The country’s 72 living Medal of Honor recipients could see a huge bump in their pensions should legislation proposed by a bipartisan group of Senators pass.
According to a report by MilitaryTimes.com, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a retired Air Force Reserve colonel who made multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, introduced the legislation in order to not only more than double the pensions, but to also provide a travel stipend to allow recipients to tell their stories. Congress.gov notes that the legislation, S. 1209, was introduced on May 23, 2017, but no text was available.
In a May 25, 2017 release, Senator Graham noted that his legislation would increase the pension from $1,303.15 per month to $3,000 per month. These pensions are in addition to other military benefits that these servicemen have earned.
“Medal of Honor recipients represent the best among us. These heroes have served our country with distinction, and this modest increase is the least we can do to convey our gratitude for their sacrifices. I urge my colleagues to support this bill so that we can do right by our Medal of Honor recipients,” Graham said in the statement.
Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), an Iraq War veteran and an original co-sponsor of S.1209, added, “We can never repay our Medal of Honor recipients for everything they’ve done for our country. But we can and should support them on behalf of a grateful nation.”
Many of the Medal of Honor recipients have often traveled to tell their stories at their own expense. The last stipend increase was passed in 2002, according to the release issued by Senator Graham’s office.
S. 1209 is expected to cost about $1.5 million per year over the next ten years, according to Senator Graham’s office, and was referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
The Vietnam War’s icon was arguably the UH-1 helicopter. Officially designated the Iroquois (‘Huey’ is more of a term of endearment), this helicopter has been the most-produced in history, first flying in 1956 — that means it has just over six decades of service with the United States military!
Over 7,000 Hueys were used in Vietnam, and 2,500 were lost during the war.
According to the Naval Institute Guide to World Military Aviation, the UH-1D had the ability to carry up to 16 passengers and crew.
The chopper could also carry just under 3,900 pounds of equipment in the cabin or 5,000 pounds in an external sling. It also could serve as a potent gunship, firing 70mm rockets, M60 machine guns in 7.62mm NATO, and M134 miniguns.
The secret to the Huey’s success was a gas turbine engine that not only was able to perform at higher temperatures and in less-dense air than previous helicopters, but it was also much lighter than previous helicopter engines.
This allowed the Huey to be smaller (48-foot rotor diameter, 57 foot length) and lighter — making it fast (a top speed of 135 miles per hour) and maneuverable. It had a range of 315 miles, giving American troops the ability to strike hard and fast at a distance.
The chopper’s mobility meant that in a one-year tour, the average infantry soldier saw 240 days of combat. For some perspective, in the Pacific Theater during WWII, the average grunt saw 40 days over the nearly four years that conflict lasted.
Today, versions of the UH-1 are still in service with the Marine Corps (the UH-1Y Venom), the Air Force (UH-1N), and Navy (UH-1N). The Army’s last Huey mission was flown on Dec. 15, 2016. According to an Army release, the helicopter was handed off to the Louisiana State Police a week later.
It’s proven that working out three to five times a weeks increases morale, decreases waistlines, and can even help save money in medical bills over time.
Nowadays, going to the gym can be a freakin’ hassle. You have to get into the car, drive through traffic, fight off some of the other gym patrons for time on the machines, and hope you don’t get sick from all the bacteria that covers the various plastic workout benches.
To add to that, many military and civilian gyms have a lot of restrictions against doing awesome reasonable things like taking your shirt off or grunting while lifting heavy loads. Let’s face it, when we deploy to a combat zone, we usually grunt as loud as we want to — for motivation — and we work out without our shirts. It shows off the “guns.”
Since many veterans want the freedom of doing whatever the f*ck they want to do during their workouts, the idea of working out at a judge-free area, like at home, is catching on within the fitness world. Many people have decided to build home gyms to combat the unique crowd that tends to flock to the gym just to text message their friend while sitting on the flat bench.
That sh*t gets annoying.
So here’s the basic breakdown of what you need in any home gym.
Aerobic activity is the most critical type of exercises on the planet. It has been clinically proven to boost brain function and stimulate good heart health. Now, you don’t have to purchase a treadmill because you can run outside all you want for free.
