How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood

On Saturday, December 12, 2020, Santa and his elf could be seen driving around central Oahu waving and handing out candy canes to delighted children waving from their driveways as holiday music rang through the air. But this wasn’t an event sponsored by the city or county, or even a military spouses’ group. It was one couple trying to bring the spirit of Christmas to their community.

“It’s been such a hard year for the kids,” PJ Byers told We Are The Mighty. “We wanted to bring an element of Christmas magic to them.”

When PJ and Jenny Byers realized their son Declan, 3, wasn’t going to be able to see Santa in a traditional way this year, they knew they wouldn’t be the only parents feeling a little “bah humbug.”

“It was actually our neighbor’s son who is battling leukemia that got me thinking about other people’s situations,” Jenny Byers shared. “It got me thinking outside the box of my own life. It reminded me that there were other people facing different scenarios and everyone’s circumstance is different in this pandemic.”

Armed with inspiration, the Byers decided to take matters into their own hands. In early fall, the couple ordered costumes from the internet with the intention to create a magical Santa ‘drive through’ experience.

“When we first tossed around the idea for our neighborhood, we didn’t know what December was going to look like,” PJ, a U.S. Naval officer stationed at Pearl Harbor, said. “The closer it got to the holiday season, we decided we wanted to go ahead with the idea so that no matter what your circumstance was – whether you feel comfortable going to the mall with plexiglass or not – every child in our surrounding community would have the chance to see Santa.”

As the holidays neared, the Byers posted their plan in their Facebook community group to ensure neighbors felt comfortable with them driving around in costume and tossing out candy canes.

“I was shocked by the response,” Jenny said. “So many people were so excited and thankful we were offering that they started offering to help. We were just planning on doing it all ourselves. Everyone started pitching in and we got a speaker from a neighbor down the street. We got a Christmas tree donated to put in the back of the truck and several neighbors donated candy canes for us to toss out to the kids.”

Within the Facebook page, the Byers set a date and time for the Santa spectacular.

“We also posted a route so that people could gauge when we would drive by their house,” Jenny explained. “We tried to hit every street in our neighborhood and we set a specific route so that people didn’t gather. Our goal was to hit every house and not have people group together into a big crowd.”

On the day of the event, the couple festooned their truck, suited up for the big event, and began making their way through the neighborhood.

“The kids were so happy,” Jenny shared, adding that local community members had donated more than 1,000 candy canes. “They were so excited to see Santa. We followed COVID guidelines and all candy canes were pre-wrapped. Santa was wearing gloves and there was no contact. It was so sweet to see so many kids so excited and happy.”

The couple’s son, Declan, waved from a neighbor’s driveway as Santa drove by, none the wiser his dad was the man in red.

The Byers shared that beyond something fun for kids, it was a gratifying opportunity for them to contribute to the community.

“I was honored to do it honestly,” PJ shared. “So much has been taken away from the kids this year, it felt like the least we could do to make the Christmas season feel a little bit more normal for them.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch these wounded warriors take on NFL alums in the ‘Super Bowl’ of flag football

This past weekend, Kaplan University invited WATM to join them at Radio Row for some of the Super Bowl 50 festivities. Kaplan was there in support of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Flag Football Team in their celebrity game with NFL alumni.


Adding their support to the event were such NFL greats as Rocky Bleier, Bob Golic, Tim Krumrie, Jackie Slater, Bill Romanowski, and Ed “Too Tall” Jones – just to name a few. Veterans from every branch came together in an inspiring display of solidarity, sportsmanship, and the drive to overcome all.

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Butcher of of Bosnia’ sentenced to life in prison for genocide

The guilty verdict of former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic, known as the “Butcher of Bosnia,” brought the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) a step closer to its closure, but for many of his victims, it did little to ease the pain.


The 75-year-old former Bosnian Serb general was sentenced on November 22 to life imprisonment after being found guilty on 10 of 11 charges, including one guilty verdict of genocide, as well as war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the bloody 1992-95 conflict that tore the former Yugoslavia apart.

Victims both outside the court, which winds down at the end of this year, and back in Bosnia-Herzegovina applauded the result, even though some felt that justice could never be served for the man responsible for thousands of deaths during the conflict.

How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood
Bosnian Serb political and military leaders Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić are indicted for genocide in Srebrenica in July 1995. (Image UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia Flickr)

“None of us here expected anything else. But there is something I am not satisfied with. I am not satisfied with the verdict that [Ratko Mladic] is not guilty in Count One of the indictment [related specifically to genocide in Bosnian towns and villages],” said Munir Habibovic, a survivor of the Srebrenica massacre, as she stood in the Potocari cemetery and memorial center just outside Srebrenica.

Mladic, who insisted he was innocent of all of the charges, had managed to escape prosecution for 16 years until his arrest in Serbia in May 2011 and extradition to The Hague.

A survivor of multiple strokes, Mladic was visibly frail when the trial began in 2012. During the rendering of the verdict, his lawyers asked for a halt in the proceedings due to the accused’s high blood pressure.

After the request was denied, a visibly agitated Mladic, who defiantly opened the trial by saying, “I want my enemies, and there are many, to drop dead because I am still alive,” rose in the dock and began shouting at the court that he didn’t feel well before being removed from the room.

Moments later, Mladic was found guilty of commanding forces responsible for crimes including the worst atrocities of the war: the deadly three-year siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, and the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica. He was found not guilty of genocide in some other Bosnian towns and villages.

