowe’s and PDQ. 

Marla herself was homeless as a teenager and it’s an experience that’s never left her. “I promised myself If I were to ever overcome homelessness, I too would give just as those who came before me. I have kept my promise and will continue to work toward ending homelessness in America.  It is an achievable goal,” she said. 

On their family receiving this award, Marla shared, “This award means we are doing something right. It means we are inspiring communities to do great work and to us, that’s the goal. Each one of us plays a part in making the world a better place and together we can do just that.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This captured GoPro video shows what it’s like to fight the Kurds with ISIS

ISIS talks a big game in posting propaganda videos on the internet, especially at the height of its power in 2014 – 2015. But one GoPro slamcam video, captured by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and posted to YouTube shows, ISIS fighters aren’t always the hardcore soldiers ISIS says they are.

A warning: although most of the video just shows ISIS fighters under intense SDF fire, some of the images can get graphic.


The video is part of the “War Diary” project, an educational documentary project to archive real events in combat by the people who fought there. It features a squad of ISIS fighters directly engaged in combat with the Kurdish SDF. The GoPro camera appears to be attached either to a helmet of a squad commander or strapped to his chest. The commander, Abu Ayman al-Iraqi, is accompanied by a fighter named Abu Aisha Iraqi, who keeps telling the man in charge that they should retreat.

Abu Aisha, you can probably guess, was right about getting out of there. The Kurds were coming at the ISIS fighters with fire so intense, the jihadis couldn’t even look at where they were shooting back. The ISIS commander has to order his men repeatedly to shoot back instead of fleeing. When he orders a grenade or RPG, his troops stay motionless with fear.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

If you don’t understand Arabic, that’s okay. The Kurds translated the video for you.

The confrontation took place in Syria’s Deir Ez-Zor Province in December 2018. It was part of a greater campaign by the SDF to push ISIS forces back across the Euphrates River, eliminate its fighters from the Iraqi border, and capture all remaining ISIS strongholds. It happened at the same time as the SDF push to capture the ISIS capital at Raqqa and the Syrian government’s push against the jihadist group in Western Syria. The result of the combined campaigns was the final defeat of ISIS as a formal army, occupying any territory.

In the video, you can see hear the frustration of the commander as his troops fail to shoot back, forget their weapons, and abandon an armored vehicle to escape the oncoming enemy. Even the ISIS commander begins to fumble with his AR-15 as the Kurds get closer. Abu Ayman Iraqi gets shot around 9:00. his men desert him in the armored vehicle as he shouts at them to come back.

He does not die in the video.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war

The trials of Odysseus are really not that different from the struggles of those learning to readjust after wars of today, modern veterans are finding.


A small group of military veterans has been meeting weekly in a classroom at the University of Vermont to discuss The Iliad and The Odyssey for college credit — and to give meaning to their own experiences, equating the close-order discipline of men who fought with spears, swords, and shields to that of men and women who do battle these days with laser-guided munitions.

Homer isn’t just for student veterans. Discussion groups are also being offered at veterans centers in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The Maine Humanities Council has sponsored sessions for veterans incarcerated at Maine’s Kennebec County jail, as well as for other veterans.

Also read: 4 myths about veterans you can dispel at work right now

For many in the UVM class, Homer’s 2,800-year-old verses seem all too familiar: the siege of Troy, the difficult quest of Odysseus to return home after 10 years at war, his anguish at watching friends die, and his problems readjusting to civilian life.

Stephanie Wobby, 26, a former Army medic originally from Sacramento, California, is a combat veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and is one of two women in the UVM course; she has been to traditional post-traumatic stress therapy sessions, but said, “this is far more effective for me.”

“It still resonates, coming home from war, even if it was however many years ago,” said Wobby, a junior majoring in chemistry. “It’s the same.”

In a recent class, Dan Wright, 26, an Afghanistan veteran and UVM junior, wore a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Down with my Demons” while the group discussed The Iliad.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
Odysseus departs from the Land of the Phaeacians. (Painting by Claude Lorrain)

“It was talking about being scared to die and, like, when you are on the field, you don’t think about it,” said Wright, 26, of Halifax, Vermont. He said he was involved in near-daily firefights during a nine-month combat tour in Afghanistan in 2012.

Enrollment in the class taught by John Franklin, an associate professor of classics, is limited to veterans; the current class includes veterans from wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. There are no papers or tests, and the grade is based entirely on class participation and an understanding of the material.

More: Irreverent Warriors combat PTSD with comedy and community

The people who work with the veterans at UVM felt it was a tragedy when they heard last week that a former Army rifleman expelled from a program to treat veterans with PTSD took three women hostage in California and fatally shot them. With Homer, they are working to avoid the idea of the damaged veteran, said David Carlson, the coordinator of student veterans’ services at UVM and a Marine veteran of Iraq in 2005 and 2006 who sits in on the classes.