The upside to buying a quality treadmill is that it’s specialized belt system can protect your knees from injury. Running is considered one of the most high-impact activities our bodies can be put through, and we want to protect our lower body joints.
Squat rack with straight bar mounts
This is one of the most essential pieces of equipment you’ll find it any gym and has several practical uses. Since there are several types of squat racks to choose from, you’ll want to find one that fits your budget and contains the various physical components you’ll need for your specific workouts.
To get the most out of your squat rack, look for one that has adjustable straight bar mounts. This means you can do both leg squats and bench press without having to purchase two separate stations. This will save you space in your home gym (and money — you’re welcome).
The multi-angle workout bench.
Multi-angle workout bench
You know when you walk into the gym, and you see a variety of workout benches scattered throughout the facility? In a home gym, you need to find a way to get all the various versions of those benches to hit all the angles of your chest. It’s a good thing the bright minds in the fitness industry have already combined a condensed version of the workout bench with a multi-angle one.
These multi-angle benches can move from a 17-degree decline to 90-degree incline in seconds. Having this piece of equipment will save you time and space in your home gym.
This machine is one of the most famous pieces of equipment you can find in any gym. As long as you have enough headroom to house this tall standing workout station, you can work your back, triceps, and lower chest, and get a complete ab workout.
It’s worth having if you can fit it.
A television set
We know this isn’t a piece of workout equipment. However, watching TV during a workout can take your mind off the fact that you’re working out if you’re not a fan of the activity. On a positive note, watching TV doing a workout can motivate you if you see an attractive person on the screen and you want to look like them one day.
Bowflex selectTech 552
Would you rather have a few dozen dumbbells laying around, or have a set of multi-weight ones taking up a small percentage of space in your garage or spare bedroom? The upside to having these multi-weight dumbbells is you can go from five-pounds to 55-pounds just by turning a dial.
The downside is, these weights aren’t a tough as standard dumbbells. Meaning, after you finish your set, you don’t want to drop these weights on the floor as they work off of a gear system and the plates could fall off. If you can avoid this issue, the weights will last you for years.
Spc. Benjamin Ritchie came to Fort Jackson with the same hope as many others — to start his Army career on the right path by excelling at Basic Combat Training.
On Oct. 21, 2019, he became the first Basic Combat Training trainee to record a perfect score of 600 points on the Army’s new physical fitness test.
Ritchie maxed all six events on Army Combat Fitness Test, making him the third soldier in the Army to earn a perfect score. The San Antonio native, is assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, the “River Raiders.”
The battalion is one of two on Fort Jackson participating in the Army’s ‘field test’ where trainees take the ACFT during the ninth week of training.
Spc. Benjamin Ritchie, a trainee with Company A, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment conducts the sprint drag event as Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Cabrera watches.
(US Army photo)
Ritchie, an 09S — Officer Candidate, said what ultimately brought him success was his personal dedication to physical fitness and the consistent guidance and support of his unit leadership.
“We didn’t do anything special,” Ritchie said about his preparations. “I trusted my drill sergeants and did my best.”
Ritchie was unable to max his initial diagnostic Army Physical Fitness Test, the soon to be legacy fitness test. For the following nine weeks, he performed regularly scheduled physical readiness training according to the BCT program of instruction and ate the regular meals provided by the dining facility and by the end of basic training, he was able to max both the APFT and ACFT.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Delgado, a senior drill sergeant in Ritchie’s company, said the training was the same as every other cycle.
Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Cabrera with Company A, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, observes Spc. Benjamin Ritchie conduct an Army Combat Fitness Test event.
(US Army photo)
“There were no special fitness coaches, diets, or focused ACFT workouts,” Delgado said. “Hard work and motivation — that’s our ‘special sauce.’ Once you get the trainees to buy-in to what you’re doing, they will achieve whatever you put in front of them.”
The company and battalion focused on creating an environment for the trainees to excel. They placed pull-up bars in easily accessible locations; encouraged trainees to conduct physical training in their free time; planned time to familiarize trainees with the ACFT in the evenings; and encouraged friendly, peer-to-peer competition.