How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood
Ratko Mladić, former commander of the Bosnian Serb Army, at his trial judgement at the ICTY. (Image UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia Flickr)

“I’m partially satisfied. It’s more than for Karadzic. But they didn’t find him guilty for the accusation of genocide in some villages,” said Munira Subasic, president of the Mothers of Srebrenica association.

The crimes committed rank among the “most heinous known to humankind,” and include genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity, Presiding Judge Alphons Orie said in reading out a summary of the judgment.

“He deserves much more severe punishment,” said one survivor, who lost her children and husband, in a live interview with the BBC outside The Hague-based court after the verdict was handed down.

“He needs to be tortured,” she said. “He’ll be fine in prison, but he needs to suffer like our children did.”

Given the gravity of the offenses, Mladic’s case became one of the highest-profile war crimes trials since the Nuremberg trials of Germany’s Nazi leadership after World War II.

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein called the conviction a “momentous victory for justice.”

“Mladic is the epitome of evil, and the prosecution of Mladic is the epitome of what international justice is all about,” Zeid said in a statement.

Read More: Why the ‘Butcher of Bosnia’ faces a life sentence for war crimes

“Today’s verdict is a warning to the perpetrators of such crimes that they will not escape justice, no matter how powerful they may be nor how long it may take.”

Mladic’s lawyer and his son both said the verdict would be appealed and that Mladic has been denied his “basic human rights” by not being allowed to see doctors of his own choice.

The reaction in Serbia was mixed, in a country that is trying to move toward the European Union but still has strong nationalist tendencies.

President Aleksandar Vucic urged his compatriots to look to the future rather than “suffocating in tears of the past.”

In the small Serbian village of Lazarevo, where Mladic was finally apprehended, residents dismissed a court they said has sought to solely blame Serbs for the crimes committed during the Yugoslav conflict.

The AP quoted villager Igor Topolic as saying he was “horrified and saddened” by the verdict and called Mladic “a Serbian national hero.”

How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood
22 November 2017 – Ratko Mladić, former commander of the Bosnian Serb Army, at his trial judgement at the ICTY. (Image UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia Flickr)

With the Mladic verdict rendered, the ICTY next week will make its ruling on the appeals of former Bosnian Croat leader Jadranko Prlic and five other Bosnian Croats.

Prlic, now 57, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on charges of murdering and deporting Muslims during the war.

After that, the ICTY will close its doors.

The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, MICT, will take over the remaining cases along with domestic courts, particularly the Bosnian state court.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Infantry Marines are now getting lighter, more streamlined body armor

The Marine Corps has started fielding a new plate carrier vest that features a more streamlined cut and offers a 25% weight savings over the vests Marines currently wear.

The new Plate Carrier Generation III will go first to infantry and other combat-arms Marines and then to supporting units in a push to reach full operational capability by fiscal 2023, according to a recent Marine Corps Systems Command announcement.


The Corps selected Vertical Protective Apparel LLC in September 2018 to manufacture up to 225,886 of the lighter and better-fitting Plate Carrier Generation III in an effort to increase the performance of Marines on the battlefield.

“When you lighten the load, Marines can get to their destinations faster, and they’re going to have more endurance, which increases their lethality,” Lt. Col. Andrew Konicki, the program manager for Infantry Combat Equipment at Marine Corps Systems Command, said in a statement. “The PC Gen. III is important because it is nearly 25-percent lighter than the legacy technology.”

Military.com reached out to Systems Command for the average weight of the PC Gen. III compared to the current plate carrier but did not receive an immediate response.

How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood

The Marine Corps conducted a study in 2016 using the prototype of the new plate carrier, which involved Marines wearing it while running through obstacle courses and taking a 15-kilometer hike, according to the release. The study results showed that Marines completed the courses faster and appeared better conditioned when wearing the newer plate carrier design, it states.

Program officials worked with industry to remove excess bulk from the legacy plate carrier to reduce weight and give Marines more freedom of movement for handling weapons.

The material of the PC Gen. III reduces water absorption, and designers shaved bulk from the vest by cutting out excess fabric from around the shoulders.

“The PC Gen. III improves the Marines’ ability to shoot and move by eliminating excess bulk from the design, and cutting out the shoulders for a better rifle stock weld,” Lt. Col. Bryan Leahy, who leads the Individual Armor Team at PM ICE, said in the release.

The PC Gen. III is better-fitting than the current vest. It fits closer to the body, increasing protection and decreasing the risk of injury because of improper fit, according to the release.

The Marine Corps also added more sizes, so nearly 15,000 more male and female Marines will be able to get a proper fit when wearing the system, it adds.

“I think there’s a misconception that all females are small, and that’s not always true,” said Konicki. “We conducted a study that found the smallest Marine is actually male.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Inside the crazy supermax prison where El Chapo just arrived

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, a notorious drug kingpin of Mexico, has finally arrived in Florence, Colorado. It’s here, at the Administrative Maximum U.S. Penitentiary where he will spend his life sentence (+30 years, according to a judge).

El Chapo escaped Mexican prisons twice, in 2001 and 2014. However, his stay this time around seems to be much more permanent— this supermax prison is nicknamed “the Alcatraz of the Rockies” and has never had a prisoner escape since its founding in 1994.


How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood

The layout of a traditional supermax cell.