“From my end, all it does is make me think the work we do with veterans every day is that much more important,” Carlson said.

Homer-for-veterans is the brainchild of Dartmouth College classics professor Roberta Stewart, who is now hoping for a grant that will allow her to expand the idea nationwide.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
an episode from the ancient Greek epic poem the Odyssey. (Artwork by Arnold Böcklin)

Stewart read some blog posts by U.S. service members fighting in Iraq in 2003. She recognized their graphic descriptions of war and the difficulties many faced readjusting to life after combat and reached out to one veteran who appeared to be having a hard time.

“I said to him, ‘Homer can help you. Homer knows,'” Stewart said.

Stewart never heard back from the veteran she told about Homer, but the light bulb stayed on. A decade ago, she wrote to the Department for Veterans Affairs hospital in White River Junction, Vermont, suggesting the idea. Officials were skeptical at first, but she eventually won and started her first group.

Related: This psychedelic drug could be approved to treat PTSD

Navy Cmdr. Amy Hunt, the operational support officer for the Naval Special Warfare Command in San Diego, hopes to set up programs for still-serving Navy Seals and overseas support personnel.

“Using Homer, because of the distance involved and also it’s great storytelling, is a way to break into those experiences,” Hunt said.

In its different guises at the locations where classes and discussions have been offered, veterans from World War II to those just home from Afghanistan have seen themselves in the struggles described by Homer.

“It was no different then, the soldiers coming home war from war and dealing with these issues than it is now,” said Norman “Ziggy” Lawrence, of Albion, Maine, a Vietnam-era veteran who now leads some of the discussion with jailed Maine veterans. “It opens that avenue so that they can speak to issues that they are having.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Strangers brave snow and ice to attend the funeral of a 91-year-old veteran

In the military community, there’s nothing more important than honoring our fallen and showing up. Earlier today, at Pikes Peak National Cemetery in Colorado Springs, CO, that’s exactly what happened.


Humor

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of Sept. 29

In Saudi Arabia, women are driving.


In America, women are graduating the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course.

In Germany, women are being re-elected to their fourth consecutive term as Chancellor.

Ok, so America isn’t perfect but at least we didn’t elect HITLER, amirite?

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
This is literally the least offensive person I could put here. Bet you thought a Trump joke was coming.

You know what IS perfect? The invention of the meme. More specifically, memes from the veteran community. Here are the funniest we found this week.

1. Let’s start with the Coast Guard (said no one ever). (via Coast Guard Memes)

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
Now they can wear the same NWU but pretend they aren’t interchangeable.

2. It’s now fall, but it will soon be winter. Get ready.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
Winter is coming.

3. Stay warm with Urban Outfitters new Air Force supply stores.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
No one’s a thief, we’re just trying to get our sh*t back.

4. The best part about Fall? Football is back!

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
I’m always in the beer line during the national anthem so I’ve never noticed who stood or sat. Or kneeled. Also, all of those guys look like the E-6s in my first unit.

5. And who’s looking forward to Thanksgiving?

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
Pearl Jam has a song about this.

6. Maintainers will probably not get that holiday. Or many holidays. (via Maintainer Humor)

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
I was a nonner and can also say this for my career.

7. Everyone gets more breaks than maintainers.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
I clearly don’t know what grunt life is like.

8. For the E-4s of the world, it’s quality over quantity. (via Why I’m Not Re-Enlisting)

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
Haters will say it’s photoshop.

9. But when you make NCO, Thursdays get more special.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
This is the title of my autobiography.

10. Also, I get the feeling my girl’s been cheating on me.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
We get that feeling too.

11. Isn’t it worth it just to wear the uniform?

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
Some days. Not today. But some days.

12. Keep holding on to that dream.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
Just ETS things.

13. For now, just do what you do best.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
And dip.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy’s newest attack subs will be nuclear-armed

The Navy’s Director of Undersea Warfare told Congress that a new nuclear-armed, submarine-launched cruise missile would be fired from Virginia-class attack submarines, marking a shift for the historically conventionally-armed attack submarines into a nuclear deterrence role.


“While Virginia-class submarines can use conventional deterrence to keep adversaries in check, a sub-launched cruise missile with a nuclear warhead would be incorporated into Virginias and give national command authority additional escalation control,” Rear Adm. John Tammen, Director, Undersea Warfare Division, told lawmakers.