The results speak for themselves as Ritchie maxed the test while two other trainees in the battalion scored above 590.
Lt. Col. Randall Wenner, 3-60th commander, said he is excited about the new direction of the ACFT and the work the battalion has put into its implementation.
Brig. Gen. Milford H. ‘Beags’ Beagle Jr., Fort Jackson commander and Post Command Sgt. Maj. Jerimiah C. Gan, pose with Spc. Benjamin Ritchie from 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment after his graduation.
(US Army photo)
“There are naysayers out there about the new test, specifically due to injury,” he said. “We have tested over 2,800 trainees with zero injuries. Ritchie’s performance along with the performance of other trainees also sends a message — excellence in the ACFT is attainable for everyone. The Army needs adaptable soldiers. A fit soldier is an adaptable soldier.”
“We proved that when we asked trainees, who have been focusing on the APFT for graduation, to take the ACFT in week nine,” he added. “Focusing on fitness gives soldiers the tools to excel, regardless of the test.”
Ritchie, Co. A., 3rd Battalion 60th Infantry Regiment, and Fort Jackson have shown proper training and motivation produce outstanding results.
“War for the Planet of the Apes” — the sequel to the sequel to the second remake of the Charlton Heston sci-fi classic — picks up the saga of ape freedom fighter Caesar (Andy Serkis), as he and his army of super-smart, genetically-modified apes seek to turn what’s left of the United States into their own banana republic.
As in 2014’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” humanity is on the retreat as the ape army gains ground, and the last armed resistance against the simian conquerors appears to be in the hands of a ruthless — and mostly shirtless — Colonel (Woody Harrelson).
While Caesar’s voiceover in the trailer makes it clear that the apes never wanted war, they’re determined to defend themselves at all cost. Even if it means armageddon.
‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ swings into theaters everywhere on July 14, 2017.
The C-47 fulfilled a number of roles in World War II and Korea. It was a supply plane, a plane for dropping paratroopers, and a tow for gliders.
But it was in the Vietnam War that the “Gooney Bird” would get its greatest mission — flying three 7.62mm miniguns through the night to devastate North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces.
The idea for a side-firing gunship had been floating around military circles since at least 1926. In fact, the technique had been tested successfully in 1927 when 1st Lt. Fred Nelson flew a DH-4 with a mounted .30-cal machine gun and destroyed a target on the ground.
But the Army Air Corps and the Army Air Forces never came around to the idea. It was 1963 before the idea of a side-firing aircraft got another serious test. A C-131B modified with gunsights and a minigun was successful in early tests and the experiment was repeated with a C-47.
The U.S. Air Force AC-47 Dragon aircraft flies missions over South Vietnam in support of allied outposts. (Photo: Public Domain)
The final combat variant of the AC-47 consisted of the cargo plane with three 7.62mm miniguns mounted on the left side — two in modified portholes near the cargo door and one in the cargo door itself. The triggers for the three guns were connected to a button in the pilot’s compartment.
If the threat was too large for the AC-47, the flares it dropped would light up the target for follow-on fighters. The AC-47 would stay in the area, directing the attacks by other aircraft.
The AC-47, dubbed “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” by an officer who saw it at work, was so effective that the Air Force launched Project Gunship II, the program which resulted in the AC-130 still in service today.
Though he was peppered by approximately 40 pieces of shrapnel in the blast, he noticed that a flare — activated by another crewmember just before the blast — was rolling around the cargo area.
The flare had yet to fully ignite, but it was only a matter of time before it would, possibly killing the crew on its own and almost certainly causing the cargo hold of ammunition to go off. Levitow crawled to the flare, held the burning implement against his already wounded body, and moved to the door with it.
He was able to throw it out just before the flare ignited.
Harvard University has decided against hiring former whistleblower Chelsea Manning as a visiting fellow, after backlash from two high-profile people associated with the Central Intelligence Agency.