El Chapo, 62, arrived at the facility on July 19, two days after his life sentence. He joined other high profile offenders like the “Unabomber,” an Oklahoma City bombing conspirator, and the 1993 World Trade Center bomber.

All 400 inmates at the ADX spend 23 hours a day in a soundproofed cell, and then have one heavily supervised hour of “rec” time. Their supervised hour of rec time is observed while both handcuffed and shackled. Phones are banned, and there is an extremely “limited” version of television available (meaning: black and white recreational, religious, and educational programming).

Everything in the cell is made of stone, and is structurally attached to the wall or floor. The bed is made of concrete with a small pad as a mattress, a small concrete stool is molded to the ground, and a couple of small shelves jut out from the wall near their in-cell sink.

The design of every cell is centered around eliminating threats. Some cells have a shower, to further limit contact with guards, but they have a timer to eliminate the threat of flooding. The toilet shuts off if blocked. The sink has no tap.

Inside the Supermax Prison Where El Chapo Will Be Housed

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Inmates can earn more daily rec time after a year, depending on their behavior. They don’t remain there forever, the long-term “goal” is a three-year stay, and then a transfer to a less restrictive prison.

However, there is considerable controversy surrounding the impact of extended confinement and isolation on mental health. In 2012, 11 inmates filed a federal class-action suit against the prison, citing alleged chronic abuse and a failure to diagnose mental health properly.

How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood

The maximum security doors where inmates are confined 23 hours a day.

I spoke with an unnamed corrections officer— to have her speak on the would-be escape attempt that she thwarted in her prison. Her prison is a level 4 (out of 5) and is home to violent prisoners, but none as high profile or as repeatedly violent as the offenders at ADX supermax. This helps give a sense at the futility of an escape plan in a prison that isn’t even as comprehensive as the ADX supermax.

“While walking up to post with no radio, I [saw] an inmate standing in the doorway.” she said, “I observed what appeared to be a water bottle hanging from the roof and when he noticed the look on my face, he took off quickly. I rounded the side of the house (a common term for each individual living complex in a prison) to get a better look, I realized it was a huge braided rope made of sheets, with a weighted water bottle anchored to the end of it. But, it had been caught on razor wire and was dangling.”

“It turned out to be an attempted escape that had gone wrong.” She continued, “There were bags of food and black clothes on top of the house, and a huge foot-long metal rod sharpened to a point hidden underneath the rope.” And that was a level 4.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How an Iraqi translator risked his life to reunite with American flag

How far would you go to reunite with a symbol you love?

For one Iraqi man, it took 13 years, 7,474 miles, help from a family member, a trip to an isolated field, and a rusty can to reclaim a treasured part of his life — an American flag.

Staff Sgt. Ahmed* shared how reuniting with the America flag changed the course of his life as he spoke to the Iron Soldiers of 1st Battalion “Bandits,” 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division Sept. 11, on East Fort Bliss.

More than 200 soldiers listened intently as Ahmed gave tribute to the Bandits he served and fought with during the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


Remembering the Bandit legacy

In 2003, Ahmed was serving as the official military translator for the Iron Soldiers of the 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT. His assignment was to translate for the unit’s command team during meetings with local dignitaries and special missions. After a few months, however, the Iraqi native began to work heavily with infantry troops and accompanied them on raids, night missions and surveillances through downtown Baghdad.

The now 37-year-old vividly described the core of his job as working with U.S. soldiers, becoming part of their team and sharing in their comradery.

How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood

Staff Sgt. Ahmed speaks to Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division during a ceremony held at the 1-37 AR motor pool Sept. 11, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Michael West)

“I wanted to help these U.S. soldiers,” he said. “I wanted to be a part of rebuilding the Iraqi police and the Iraqi Army. When I got the chance to become a linguist for the Bandits, I witnessed, learned and experienced many things.”

Ahmed recounted images filled with watching local streets in Iraq swarmed with Bradley Fighting Vehicles, tanks, convoys and barbed-wire fences. He said that even at a young age, he had a drive to bring change into his country. He added that although his own family was proud, and they respected his decision to help U.S. troops, he had to remain cautious, as the war-torn county remained in turmoil.

Loyality

Ahmed continued his work with the American soldiers, who believed in him enough to invite him into their inner circle of trust during his time with the 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT. They continued working together on missions and conducting local surveillances. During this time, he began to appreciate the strength and core values of the U.S. Army and its soldiers.

“I began to see the Army as a melting pot,” he said. “There was so much diversity and different nationalities, and yet they fought together, they served together and they mourned together. Although I was from a different culture, they trained me and respected my background and ethnicity. As my role as their translator increased, so did our brotherhood.”

Ahmed said the Bandits’ last ambush toward Fallujah was a memory that will always stay with him. It was an intense mission and not every soldier survived.

“You are never prepared to lose a comrade,” he said. “On that mission, I lost my best friend, Sgt. Scott Larson. It was hard to believe. These soldiers were the same age as me and we all bonded; we formed a team.”

When the Bandits’ deployment was extended and assigned to a different area of operation, the soldiers presented Ahmed with an American flag. Each of the soldiers signed the flag to solidify their loyalty and friendship. He recalled how proud and honored he felt to receive it.

“It meant so much to me to become a part of the team with these great soldiers,” he said. “I saw their discipline and integrity every day, and I was honored that they gave this U.S. flag to me.”