Also read: China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

The emerging weapon, called for in the current administration’s recent Nuclear Posture Review, is intended to bring new elements to the Pentagon’s current nuclear weapons deterrence posture. With the current status quo, only larger ballistic missile submarines, such as the Ohio class and emerging Columbia-class, are equipped to fire nuclear weapons, such as the Trident II D5.

Virginia-class attack submarines are currently armed with Tomahawk missiles and torpedoes; adding a nuclear weapons capability would expand its mission set and give combatant commanders new options, Tammen added.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
A Virginia-class attack submarine launches a torpedo. (Graphic by Department of Defense Ron Stern)

“Because of its stealth, the submarine provides unique intelligence and warning as well as ISR type data. Without this, the crew is less informed moving forward which provides additional strategic risk,” he said.

Small, agile high-tech attack submarines are able to approach high threat areas due to onboard sonar and other quieting technologies. These undersea platforms are, in many cases, able to access high-risk areas and coastal regions not typically reachable by surface ships. This enables Navy forces to assess enemy defenses, conduct reconnaissance, and even launch attacks while less detectable to enemy forces.

Given this scenario, bringing a nuclear deterrence option to these submarines could enable commanders to hold more areas at risk of nuclear strike from closer-in proximity, thereby strengthening the threat posture.

Related: The Navy gets more money for its next nuclear-armed submarines

These advantages are enhanced by recent undersea technical innovations, which have been underway and tested as prototypes for many years. Some of them are now operational on the USS South Dakota, a new fast-attack submarine which entered service last year. Senior Navy technology developers have, in a general way, told Warrior Maven that the advances in undersea technologies built, integrated, tested, and now operational on the South Dakota include quieting technologies for the engine room, a new large vertical array, and additional “quieting” coating materials for the hull.

The USS South Dakota was christened by the Navy Fall 2017 at a General Dynamics Electric Boat facility in Groton, Ct.

In recent years, the Navy has been making progress developing new acoustics, sensors, and quieting technologies to ensure the U.S. retains its technological edge in the undersea domain – as countries like China and Russia continue rapid military modernization and construction of new submarines.

The impetus for the Navy’s “acoustic superiority,” is specifically grounded in the emerging reality that the U.S. undersea margin of technological superiority is rapidly diminishing in light of Russian and Chinse advances.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
A Trident II missile.

Described as a technology insertion, the improvements on the USS South Dakota will eventually be integrated on board both Virginia-Class submarines and the now-in-development next-generation nuclear-armed boats called the Columbia-class.

Tammen also addressed the Nuclear Posture Reviews call for a low-yield, nuclear-armed, submarine-launched ballistic missile, which he said would integrate into larger Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines.

Citing concerns related to the current fast-changing global threat environment, Pentagon leaders and many lawmakers see a need for these additions to the US nuclear arsenal.

A nuclear-armed, sea-launched cruise missile and the modification of a small number of existing submarine-launched ballistic missile warheads to provide a low-yield option – will enhance deterrence by ensuring no adversary under any circumstances can perceive an advantage through limited nuclear escalation or other strategic attack,” Gen. Paul Selva, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters during a recent Pentagon briefing.

More: Why Russian submarines are causing alarm all over the world

“The use of WMD is, unfortunately, becoming more and more common-place. Low barriers, and in some cases, no barriers to entry, should force us to continually review and evaluate our programs, policies, and activities designed to counter and mitigate these threats across the WMD spectrum,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Chairwoman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, said in her opening statement at a recent hearing.

Undersea strategic deterrence: new nuclear weapons to keep the peace

Defense Secretary James Mattis and other senior leaders seem aware that elements of the NPRs strategic approach may reflect a particular irony or paradox; in response to questions from lawmakers about whether adding new low-yield nuclear weapons could “lower the threshold” to nuclear war and therefore introduce new elements of danger, Mattis told Congress that increasing offensive nuclear-weapons attack capability will have the opposite effect, meaning the added weapons would improve deterrence and therefore enhance prospects for peace.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis. (DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Specifically, Mattis explained that a new, low-yield Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile could likely provide pressure on Russia to a point where they might be more inclined to negotiate about adhering to the INF treaty they have violated.

“We have an ongoing Russian violation of the INF. We want our negotiators to have something to negotiate with because we want Russia back in compliance,” Mattis told lawmakers.

Citing the rapid technological progress of adversary air-defense systems, Mattis further elaborated that a sea-launched cruise missile option might be necessary to hold potential enemies at risk in the event that air-dropped low-yield weapons were challenged to operate above necessary targets.

Read More: New nuclear cruise missiles could go on the Zumwalt destroyer

“To drop a gravity bomb that is low-yield means a bomber would have to penetrate air defenses. Air defenses are very different than they were 20 years ago,” Mattis told Congress.