Manning was announced Sept. 13 as a visiting fellow for the 2017-18 academic year. That announcement drew criticism from former acting CIA chief and deputy director Michael Morell, a senior fellow at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and current CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
Morell resigned his post in protest Sept. 14, critical of the school’s invitation to Manning — a former Army intelligence analyst convicted of leaking sensitive US military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks.
Later Sept. 14, Pompeo canceled a scheduled appearance for the same reason.
Sept. 15, Harvard Kennedy School of Government Dean Douglas Elmendorf announced that Manning’s fellowship had been rescinded.
“We invited Chelsea Manning because the Kennedy School’s longstanding approach to visiting speakers is to invite some people who have significantly influenced events in the world, even if they do not share our values and even if their actions or words are abhorrent to some members of our community,” Elmendorf said in a statement. “However, I now think that designating Chelsea Manning as a Visiting Fellow was a mistake, for which I accept responsibility.”
“Unfortunately, I cannot be part of an organization — the Kennedy School — that honors a convicted felon and leaker of classified information,” Morell wrote in his resignation letter to Elmendorf.
“We did not intend to honor her in any way or to endorse any of her words or deeds, as we do not honor or endorse any Fellow,” the dean responded Sept. 15. “But I see more clearly now that many people view a Visiting Fellow title as an honorific, so we should weigh that consideration when offering invitations.”
Morell served as the CIA’s acting director in two stints under Obama — one in 2011 and another between 2012 and 2013.
Though she has served her time, Manning continues to be a controversial figure.
Some members of the US intelligence community and diplomatic corps decried the damage done when the documents Manning leaked went public — but anti-war and government transparency advocates celebrated her as a hero for exposing private deliberations that upended public claims by the US government about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Manning was one of several individuals named Sept. 13 as Kennedy School visiting fellows. Also included are former press secretary Sean Spicer, Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robbie Mook, and former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
Thanks to the generosity of military members who literally gave up the uniforms they wore on their backs, Alexander Barnes and Kevin Born have successfully authored a new book that is educating readers on the nuances of desert uniforms.
After more than two years, their 344-page hardcover reference book “Desert Uniforms, Patches and Insignia of the U.S. Armed Forces” was published in late 2016. It features more than 1,000 mostly color photos with detailed descriptions of a variety of uniforms, different unit patches and insignia and more. They had lots of willing help tracking these down – locally and around the globe.
To handle the massive project, they set up a small studio in Born’s house and spend nights and weekends photographing and scanning several hundred donated and loaned uniforms, patches and insignia worn by U.S. Armed Forces.
Barnes, a former Marine and National Guardsman, and Kevin Born, chief of the Collective Training Development Division in theCASCOM G-3/5/7, and retired Army major, often just needed to walk around CASCOM for help.
“Working in a building with so many military veterans,” said Born “one is bound to run into some who had served during the desert period. Retired Col. Charles (Charlie) Brown, director of the Battle Lab, gave me his 6-colored uniform from Desert Storm and 3-colored Desert Combat Uniform from Afghanistan. And on the day he retired, he loaned me his Army Combat Uniform off his back, which is in the book illustrating the transition to the ACU uniform.”
Born said, “In another example, one day I walked out of my office in the CASCOM G-3 area and 10 feet away in Jason Aleo’s cubicle was hanging a rare desert Close Combat Uniform from his service as a field artillery captain with a Stryker Brigade Combat Team. I asked to borrow it as well as photos of him wearing it in Northern Iraq. It’s included on two pages in the book.
Barnes, who retired as a CASCOM logistics management supervisor in 2015, has similar accounts of those assisting with the book.
“I sent an email to Lt. Gen. (Mitchell) Stevenson (in England), a former CASCOM commander, and asked if he could share a photo of his service. He replied a day later, ‘What do you need, and how soon?'” said Barnes. “He was in a civilian job, but he stepped forward and sent us a great picture of him in the desert.”
Born continued, “I walked by Chaplain (Maj.) Stanton Trotter’s office one day, and saw a set of framed photos from his service with the 10th Mountain Division very early in Afghanistan in 2001. He kindly loaned several for us to scan. These appear in the book with Trotter praying next to a Soldier.”