Courage

Ahmed continued his work with the American soldiers. In 2005, two years after his time with the Bandits, he decided to take the flag to his home in Baghdad; he wanted to hang it in his room. He protected the flag with two heavy-duty plastic bags and then hid it inside a gym bag. But, while traveling home, his bus driver received a call that there was an anti-American checkpoint ahead.

How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood

Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division with Staff Sgt. Ahmed pose after a ceremony held at the 1-37 motor pool Sept. 11, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Michael West)

Ahmed knew he could lose his life if he was caught with an American flag. In a panic, he decided to descend the bus and walk off the freeway. He continued walking until he got to a residential neighborhood. He then quickly buried the bag using and old-rusty tin can as a shovel.

Why I serve

Ahmed moved to the United States in 2008. Inspired by his time with the Bandits and seeing their dedication for upholding the Army values, he took the oath of enlistment to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and become a U.S. soldier. He now lives in California and serves as a staff sergeant in the Active Guard Reserve.

In 2016 Ahmed’s parents made a special trip from Iraq to visit him and celebrate his accomplishments. But before his parents departed the country, Ahmed called his father with one special request – locate the buried flag and bring it with him to the United States.

“Even though more than a decade had passed since I buried the flag in Iraq, I knew exactly where it was buried, and I instructed my father to please bring it to the U.S.,” said Ahmed. “When my father told me he had located the flag, a part of me was alive again.”

The proud father and husband said his dream came true when he arrived at Fort Bliss Sept. 11 carrying the framed flag and sharing its legacy with a new era of Bandits.

“The flag finally made it home,” said Ahmed. “I think of these soldiers every day when I put on my Army uniform and display the flag on my shoulder. Today, I did not see faces and ranks, but as I looked around, I saw the Old Ironsides patch and friendships that will last a lifetime. Larson did not live to see his flag again, but these soldiers did.”

For Cpl. James Klingel, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT, seeing and hearing Ahmed was inspirational.

“I was shocked that the flag was buried for so long, had traveled so far, and still looks amazing,” he said. “It showed us that it doesn’t matter how much time passes by. We still have the same Army traditions and the same Army values that should always be upheld, and deeply respected.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was Chrysler’s nuclear-powered tank

The Chrysler TV-8 was an ugly duckling that would’ve waddled its way across Cold War battlefields slaying everything in its path until it was killed or ran out of ammo. It was equipped with a nuclear-powered engine that could propel it from Paris to Moscow and back with enough fuel to stop in Odessa, Ukraine, along the way.


Nucelar Powered Tanks – Fallout 4 Real

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So, first, to address the fact that the TV-8 is the ugly elephant in the room. Yes, we know that even Bethesda would look at this design in a Fallout 76 pitch session and be like, “No, not ready for primetime. That’s ridiculous.” But Chrysler wasn’t trying to create and field the world’s most threatening tank in appearance. The company wanted to create one of the most threatening tanks in practice.

To that end, they traded heavily on the obvious strategic advantage of a nuclear tank: virtually unlimited range. Gasoline has a relatively low energy density at 46.4 megajoules per kilogram. Diesel is a little better at 48 MJ/Kg. The low enriched Uranium used in many reactors boasts a whopping 5,184,000 MJ/Kg.

That means that every pound of fuel a nuclear tank carried would provide 108,000 times as much energy as a pound of diesel fuel. A similar design, the R32, was expected to have a 4,000-mile range.

So, yeah, the prototype TV-8 had an extreme range just thanks to the fuel it carried. That greatly limited its logistics needs. Sure, it needed ammo delivered along with water and food for the crew, but that’s it. No fuel trucks. No need for Patton to argue with Bradley about who got first dibs on petrol and diesel.

Chrysler wanted its prototype to survive nuclear bombs, so they packed everything in the teardrop-shaped, bulbous turret. The entire crew, the 90mm gun and its ammunition, and even the engine were up in the massive turret. The engine delivered electrical power to motors in the lightweight chassis underneath, that then propelled the 28-inch-wide tracks.

All of this equipment weighed only a total of 25 tons. For comparison, the M4 Sherman, a medium tank, weighed up to 42 tons, depending on the variant.

But the prototype had some serious drawbacks. First, it was actually powered by gasoline. It would get a nuclear vapor-cycle power plant if the design moved forward. But, more importantly, it was top heavy and provided little tactical improvement over conventional tanks. After all, most tanks aren’t lost in combat because of range problems. They’re killed by other tanks.

Of course, there’s also another serious and obvious drawback to nuclear-powered tanks: The loss of one in combat could easily irradiate the battlefield that the U.S. hoped to hold after the battle. Nuclear ships sunk at sea are surprisingly well contained by the water. Nuclear reactors destroyed on the surface of the earth would have no such protection, threatening recovery and maintenance crews.

So, any battle where a TV-8 was lost would create a large hazard zone for the victorious troops, but the TV-8 didn’t feature many improvements that would make it less likely to be killed in battle. It did feature a closed-circuit television to protect the crew from a nuclear flash, but that did nothing for anti-tank rounds, missiles, and RPGs.

In 1956, an Army review recommended the termination of the program and TV-8 never made it past that first, gas-powered prototype.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Soldier-athletes win the 35th annual Army Ten-Miler

After a 10 mile run trailing around national monuments in Washington, D.C., Spc. Lawi Lalang, from Fort Carson, a member of the 2019 All-Army Ten Miler team, crossed the finish line with a time of 48:38, making him the men’s champion of the 2019 Army Ten Miler. Spc. Elvin Kibet, also a member of the 2019 All-Army Ten Miler team, earned first in the women division with a time of 54:05.