Senior Pentagon leaders stress that neither of these new nuclear weapons recommendations in the NPR require developing new nuclear warheads or will result in increasing the size of the nuclear stockpile. NPR DoD advocates further stress that the addition of these weapons does align with US non-proliferation commitments.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Did you know these 20 Oscar winners are veterans?

And the Oscar goes to….

Last night’s 92nd Academy Awards had most military-connected folks rooting for Adam Driver to win best actor.


Driver, who was nominated for his role in the Netflix film, “The Marriage Story,” served in the Marines as a mortarman. He was previously nominated for his role in Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman.” Unfortunately, Driver didn’t take home the statue (Joaquin Phoenix did for his portrayal of Joker), but we looked to see what other veterans had won an Oscar for best actor.

Turns out, there were quite a few. These 20 veterans have all won entertainment’s most prestigious acting award:

James Stewart

Unlike some in Hollywood that hid behind their status, Stewart signed up right away and joined the Army when the U.S. entered WWII. Serving all the way to 1968, Stewart’s military exploits are an article in and of itself.

Stewart was nominated five times, winning once for “The Philadelphia Story.” He also received a well-deserved Honorary Oscar in 1985.

Jason Robards

Robards served in the Navy and saw a lot of action in his time. He was out at sea when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, where he was stationed. His ship was later sunk in the South Pacific, with Robard treading water for hours until he was rescued. The second ship he served on suffered a kamikaze attack off the coast of the Philippines.

Robards decided to become an actor while serving and had an illustrious career.

He won two Oscars; one for “All the President’s Men” and “Julia.”

Lee Marvin

Marvin was a badass on screen with his steely-eyed demeanor, a trait no doubt perfected during his time in the Marines during WWII. He fought in the Battle of Saipan, earning a Purple Heart when he was hit by machine-gun fire and then by a sniper.

Marvin later won the Oscar for his role in “Cat Ballou.”

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

Clark Gable

Probably the most famous leading man of them all, Gable served in the Army Air Forces during WWII, seeing combat in the skies over Europe. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal. Legend has it that Hitler was a fan of Gable and offered a reward for him to be captured alive.

Gable earned an Oscar for this role in “It Happened One Night” and surprisingly not for “Gone with the Wind.”

George C. Scott

Another post-WWII Marine, Scott was stationed at 8th and I in Washington D.C. where he served as an honor guard at services held at Arlington National Cemetery.

Nominated several times, Scott famously told the Academy that he would refuse the award if he won for Patton on philosophical grounds. The role was so iconic, he won anyway.

James Earl Jones

Before his voice terrified moviegoers as Darth Vader, James Earl Jones served in the ROTC at the University of Michigan. He then went to become a first lieutenant in the Army.

He received an honorary Oscar in 2011 for his many iconic roles. His filmography is lengthy and includes The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Sandlot, Lion King, Clear and Present Danger, and many more.

Mel Brooks

He’s made us laugh in Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs, and Young Frankenstein.

Before his life of comedy, Brooks had a more serious role defusing landmines in Germany during World War II.

Brooks won an Academy Award for his screenplay of “The Producers.”

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

Clint Eastwood

A badass of the silver screen, Eastwood served stateside during the Korean War.

Eastwood is an Oscar legend winning four times against 11 nominations. He won two Best Director Awards and Two Best Picture Awards for “Unforgiven” and “Million Dollar Baby.”

He was also nominated for two amazing military movies, “Letters from Iwo Jima” and “American Sniper.”

Robert Duvall

Before he “loved the smell of napalm in the morning,” Duvall served stateside during the Korean War.

After his stint in the Army, he went on to achieve greatness in acting with seven Oscar nominations (including for “Apocalypse Now” and “The Great Santini”), winning for “Tender Mercies.”

Ernest Borgnine

Known for many military roles, including “McHale’s Navy” and “The Dirty Dozen,” Borgnine served in the U.S. Navy in 1941 and was discharged, only to rush back into service when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

He won an Academy Award for his role in “Marty” in 1955.

Paul Newman

Arguably one of the best-looking actors of all time, Newman served in the Navy during World War II. He tried to become a pilot, but color blindness prevented him from doing so. He instead served as a radioman and turret gunner.

Newman also is an Oscar legend with a nomination in 5 different decades. He won an Honorary Oscar in 1985, and had a Best Actor win the next year for The Color of Money.”

Kirk Douglas

Before he portrayed the gladiator turned freedom fighter Spartacus, Douglas served in the Navy during WWII from 1941 – 1944.

He would later be awarded an Honorary Oscar in 1996 after earning three nominations during his illustrious career.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

Henry Fonda

Fonda left acting and enlisted in the Navy during World War II and served in the Pacific, earning a Bronze Star.