Barnes and Born together have more than 50 years of military service and share a long history and avid passion for military collecting. Barnes has a master’s in anthropology, grew up in a military family and has co-authored three other books on military history as well as writing many articles on the subject.
Born has a bachelor’s in history and education and has authored numerous articles on military insignia collecting, an area he has focused on for more than 40 years. While they worked at CASCOM for a number of years, they did not know each other until the August 2011 earthquake in Central Virginia.
”Al and I are both members of the U.S. Militaria Forum and he commented about the earthquake on the forum that night,” said Born. “I saw his post and realized there was another military collector one floor above me. I reached out to him through the forum.”
Barnes said, “the earthquake was the catalyst.”
They soon discovered like-minded military collectors on Fort Lee who included Richard Killblane, the Transportation School historian, and then Lt. Col. (now Col.) Robert Nay, the former deputy installation chaplain.
“We met periodically at lunch to talk about our collecting interests,” Born said. “The seeds for the book came out of these discussions.”
They also collaborated on several articles in Military Trader Magazine that allowed them to get used to each other’s writing styles and served as practice for writing the book.
However, there were no plans yet for a book.
Barnes continued, “We started having lunches with others who had the same interest. After several, we decided to have a military swap meet at Fort Lee.”
Three annual gatherings took place and there was a huge interest, Barnes said.
“After one of these, we said, ‘We need to do something about all these desert uniforms. If we don’t, it will be hard to do it in 20 years.'”
A soldier enjoys breakfast in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm in 1990 wearing the so-called “chocolate chip” desert camo uniform. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Cisneros via Flickr)
The two were unsure of any interest in a book about desert uniforms. “It was such a short period of military history,” noted Barnes. Others at Lee changed their minds.
“It was one of these serendipity things,” said Barnes as they began asking veterans about their desert tours. “So, you were there too. I’ll be darned. Would you have any pictures? And they would say ‘sure.'”
Barnes added, “most were surprised anyone cared. ‘You’re kidding. You really want pictures of me in Iraq. Sure – anything I have, you can have.'”
The original project was smaller in scale. “We thought it would be kind of an Army patch book – showing the variations of these with a couple pictures of uniforms,” said Barnes. “But it kept growing as we felt it important to add all services.”
Schiffer Publishing – the publisher of three other books by Barnes – quickly gave the go-ahead. Both were surprised to get a positive response. They were given nearly a year to pull it together – write the chapters and captions, gather the content, take photos and more.
After 10 months of gathering content and expanding the book, they submitted their package in August 2015. In December, they began receiving sections of the book from Schiffer. After receiving proofs, both saw areas where more details were needed, and they started a Facebook page to help in this process.
“We got more interest from around the world,” said Barnes.
In preparation for the book, they accumulated more than 1,000 government and theater-made desert patches and over 300 uniforms. A large number are in it. These came from numerous veterans and collectors.
Others at Fort Lee (some retired or at other bases now) who were helpful include retired Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jeffie Moore, formerly with the CASCOM Proponency office; Maj Mike Bethea, an Enterprise Systems Directorate officer in CASCOM; Dr. Milt Smith, a dentist at Bull clinic; and Capt. (now Maj.) Vance Zemke, a former instructor at ALU.
Born added, “I found out two weeks before Maj. Zemke was to PCS to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., that he had a huge collection of theater-made patches acquired in his deployments. He kindly loaned them to me with the provision I get them back in a few days’ time for him to pack them up for the movers. I spent day-and-night scanning them. They can be found throughout the book.”
The book foreword is by retired Maj. Gen. Ken Bowra, a former Special Forces officer, a friend of Barnes and Born.
“He not only wrote the foreword, but he allowed us to take pictures of his personal uniforms and shared many photographs as well,” said Barnes. “He served in the entire desert uniform period, wore these uniforms and patches in Desert Storm/Somalia/Operation Enduring Freedom and many other places. Most importantly, he always had a great respect for all the men and women who served during this era.”
Bowra also is a military history writer and author of two Osprey Vietnam-era books.