“It was so great out there, I have no words to describe how I am feeling,” said Kibet, a soldier-athlete in the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program “I had soldiers cheering me on, it was like no race I have ever done before.”

An All-Army Ten-Miler team soldier-athlete has won the Army Ten-Miler every year since 2015.


Lalang, a horizontal construction engineer, kept a mile pace of 4:51 during his first ever Army-Ten Miler.

“Spc. Benard Keter and I started with a pretty fast pace,” said Lalang. “At mile seven I pushed it a little bit more and that’s when I knew I had it. I won this race for the Army.”

How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood

Spc. Elvin Kibet, who ran on the 2019 All-Army Ten Miler team, won the women’s division of the 2019 Army Ten Miler with a time of 54:05. Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Joseph Martin were present at the finish line of the race to congratulate Kibet. Kibet is also a soldier-athlete in the World Class Athlete Program.

(Photo by Brittany Nelson)

Keter, also a WCAP Solider-athlete, won second place overall for the men with a time of 49:04. Lalang has an extensive running background including being an eight time NCAA Division 1 National Champion at the University of Arizona.

Kibet ran at the University of Arizona where she broke the school’s women’s 5,000 meter record. She kept a mile pace of 5:24 and knew she was going to win after mile four.

“When we started it was a big crowd and I wasn’t sure if there were females in front of me but when I got to mile four someone said ‘first female’ and I thought ‘Oh that’s me!,” said Kibet. “The rest of the way I kept hearing first female and I was confident that I was going to win.”

How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood

Spc. Benard Keter finishing the 2019 Army Ten-Miler in second place with a time of 49:04. Keter was on the All-Army Ten Miler team and is currently a soldier-athlete in the World Class Athlete Program.

(Photo by Brittany Nelson)

The 2019 All-Army Ten-Miler team was made up of six soldier-athletes from around the world and coached by retired Col. Liam Collins. Three of the soldier-athletes are members of WCAP.

Kibet also won first place in the female military division. Maj. Kelly Calway, a member of the All-Army Ten Miler team, won second place for the female military division.

Over 35,000 people participated in the 2019 Army-Ten Miler with more than half of the runners affiliated with the Military.

“The best part was running with my fellow soldiers,” said Lalang. “Seeing the soldiers cheer you on is the greatest feeling. I have wanted to win the Army Ten-Miler since basic training and now my dream has come true.”

How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood

Maj. Kelly Calway crossing the finish line of the 2019 Army Ten-Miler. Calway won second place in the female military category. She was on the 2019 All-Army Ten Miler team.

(Photo by Brittany Nelson)

Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Joseph Martin were present at the finish line of the race to congratulate Lalang and Kibet. Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston and Chief of Staff of the Army General James McConville were on stage during the ceremony to hand the winners their awards.

“Being congratulated by the senior Army leadership was great,” said Lalang. “I had just finished the race so I didn’t realize who had given me a coin then I looked down at it and thought ‘Oh my gosh that’s the Secretary of the Army!’ It was indescribable.”

Up next for Lalang is the seventh CISM Military World Games where he will compete in the 1,500 meter race. Both Lalang and Kibet are also gearing up for the Olympics trials for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.

How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood

Spc. Lawi Lalang placed first in the 2019 Army-Ten Miler and Spc. Benard Keter placed second. Spc. Elvin Kibet placed first in the women’s division. All three winners are soldier-athletes in the World Class Athlete program and were on the 2019 All-Army Ten Miler team. Maj. Kelly Calway won second for top female military finisher. 2019 All-Army Ten Miler team members include: Spc. Michael Biwott from Fort Hood, Maj. Kelly Calway from Fort Jackson, Sgt. Peter Koskey from USAG Humphreys, and WCAP soldiers Spc. Benard Keter, Spc. Elvin Kibet, Spc. Lawi LaLang, all from Fort Carson. Retired Col. Liam Collins coached the team.

(Photo by Brittany Nelson)

“The preparation for the Games has already started,” said Lalang. “Doing a race like this ten miler is a great tempo run. Now I will focus on staying consistent and believing in myself.”

The Army Ten-Miler was established to support Army fitness goals, promote the Army and building esprit de corps. All race proceeds benefit Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation program, which includes All-Army Sports.

The 2019 All-Army Ten Miler team members include: Spc. Michael Biwott from Fort Hood, Maj. Kelly Calway from Fort Jackson, Sgt. Peter Koskey from USAG Humphreys, and WCAP soldiers Spc. Bernard Keter, Spc. Elvin Kibet, Spc. Lawi LaLang, all from Fort Carson. Retired Col. Liam Collins coached the team.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

Here are the issues to watch for during NBC and IAVA’s Commander-in-Chief Forum

How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood


Tonight NBC and IAVA are hosting the first-ever “Commander-in-Chief Forum” in the hangar bay of the USS Intrepid, a decommissioned aircraft carrier that’s now a museum docked at Pier 86 in midtown Manhattan. The forum will not be a debate, but rather a hybrid “town hall” event, with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump appearing separately in back-to-back 30-minute segments to answer questions posed by NBC personality Matt Lauer. The forum airs tonight at 8 PM EDT. (Check local listings for the NBC/MSNBC station in your area.)