When he returned to acting, he would have a legendary career with two nominations, including a win for “On Golden Pond.”

Charlton Heston

Heston served in the Army Air Forces during WWII as an aerial gunner. He was stationed in Alaska, which was under threat from the Japanese.

Heston had a legendary career with epic roles in “The Ten Commandments,” “Planet of the Apes,” and “El Cid,” and won an Oscar for his role in “Ben-Hur.”

Morgan Freeman

While it is easy to imagine Freeman serving as a radio operator, he actually served in the Air Force as a Radar Repairman.

While earning several nominations, he won for his role in “Million Dollar Baby.”

Sidney Poitier

Before his iconic, “They call me Mr. Tibbs!” line, Poitier served in the U.S. Army, lying about his age in order to serve.

He won the Oscar for his role in “Lilies of the Field.”

Wes Studi

Known for many roles, his most famous being the Huron warrior Magua, who cut out the heart of his vanquished foe. Studi enlisted in the Oklahoma National Guard and served in Vietnam.

He was awarded an Honorary Oscar, the first Native American to be so honored.

Gene Hackman

Hackman lied about his age and enlisted in the Marines as a radio operator in 1946, rising to the rank of Corporal.

Nominated five times in his illustrious career, he won twice for “the French Connection” and “Unforgiven.”

Jack Lemmon

Lemmon had an amazing and long career showing off his chops in movies like “Glengarry Glen Ross.” Before that, Lemmon served in WWII as a Naval Aviator toward the end of the war.

He later won two Oscars for his roles in “Mister Roberts” and “Save the Tiger.”

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

Jack Palance

Palance was known for his rugged looks, which studio execs claim he got from surgery to repair injuries he suffered when jumping out of a burning bomber while training during WWII.

He was nominated three times and won for City Slickers, which he celebrated by doing one-armed pushups on stage.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel releases details of documents captured in a spy raid in Iran

Israel has revealed new details of how its spy agency smuggled out nuclear documents from Iran in early 2018, although the material does not appear to provide evidence that Iran failed to fulfill its commitments under the 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers.


The information reported by The New York Times and The Washington Post on July 15, 2018, shed more light on the Mossad operation in January 2018 but offered few other details beyond what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed in April 2018 when he announced the results of the raid.

Netanyahu claimed Israeli intelligence seized 55,000 pages of documents and 183 CDs on Iran’s disputed nuclear program dating back to 2003. Iran maintains the entire collection is fraudulent.

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

President Donald Trump

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

After his announcement in late April 2018, the Israeli leader gave U.S. President Donald Trump a briefing at the White House and argued it was another reason Trump should abandon the 2015 nuclear deal.

In May 2018, Trump withdrew from the deal.

Tehran has always claimed its nuclear program was only for peaceful purposes.

The New York Times reported on July 15, 2018, that Mossad agents had six hours and 29 minutes to break into a nuclear facility in the Iranian capital, Tehran, before the guards arrived in the morning.

In that time, they infiltrated the facility, disabled alarms, and unlocked safes to extract the secret documents before leaving undetected.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Two Red Army veterans on freedom and why it’s always worth fighting for

They call it the “Island of Death.”

At this spot on the western side of the Dnieper River in central Ukraine, some 30,000 Soviet soldiers died under Nazi artillery during World War II. Yet, on this hot June day, there’s nothing to suggest that this particular place was once on the deadliest front of the deadliest war in human history.


“What horrors happened here,” says my 55-year-old Ukrainian father-in-law, Valeriy Deriy, who is a Red Army veteran of the Cold War. “Can you imagine?”

I cannot.

We’ve hired a zodiac boat for the day, embarking from a yacht club in the riverside town of Horishni Plavni. To get to the so-called Island of Death, our captain weaves through narrow, overgrown channels that branch off the main course of the Dnieper River.

Tucked away in a dense forest on the island, there’s an old Soviet war memorial. You’d hardly notice it from the water, unless you knew what to look for. Valeriy explains that one can still find evidence of war in the surrounding woods. Old artillery pieces, bullets, rifles, and boots. That sort of stuff.

“Some people want to forget the past. But it’s impossible,” he tells me. “It’s always there.”

Between August and December 1943, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union fought the battle for the Dnieper River. It was one of World War II’s largest battles, comprising some 4 million soldiers stretched along a nearly 900-mile-long front.

After Nazi Germany’s defeat at the Battle of Kursk, the Soviets pressed their advantage and pushed the Nazis back across Ukraine. The third longest river in Europe, the Dnieper — which runs roughly north to south down the middle of Ukraine to the Black Sea — was a natural physical obstacle for the advancing Red Army.