There were some hard-to-get uniforms and patches, notably CASCOM patches.
“Most collectors do not have these,” noted Born. “These units are not normally in the desert environment, and fewer people were deployed from the schools. I only had a loose copy of the patch. But Al beat the bushes with all of his contacts to find a photograph of one being worn in theater, which are both in the book.”
They completed their final review in August 2016 and were pleased to receive finished copies in late December.
Born said, “writing the book was about two things for us – recognizing the service and sacrifice of the men and women of the armed forces who wore the desert uniform as well as advancing this area of military collecting. Whenever a reference like this is published, there is an increased interest among collectors.”
On Memorial Day, U.S. citizens from coast to coast will pay tribute to the nation’s fallen military members who died in service to their country. Many will participate in parades, visit cemeteries to place flowers on grave sites, and attend memorial services in honor of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the United States.
Memorial Day weekend is also widely considered the unofficial start of the summer season. Many will take advantage of the long weekend to relax from a hectic work schedule and spend some time with their families. Americans will be heading to the beach, firing up the grill, and kicking back with a cold one. American capitalism will be in full force as businesses advertise sales and consumers hit retail stores looking for a great deal. Memorial Day sales have been part of American society for decades.
In recent years, however, there’s been an increase in shaming those who partake in any leisure activities at a time designated to honor America’s fallen heroes. Memes with imagery of grieving widows and children fill social media sites attempting to make people feel guilty people about enjoying themselves.
While the purpose of the meme may be to aid the public’s understanding of the true meaning of the holiday, it also tends to rub people the wrong way.
Veterans have the ability to change the conversation – and their voices need to be heard. Veterans have the perspective to understand the sacrifice of military service and may have a personal connection understanding the loss of a comrade during his or her time in uniform.
The civilian-military divide is well documented. Most Americans don’t have a personal connection with someone in the military, let alone someone who has died in a war. The efforts of veterans shouldn’t increase this divide.
The American people work hard. In fact, many reports show Americans work more hours than any other nation in the industrialized world. There is nothing wrong with enjoying some time off. Disgracing our fellow citizens by posting these memes regardless of the intent only serves as a cheap shot and doesn’t do any good to remember the fallen.
This Memorial Day weekend, veterans should honor their fallen brothers and sisters in arms by celebrating them and sharing their stories, both online and off, with others who may not have an affiliation with the military or don’t understand the meaning of the holiday. Whether you’re a veteran, active member, or military family member, this weekend should be about educating, not shaming our fellow citizens.
Those who died in service to the nation did so in the course of protecting our country’s way of life for generations to come. And, yes, that way of life includes poolside BBQs on the last Monday in May. Our fallen heroes wouldn’t have it any other way.
A training camp used by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS, was destroyed by a pair of stealth bombers today.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, two B-2A Spirit bombers attacked the training camp about 30 miles from Sirte. At least 85 members of the terrorist group are believed to have been killed in the mission, which involved the bombers dropping a total of 108 500-pound bombs. Unmanned aerial vehicles also took part in the attack, using AGM-114 Hellfire missiles to kill surviving terrorists.
FoxNews.com noted that the bombers were refueled five times as they flew to and from Whiteman Air Force Base.
“This action was authorized by the President as an extension of the successful operation the U.S. military conducted last year to support Libyan forces in freeing Sirte from ISIL control,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement released after the attack. “The ISIL terrorists targeted included individuals who fled to the remote desert camps from Sirte in order to reorganize, and they posed a security threat to Libya, the region, and U.S. national interests.”
The use of B-2 bombers might come as a surprise as F-15E Strike Eagles from the 48th Fighter Wing at Lakenheath Air Base had been used in the past. The Navy had the guided missile destroyers USS Porter (DDG 78) and USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) in the region as well. Last year, Marine Cobras from a Marine Expeditionary Unit took part in operations against ISIS in the country.