The military community — particularly the active duty community — has a unique stake in the outcome of this election since the Constitution makes the President of the United States the Commander-in-Chief of the nation’s military and give him or her the power to take the nation to war. As a result, servicemembers would be well advised to exercise their right to vote and to be as informed as possible while doing so.

Here’s a quick look at some of the issues that will likely come up during the event:

1. Defense budget

How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood
House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry drafted a bill last year that would have stopped the Air Force from using funds in their 2017 budget to retire or reduce the use of the A-10 Warthog until the Pentagon’s weapons tester completed comparative tests between the A-10 and the F-35 Lightning II. (The tests never happened.) (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Connor J. Marth)

The defense budget is a complex beast, worth over $600 billion in annual spending (as measured by the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act). Wrapped into that are the costs of fighting the wars in Afghanistan and against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the acquisition programs for defense systems (aka “program of record”), manpower funding, and ancillary items like child care and spouse employment. But look for tonight’s discussion to be centered around the issue of “sequestration,” the law passed in 2012 as a deficit reduction measure that wound up targeting the Pentagon more than any other part of the government as a way to yield the desired outcome. The result, which threatens to cut DoD’s budget by nearly 25 percent over the next eight years, has been blamed for harming military readiness in myriad ways, including gutting the number of troops on active duty and creating the need for squadrons to “cannibalize” scrapped airplanes in order to stay airworthy.

Watch for Trump to call for an end to sequestration with the assertion that the necessary deficit reductions can be met by elimination of government waste. For her part, Clinton is likely to avoid committing to ending sequestration, instead focusing on how America needs to be more judicious about when and where troops should be deployed.

2. Vet healthcare

How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood
Hospital corpsmen help Lt. Cmdr. Franklin Margaron, a surgeon, into his scrubs during a Pacific Partnership. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elizabeth Merriam)

This has been a hot-button topic during the campaign season to date and is sure to dominate a large portion of the discussion tonight. The VA has been plaqued by scandals in recent years — everything from long wait times that resulted in vet patient deaths to claims backlogs in the hundred of thousands — and Secretary Bob McDonald, who was brought in because of his corporate business experience, has been frustrated by the slow pace of change within the agency even as he touts the accomplishments that have occured on his watch.

Solutions for the VA’s woes are incredibly complex and don’t make for good television, so watch for Lauer to admininster the litmus test to the candidates in the form of a question around how each of them feels about privatization, which is basically a plan to outsource many if not all of the functions to private medical entities. (A “Commission on Care” recently released a report that said privatization was a bad idea cost-wise and that vets who tried it hated it because they felt lost in the system.) Trump initially said he supported privatization but has since softened that position, favoring it only “when it makes sense.” Clinton is against privatization.

A possible x-factor on this topic is that Trump recently called VA Secretary McDonald “a political hack.” While Lauer probably won’t directly ask him whether he stands by that, watch for a more-cryptic version of that question.

3. Vet suicides

How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood

This topic is a subset of the one above. The latest statistics released by DoD are that 20 veterans a day commit suicide. Last year the Clay Hunt Act was passed by Congress to combat this trend, and it aims to do so in 3 major ways: Improve the quality of mental health care, improve access to quality mental health care, and to increase the number of mental health care providers.

4. Foreign policy (and war against ISIS)

How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood

Trump has used the threat of ISIS as a centerpiece of his campaign, claiming that the group’s rise is a function of President Obama’s perceived weakness across the world stage. Clinton, on the other hand, primarily as a function of her recent experience as Secretary of State, tends to be very granular in her answers when asked what the U.S. should do to combat the Islamic State.

This topic as much as any other illustrates the contrast between the candidates. Watch for Trump to avoid details and instead state in general terms how we have to be tougher and how he’ll take care of the problem very quickly and Clinton to get into the weeds, which, in turn, will give Trump fuel for his thesis that, for all of her knowledge, she’s failed to keep America safer during her time in government. Trump has stated that he’s unwilling to topple Syrian president Assad, while Clinton has said she is willing to do that.

The other threat Lauer might introduce is the one posed by China, especially in light of recent saber rattling in the western Pacific and President Obama’s poor treatment, protocol-wise, at the G-8 Summit. Trump has been very aggressive with his anti-China rhetoric on the campaign trail, particularly around trade practices and currency devaluation, so expect him to be similarly oriented tonight.

5. Vet education

How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood
(Photo: U.S. Army, Capt. Kyle Key)

This topic will most certainly take the form of a question about how the candidates feel about the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the comprehensive education benefit made into law in 2009 that was expanded to cover spouses and dependents and has proved to be expensive as a result. As lawmakers continue to fight budget battles on the Hill, some have recently made feints toward narrowing the extent of the GI Bill, and those efforts have been met with stiff resistance from IAVA and other veteran service organizations.

If the subject comes up, and it certainly should, watch for both candidates to strongly support the GI Bill.

6. Vet employment

As important as getting vets the education opportunities they deserve is providing them with rewarding jobs in keeping with their experience and talents. Michele Obama and Jill Biden founded “Hire Our Heroes,” an intiative sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that has created awareness if not actual jobs. Clinton has said she supports government programs aimed at assisting veterans, and Trump generally answers questions on the subject with the claim that he will bring jobs back from overseas, which will benefit all Americans, including veterans.