The Nazis took to the heights on the western bank to set up their artillery, which they used to devastating effect. The Red Army crossed the river under heavy fire, improvising makeshift means to get across. Soviet losses were staggering — accounts vary, but roughly 400,000 Red Army soldiers died in the Dnieper River battle of 1943.

The Other Side

Earlier, Valeriy and I stand at a spot on the opposite, eastern bank of the Dnieper River.

“My great-grandfather said the water ran red with blood in the war,” Valeriy says as we stand on the riverbank, looking to the other side.

Valeriy explains that his great-grandfather fought in that Dnieper River battle, and he crossed the river at this very spot. Right where we’re standing. I’m left a bit speechless.

His great-grandfather couldn’t swim, Valeriy continues, but Soviet commanders would have him shot if he’d refused the crossing. So he held on to a log for flotation and kicked his way across. Somehow, he survived.

“It was October, and the water was already very cold,” Valeriy says, shaking his head. “What a nightmare.”

Today, at this spot where so many died in World War II, there’s a simple old Soviet memorial crumbling, halfway reclaimed by the forest. A dilapidated Soviet tank and artillery piece sit in the foliage, too. But that’s it. You have to rely on your imagination to appreciate what happened here.

There’s not a cloud in the sky and the hot breeze feels good on my face. On a day like this, it’s hard to appreciate what happened here about 77 years ago. I can hardly imagine the fear felt by Soviet soldiers as they stood at that same spot on the river shore, looking to the far side like lost souls about to cross the River Styx.

And then I remember what it was like to stare across no man’s land in eastern Ukraine. I remember the fear I felt under the Russian artillery and sniper shots. And I imagine, at least a little, what those Soviet soldiers must have felt.

The trench lines in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region — where Ukrainian troops have fought a war since 2014 to keep a Russian invasion force at bay — are only about five hours away by car. We could be there by dinner, if we wanted to.

True, we’re much too far from the trenches to hear the daily rumble of battle, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. The war is always there.

Standing on the riverbank, Valeriy says to me: “History has been hard on Ukraine. But things will get better. We’re fighting for our democracy, just like your country did. And we’ll win it, too. Just like you did. I still have hope that my daughter and my grandchildren will see an amazing, free Ukraine.”

Still looking across the river, facing the same divide his great-grandfather once faced, Valeriy adds: “We’ll get there.”

The Past

Valeriy never served in Afghanistan. He was posted instead to East Germany and worked in signals intelligence, a specialty that paved the way for his future civilian career as a German language interpreter.

“It was an unwritten rule in the Soviet army that only one brother would have to be in Afghanistan at a time,” Valeriy explains. “And my brother went in my place.”

Valeriy’s older brother, Sergiy, was drafted into the Red Army and served in the war in Afghanistan from 1982 to 1984.

In fact, both brothers had volunteered for the war. But their mother had secretly gone to military officials and asked that only one son be allowed to go. Sergiy ultimately volunteered without Valeriy’s knowledge. It wasn’t until their mother died in December 2012 that Valeriy learned the truth.

Sergiy was a sergeant in a signals unit deployed near the Salang Tunnel in the Hindu Kush Mountains. The combat he experienced was terrible, Sergiy tells me, but he doesn’t go into much detail about the war very often. And when he does, his eyes adopt a distinctly distant look, as if he’s looking past me, in an attempt to articulate memories that no words could ever really recreate.

Today, both Deriy brothers live in the town of Horishni Plavi — it’s where my wife, Lilya, grew up.

On a warm June afternoon, our family gathers at a park by the Dnieper River to grill shashlik — Ukraine’s version of a barbecue. Both Sergiy and Valeriy are wearing NASA baseball caps, gifts from me and my wife.

It’s the first time we’ve all been together since the coronavirus lockdown was lifted on June 5, and we’re in good spirits. We make toast after toast until our legs are a little wobbly. We’ve brought along an iPhone speaker and grill the meat while we cycle through a playlist of staple rock hits — songs by bands like the Scorpions, Led Zeppelin, Metallica. That’s my in-laws’ favorite kind of music. Mine too.

We end up cooking more meat than we could ever hope to eat in a day. And we maintain a steady pace with the cognac toasts. And, as it’s prone to do, the conversation between Valeriy, Sergiy, and myself returns to the ongoing war in Ukraine’s east.

“The Russians were never our friends. Stalin invaded us, and now Putin has, too,” Sergiy says. “The only county that ever really cared about us was the United States.”

“We’ll never forget what your country has done for us,” he adds, speaking specifically about America’s delivery of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.

Then Valeriy abruptly stands.

“Please,” he says, beckoning me to shake his hand, “I want to shake the hand of a citizen of the country that put a man on the moon.”