FoxNews.com reported that this was the first action the B-2s had seen since 2011. One possible reason was the presence of the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. The carrier reportedly hosted a Libyan warlord who the Russians are backing to run the war-torn country. The carrier and its escorts, including a Kirov-class battlecruiser, have substantial air-defense assets, including Su-33 Flankers, MiG-29K fighters, and SA-N-6 surface-to-air missiles.
After thousands of Army retirees responded to a voluntary recall request for those in health care fields to help the service fight the spread of the novel coronavirus, officials quietly issued another call-out — this one to recently separated troops in the Individual Ready Reserve.
On March 29, the Army’s Human Resources Command sent messages to nearly 10,000 soldiers in the IRR asking for volunteers to put the uniform back on, Lt. Col. Emanuel OrtizCruz, an Army spokesman, confirmed to Military.com. The messages went out to those who had served in military occupational specialties including family nurse practitioner; critical care nursing; emergency nursing; nurse anesthetists; generalist nurse; and respiratory specialist, he said.
The newest voluntary recall request was issued just days after President Donald Trump issued an executive order authorizing the military services to recall members of the Selected Reserve and the IRR to active duty in light of the strain the global pandemic is placing on the force.
While each service has slightly different IRR parameters and requirements, troops typically join the IRR for a period of four or five years following the conclusion of their active-duty service. A service member may have a contract that stipulates four years on active duty, but a total mandatory service obligation of eight years; the balance of that service is completed in the IRR. Troops in the IRR receive no pay and don’t need to drill, but may participate in periodic muster events — and they must remain ready for the possibility of involuntary recall by presidential order.
The Army, however, is beginning by soliciting as many volunteers as it can to meet medical provider gaps created as a result of deploying mobile field hospitals to urban regions in the U.S. hardest hit by the virus.
“The U.S. Army is reaching out to gauge the interest of IRR Soldiers who would be willing to assist with COVID-19 pandemic response efforts should their skills and expertise be required,” OrtizCruz said.
It’s not clear how many soldiers the Army needs to fill its staffing gaps and whether it will be able to meet the need with a voluntary recall alone. To date, the service has ordered the deployment of three mobile field hospitals — each staffed with about 330 soldiers — to New York City and Seattle.
Human Resources Command, he said, is still processing and validating requests, and sorting them by specialty. It’s not immediately clear how long it will be before the first volunteers can re-don their uniforms. Lt. Gen. Raymond Scott Dingle, the surgeon general of the Army, told reporters last week that the first step for the service would be to ensure that all volunteer qualifications and certifications are valid and up to date.
“Then once we do that, we will plug them into all of our medical treatment facilities as required in support of the mission,” he said.
For 12 years, she was there for Fort Hood, Texas, troops going to and coming from deployments to combat zones with her engaging smile, words of comfort and, always, that great big hug — maybe a half million of them.
Now, an online petition has been started requesting the Defense Department to rename the place that served as her second home — the Fort Hood Arrival/Departure Airfield Control Group terminal (A/DACG) — for Elizabeth Corrine Laird, aka the “Hug Lady.”
The petition, launched May 25, 2019, on the Change.org for-profit petition platform, had gathered more than 63,000 signatures through mid-morning May 30, 2019.
Laird, an Air Force veteran who enlisted in 1950, was a volunteer with the Salvation Army and began coming to the A/DACG in 2003 during the big deployments to Iraq. She continued until her death in 2015 at age 83, after a long battle with breast cancer.
From left to right: Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, Elizabeth Laird, and Command Sgt. Maj. John Sampa at Fort Hood’s Robert Gray Army Airfield Sept. 13, 2015.
(36th Infantry Division photo by Maj. Randy Stillinger)
At first, she offered handshakes, but that quickly progressed to hugs from “Miss Elizabeth,” of Copperas Cove, Texas. She would also hand out cards printed with Psalm 91, which says in part: “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day.”
Christopher Peckham, of Savannah, Georgia, started the petition. He posted to the Change.org site, “I am honestly shocked that this took off so fast in the last 48 hours. I am going to do further research so we can make this happen!”
Some of those signing the petition also wrote that they had been hugged by Laird.