7. Homeland defense/immigration

How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood
With the help of an interpreter, Capt. Jason Brezler addresses a group of schoolchildren in Now Zad, Afghanistan in 2009. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Immigration isn’t necessarily a veteran topic, except as it deals with the 6,000 Afghan interpreters who worked closely with our troops during the war and now would like to immigrate to the United States with their families because they fear for their safety in their homeland. These Afghans — supported by the veterans who fought alongside them — have faced roadblocks in obtaining visas to enter America.

While this topic most likely won’t come up tonight during the CiC Forum, it would be interesting to see how each candidate responds between now and the election.

Wildcards:

Clinton: Benghazi, private email server and classified documents, smashed Blackberrys . . .

Trump: McCain “not a hero,” Purple Heart gaff, Khan (Gold Star) family kerfuffle, Saddam the awesome terrorist fighter . . .

How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood

urther CiC Forum prep reading here.

Have your opinion thrown into the mix tonight by taking the #MilitaryVotesMatter poll. #MilitaryVotesMatter is powered by MilitaryOneClick teamed up with We Are The Mighty, Doctrine Man, Got Your Six and a handful of influencers who want to provide a non-partisan confidential opportunity for the military and veteran community to have their voices heard by sharing where they currently stand in the presidential election.  The poll is short and straightforward collecting information about which state they will vote in, what branch of service they are affiliated with, their current military status, and the candidate they intend to vote for.

Go to militaryvotesmatter.com/poll to take the poll now.
Further CiC Forum prep reading here.
And stay informed all the way to the election by regularly checking out WATM’s #DefendYourVote page here.
Featured

Taking pictures of animals in your house is the greatest quarantine activity ever

If you have a smart phone and Google, you can take photos of various animals in your house and it’s basically the greatest thing that’s ever happened in quarantine (and if we’re being honest, maybe outside of that, too).

Using Google’s AR (augmented reality) technology, kids and adults alike can spend an unbelievable amount of time seeing animals up close and personal, and, the best part? To scale. There’s nothing like seeing a Great White take up your backyard to understand how large these creatures are. With a few clicks on your phone, your Tiger King selfie is mere moments away.


To get started, open Google on your smart phone’s browser. Type in any one of the animals currently featured (they continue to add, so if your favorite isn’t listed, keep checking back!). Currently, they have:

How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood

Once you’ve googled the animal, scroll down a tiny bit until you see “Meet a life-sized (animal) up close.” Click on the “View in 3D.”

How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood

Once you click the view in 3D, you’ll have the option for AR or Object. The object will just be the animal. AR is where it’s at. Move your phone around until you see the animal’s shadow and then touch it until it appears. Then, enjoy having your children pose with an interactive, 3D, life-size animal in your house. Quarantine just got a million times better. Thanks, Google.

How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood
MIGHTY TRENDING

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships

It’s possible for Veterans speaking about their experiences — and working toward self-forgiveness — to heal their emotional wounds.

A Veteran’s Health Administration initiative is facilitating this process. The Atlanta VA Health Care System Veteran Community Partnership (VCP) collaborates with VITAS Healthcare, a palliative care and hospice services company, to offer healing and hope for Veterans with other than honorable (OTH) discharges.

This collaboration is an effort of We Honor Veterans. The program, part of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, is in collaboration with VA. We Honor Veterans helps care for Veterans at the end of life.

VITAS, part of We Honor Veterans, is a partner agency within the Atlanta VCP.


VCPs are coalitions that bring community entities together to foster Veterans’ access to care and supportive services at VA and beyond. Each VCP in the United States is part of the national VCP initiative. There are 41 VCPs as of December 2019.

The VCP initiative is a joint project of VHA’s Offices of Community Engagement (OCE), Geriatrics and Extended Care, Rural Health and Caregiver Support.

How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood

Veteran Service Organizations can help.

Requesting a change in OTH discharge

A Veteran with an OTH military discharge is ineligible for most VA benefits. This can cause significant obstacles as they approach the end of life.

Larry Robert is a chaplain who provides supportive counseling to Veterans in this position. He also is the bereavement services manager and Veteran liaison for VITAS. VITAS helps Veterans talk through their reasons for OTH military discharges. It helps them file a request for a change in their discharge status with the Department of Defense (DoD).

Robert also helps Veterans understand their benefit options. The most important part of this process, he said, is encouraging Veterans to tell their stories. An OTH discharge may be a result of a Veteran not having the proper support for a mental health issue, for example.

“They are trying to forgive themselves and they’re making peace with something that brought them a lot of pain.”

Veteran Service Organizations can help

Veterans — even those not in hospice care — and caregivers or loved ones of Veterans should be aware of the process of requesting a change to their discharge status, as well as the palliative care services of We Honor Veterans.

Veterans should apply for a change in their discharge status and enroll for benefits when they’re well. They should have a Veteran service officer work with them on this process. A representative from one of the Veteran Service Organizations listed at the link above could also help fill out paperwork for a correction of their military record

Even if their status and record is not changed, Robert explained, the process of this work is transformative for many Veterans.

“It adds a voice to their pain. It makes it real. They’re able to then see their pain and discuss it. In becoming real, it becomes something than can be overcome.”