I stand and shake my father-in-law’s hand and feel proud of my country. And I’m particularly proud that he’s proud of my county, too.

A generation ago, we would have been enemies. Our countries were poised at opposite ends of the earth, ready to unleash nuclear Armageddon to destroy one another.

Today, we are a family.

No One Forgets

Located on the east bank of the Dnieper River, roughly 190 miles southeast of Kyiv, Horishni Plavni was founded by Soviet youth volunteers in 1960 as a place to live for workers in the nearby iron-ore mines.

Originally, the city’s name was “Komsomolsk,” a reference to the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League, or “Komsomol.” The town was renamed Horishni Plavni in 2016 as part of Ukraine’s decommunization laws—a set of measures that went into effect in 2015 to curb Russia’s cultural influence.

Across the country, all Soviet-era names of settlements and roads have been changed to new Ukrainian ones. All reminders and relics of the Soviet Union have been removed or made illegal — including playing the Soviet national anthem and displays of the hammer and sickle flag.

Horishni Plavni’s main thoroughfare was once called Lenin Street. Now it’s named Heroes of the Dnieper River Street. The statue of Vladimir Lenin that once stood in the city center is gone. Only an empty pedestal remains — a common sight in Ukraine these days.

Yet you can’t totally erase the past. World War II is too deeply ingrained in Ukraine’s national psyche, and its physical environment, to ever be forgotten.

Soviet-era war memorials still stand around Horishni Plavni. At a riverside park, children play on the marble ramps of a towering, Soviet-era war memorial. In a nearby field, a row of Soviet tanks are on permanent display. Teenagers sit in the shade of the turrets and drink beer and listen to music.

Despite all their years living under Soviet propaganda, my father-in-law and uncle-in-law have a surprisingly pro-American perspective on the war.

“The Soviet Union could have never won without American help under lend-lease,” Valeriy tells me, referring to the American policy from 1941 to 1945 to provide materiel assistance to the Soviet Union’s war effort.

“And thank God the Allies landed in France,” Valeriy adds. “Otherwise Stalin would have taken over all of Europe.”

No War Ever Ends

After our shashlik picnic is over, Sergiy visits his brother’s apartment, where my wife and I are staying. He brings with him a photo album from his time in the Soviet army, including his deployment to Afghanistan in the 1980s.

I’m thrilled to have a look and listen to his stories from the war.

Sergiy recalls how his commander in Afghanistan justified the Soviet war by the need to defend the Soviet Union from U.S. nuclear missile strikes.

“We were told that America was evil, and that we were fighting in Afghanistan to defend the world from America,” Sergiy tells me. “It was all a lie, of course.”

Incredibly, Sergiy bears no ill will toward the country — my country — that was responsible for the death of many of his comrades.

“The Soviet Union did the same to America in Vietnam,” Sergiy says of America’s covert effort from 1979 to 1989 to arm and finance Afghanistan’s mujahideen fighters to fight against the Soviets. “It was the Cold War, and we were enemies. And that’s what enemies do to each other.”

Now, Sergiy has welcomed me — an American veteran of another war in Afghanistan — into his family with open arms. More than that, I’d even say that Sergiy and I share a special bond because we share a common battlefield. We remember the same places, and in some cases, the same enemies. Sometimes, as I’ve learned, former enemies actually have more in common with each other than they do with their fellow citizens who know nothing about war.

As he goes through the old photos, Sergiy’s face flashes with various contradictory emotions. Pride and pain. Nostalgia and regret. For Sergiy, war was both the worst and the best experience of his life. Therein lies that great paradox that faces all soldiers who’ve home to live in peace.

If war was so terrible, why do we sometimes miss it?

Sergiy, for his part, remembers his friends from the army fondly. But there’s a dark cloud, too, that hangs over every good memory.

“The Soviet Union lied to me. They lied to all of us,” Sergiy says as he flips through the photo album’s pages.

He pinches his lips and slowly shakes his head.

“They wasted so many lives,” he adds.

Soldiers rarely fight for the reasons dictated to them by the governments that send them to battle. Rather, once the bullets start flying, a simple sense of duty to defend one’s friends, and to not disappoint their expectations, is what inspires one to act courageously.

Yet, once soldiers are separated from their wars for a while — either by time or by distance — the moral clarity of duty may erode, leading them to question the justice of their individual actions in combat. The simple kill-or-be-killed morality of combat no longer shields them from thoughtfully considering the consequences of the things they did in war.

In many ways, life in peace is much more complicated than life in war. That was certainly true for my uncle-in-law. Although Sergiy came through the war in Afghanistan physically unscathed, he was left irrevocably jaded about Soviet communism.

Hope

In 1985, just a year after his discharge from the Soviet Army, Sergiy began law studies at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine’s premier university.