Jonathan Glessner of Somerset, Pennsylvania, wrote: “3 deployments from Ft. Hood and at least 6 hugs from her. My last deployment, she sat with me and some friends and told jokes and stories. She was truly a wonderful person.”
Matthew McCann of Maryneal, Texas, wrote: “She was there to say goodbye and give a hug when we left. She was a welcoming sight and a hug when we got home. She was a very special lady and she is sorely missed.”
Fort Hood’s “hug lady” loses battle with breast cancer
A month before she died, Laird told Today.com about how she approached her mission.
“When they enter the room, they give me a hug, and then we talk about anything from their family to what it was like overseas or if they got a civilian job upon returning,” she said.
“My hugs tell the soldiers that I appreciate what they’re doing for us,” she added.
Her funeral in Killeen, Texas, was attended by hundreds of troops, including generals, and Cecilia Abbott, wife of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
Former III Corps and Fort Hood Command Sgt. Maj. William “Joe” Gainey, who spoke at the funeral, admonished the troops in attendance, “You do not let her legacy die,” the Killeen Daily Herald reported.
Gainey said he was certain that Laird had taken her mission to another venue in heaven.
“Miss Elizabeth is there now, hugging my scouts,” he said, according to the Daily Herald.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
More than 60,000 defiant music fans joined Ariana Grande at her One Love concert at the Old Trafford Cricket Ground in Manchester June 4, as they stood together in the face of extremism and pay tribute to those killed in terror attacks.
The American singer’s manager Scooter Braun said the Manchester gig now has a “greater purpose” than ever after the country’s second terror attack in two weeks.
Niall Horan, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Coldplay, Pharrell Williams, The Black Eyed Peas, Usher, Take That, Robbie Williams, Mumford Sons and Little Mixtook to the stage and performed for free to raise at least £2m towards the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund.
Bono and his U2 bandmates sent an emotional video message to the huge audience at the One Love Manchester gig.
Currently in America on their Joshua Tree tour, which played Chicago June 4, he paid tribute to the victims of the terrorist attack and sent a message of support to those affected.
“All our hearts are with you. All our hearts are with Manchester and with the UK and so many of our friends in this great city.
“We’re broken-hearted for children who lost their parents and parents who lost their children from this senseless, senseless horror,” he said.
“There is no end to grief, that’s how we know, there’s no end to love, a thought we’re holding onto for these people. We’ll see you again when the stars fall from the sky.”
On June 3 seven people were killed and nearly 50 injured after three men drove a van into a crowd on London Bridge and set upon people in a crazed knife rampage.
Despite the atrocities, fans including those injured in the Manchester Arena on May 22, headed to the venue in their droves, proudly wearing clothes emblazoned with the slogan, “We stand together”.
In between renditions of Giants and Rule The World, Gary Barlow told the crowd: “Thank you everybody for coming out tonight, thank you for everybody watching at home, thanks to Ariana for inviting us tonight.
“Our thoughts are with everyone that’s been affected by this.
“We want to stand strong, look at the sky and sing loud and proud.”
Barlow then introduced his former band mate, Robbie Williams. Williams serenaded the crowd with his song Strong, changing the words to, “Manchester we’re strong”.
Concert-goers began queueing outside Lancashire Cricket Club’s Old Trafford ground from 8.30am ahead of the One Love Manchester gig.
The event marked Ariana Grande’s first return to the stage since suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated a device.
All Grande fans who attended the gig on May 22 were offered free passes to the benefit concert.
Grande’s manager Mr Braun said all the acts involved had shown “unwavering” support.
Questions were raised by fans about whether the One Love benefit gig would still go ahead in the wake of the latest terror attack in London.
However in a statement Mr Braun said: “After the events in London, and those in Manchester just two weeks ago, we feel a sense of responsibility to honor those lost, injured, and affected.
“We plan to honor them with courage, bravery, and defiance in the face of fear.
“Today’s One Love Manchester benefit concert will not only continue but will do so with greater purpose.
“We must not be afraid and in tribute to all those affected here and around the world, we will bring our voices together and sing loudly.
“All artists involved have been unwavering in their support this morning and today we stand together. Thank you,” he added.