OCE supports the VCP initiative and partnerships throughout VHA. For more information on OCE’s work, visit: https://www.va.gov/healthpartnerships/.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Speaker believes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would be proud of the military concerning race relations

How one military family brought socially-distanced Christmas joy to their neighborhood

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. — The day to honor civil rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, and promote service through volunteerism was on Jan. 20. White Sands Missile Range observed the holiday at an event on Jan. 16.

At the event, Nicholas P. Charles, who has been working at WSMR for four years and served 20 years in the Army, spoke to attendees about King’s life and shared his personal experiences.

Charles remembers the events surrounding the assassination of King on April 4, 1968. He was a young child living in Washington, D.C., and did not recognize the impact this event would have on his life. But it was immediate and close to home, as he recalled his two older brothers returned home that night, “I remember these two coming out of the chaos that night, smelling of smoke, with anger and full of hate.”

The day after King’s assassination, amidst the disarray, it created a “mental memory in my mind that influenced me as an Army officer and now as an Army civilian,” said Charles.

He saw D.C. National Guardsmen, amongst others in uniform, maintaining and restoring peace in his neighborhood.

For him, the memories reinforce “the Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.”

Charles went on to recognize King’s predecessors in the civil rights movement, such as Fredrick Douglas and Harriet Tubman. He also acknowledged a significant era in history that affected King’s activism; this was the 1902’s Harlem Renaissance. A moment in time that took place in New York and put a spotlight on the struggles of African Americans through intellectual, artistic and social movements.

“I’ll add that, with respect to timing, it was after World War II, and those Soldiers returned to a racist country after fighting fascism and imperialism,” said Charles. “This stoked the flames of equality and enabled Dr. King to move forward with the civil rights struggle.”

At the time, kids grew up witnessing the discrimination that their parents faced, and as education became more attainable for African Americans, attempts at breaking the cycle of oppression and inequality became more widespread.

“The strength of the civil rights movement was made up of people from the greatest generation and the youth of that time, tired of the oppression and unethical treatment of fellow American citizens,” said Charles. “The media showed a different picture and exposed the blatant racism occurring in this great nation, which really showed the actions taking place in Montgomery, Ala., with protests and how they were treating African Americans.”

While media exposed the treatment of African Americans to the world, it also perpetuated stereotypes. Throughout history, people of color have been depicted as subhuman in the entertainment industry and through various types of propaganda, said Charles.

“Sadly, the current politics, the antics of a few in Charlottesville, the shooting in El Paso, and other acts of violence around the country show that the United States continues to suffer issues with race,” said Charles. “The actions, behavior and attitudes seen on social media and validated in Virginia remind us that racism is alive and well in 2020, a sad reality.”

In 2017, Charlottesville, Va., was the site of a white nationalist rally which became deadly, killing one woman and leaving dozens injured. While in 2019, a shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, left 22 dead and 24 wounded. Authorities said the shooter targeted people of Mexican descent.

“Now, more than ever, service to our nation and communities is paramount,” said Charles. “Therefore, us coming together despite political affiliation to denounce injustice, immoral and illegal behavior is what is needed to mend the tears we currently have in our moral fragment as a nation.”

For over 70 years, the Department of Defense has been racially integrated, and continues to be at the forefront of these efforts. Charles shared that raising kids in the military, amongst diverse cultures, allowed them to grow up without seeing color.

“The military remains the bedrock of social equality,” said Charles. “I believe that Dr. King would be proud of the military achievements in respect to race relations. But we are a microcosm in society, and sadly some of these attitudes still find its way into our ranks.”

Charles shared a famous quote by King, ‘everyone has the power for greatness, not for fame – but greatness, because greatness is determined by service.’

In 1994, Congress designated the Martin King Luther Jr. holiday as a day of service. While the main objective is for people to go out and serve their communities, people are also encouraged to serve together and connect, despite the color of their skin, gender, age, or background.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS says it has a new leader less than a week after US raid

ISIS on Oct. 31, 2019, announced it has a new leader as it confirmed the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who blew himself up amid a US-led raid on a compound in Syria’s Idlib province over the weekend.

Baghdadi’s successor is Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi, according to Site Intel Group, which tracks the online activities of extremist groups like ISIS. This is a nom de guerre, according to top analysts, and signals that the new leader is indicating he’s descended from the Qurayshi tribe of the Prophet Muhammad.

Baghdadi also claimed to be descended from this tribe in order to establish his legitimacy as “caliph” or leader of the Islamic world. ISIS is referring to Baghdadi’s successor as the “caliph” as well.


ISIS also confirmed that its spokesperson, Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, was killed in a separate, subsequent US strike that was conducted after the Baghdadi raid. A man identified as Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi is ISIS’s new spokesperson, according to Oct. 31, 2019’s announcement.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi raid video released by Pentagon

www.youtube.com

This announcement came several days after President Donald Trump on Oct. 27, 2019, spent nearly an hour speaking about the Baghdadi operation in a celebratory and self-congratulatory fashion.

Trump’s remarks on the Baghdadi raid have sparked criticism, as the vivid details he provided seemingly revealed classified information. The president also appeared to have made false claims about the operation, including that the ISIS leader was “whimpering,” that’s left US officials scratching their heads as to where he got such info.

Though ISIS no longer has a so-called caliphate, or the large swath of territory that was roughly the side of Maryland that it once held across Iraq and Syria, analysts have warned that it is far from defeated and still poses a threat.

ISIS’s announcement on Oct. 31, 2019, warned the US against rejoicing in Baghdadi’s death.

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

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