“I felt so at peace. Finally, no war, no suffering. Only a bright future,” Sergiy recalls of his arrival in Ukraine’s capital city to begin his studies.

But it didn’t last. In April 1986, an explosion ripped through reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

The Chernobyl plant is located only about 60 miles north of Kyiv. And so, spooked by the threat of radiation, Sergiy was unsure whether he should stay in Kyiv to finish his law degree. The reborn optimism and happiness he’d felt just a year earlier, fresh from his wartime service, quickly gave way to feelings remembered from the war — dark feelings that he’d wanted to forget forever.

“When I was in Afghanistan, I always felt like death was chasing me,” Sergiy remembers. “And when I came back to Ukraine, I thought I could be free from that fixation on death. But Chernobyl happened, and here death finally caught me. A long and painful death. I remember I said to myself, ‘How ironic, death didn’t catch me in the war, but it did in civilian life.'”

Sergiy ultimately stayed in Kyiv to finish his law degree. After graduating from law school in 1991, he returned to his hometown of Horishni Plavni (then called Komsomolsk). The Soviet Union broke apart that year, further upending his world.

When Ukraine’s economy subsequently collapsed in the 1990s, Sergiy ultimately abandoned his law career and took up work as a hired hand. It was his only option to make a living. He never went back to practicing law.

My uncle-in-law, who is a devoutly religious man, has struggled with his demons from Afghanistan. And his family life has had its ups and downs. But he’s never given up hope for his country, even as Ukraine has gone through revolutions and an unfinished war to finally free itself from Russian overlordship.

“I try to stay positive, despite everything that’s happened to our country,” Sergiy says. “It would be so wrong not to believe in our future. I always have hope. It’s just a matter of time. Our future generations will be truly happy and free.”

Moral Courage

As young men, Soviet propaganda told Valeriy and Sergiy that America was their mortal enemy. Yet, as older men, they’ve both shown the remarkable moral courage to abandon their former worldviews and embrace the promise of democracy.

Above all else, Valeriy and Sergiy now believe in the justice of freedom and democracy rather than conformity and communism. And the two Red Army veterans wholeheartedly believe that the United States is a force for good and a beacon of hope for freedom-loving people around the world.

It’s true that history hasn’t been kind to Ukraine, and my in-laws have not led easy lives.

Yet in spite of everything, their faith in America remains unbroken. And, with America’s promise lighting the way, they still extoll the justice of their own country’s democratic path, no matter its attendant hardships.

In the end, they choose to reject their Soviet past but not forget it. When the work of building a democracy gets tough, as it so often does, they look to the past to remember what they’re working so hard to achieve.

“Democracy hasn’t been easy, but I’d rather live as a free man than go back to the way things were before,” my father-in-law says.

Freedom, after all, usually means more to people who’ve experienced the alternative.

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

popular

Watch this NASA video zoom in on a nebula 4,000 light years away

These NASA Hubble Space Telescope images compare two diverse views of the roiling heart of a vast stellar nursery, known as the Lagoon Nebula. The images, one taken in visible and the other in infrared light, celebrate Hubble’s 28th anniversary in space.

The colorful visible-light image at left reveals a fantasy landscape of ridges, cavities, and mountains of gas and dust. This dust-and-gas landscape is being sculpted by powerful ultraviolet radiation and hurricane-like stellar winds unleashed by a monster young star. Located at the center of the photo, the star, known as Herschel 36, is about 200,000 times brighter than our Sun. This hefty star is 32 times more massive than our Sun and 40,000 degrees Kelvin. Herschel 36 is still very active because it is young by a star’s standards, only 1 million years old.


The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious
These NASA Hubble Space Telescope images compare two diverse views of the roiling heart of a vast stellar nursery, known as the Lagoon Nebula. The images, one taken in visible and the other in infrared light, celebrate Hubble’s 28th anniversary in space.

The blistering radiation and powerful stellar winds (streams of subatomic particles) are pushing dust away in curtain-like sheets. As the monster star throws off its natal cocoon of material, it is suppressing star formation around it.

However, at the dark edges of this dynamic bubble-shaped ecosystem, stars are forming within dense clouds of gas and dust. Dark, elephant-like “trunks” of material represent dense pieces of the cocoon that are resistant to erosion by the searing ultraviolet light and serve as incubators for fledgling stars.

The star-filled image at right, taken by Hubble in near-infrared light, reveals a very different view of the Lagoon Nebula compared to its visible-light portrait. Making infrared observations of the cosmos allows astronomers to penetrate vast clouds of gas and dust to uncover hidden gems. Hubble’s view offers a sneak peek at the dramatic vistas NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will provide.