This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez and his platoon patrol the sandy streets of Djibouti, the hot East African sun scorches their path with temperatures upwards of 115 degrees. Passing through impoverished villages, Rodriguez began to notice a devastating trend — most of the children are barefooted.

It was during his visit to an orphanage that, Rodriquez immediately thought of his own two daughters and made it his personal mission to do something about the shoeless orphans.

“While on patrol, every few weeks we passed a local orphanage where children gather for their meals,” Rodriguez said. “Children aged 5-8 sleep along the walls outside and wake up to shower in the orphanage. They eat cups of peanut butter for protein with crackers. Since there is no refrigeration, that is the most protein they are able to get. That’s their lunch — crackers. So I thought you know what? This would be a great mission for my church back home.”


While on emergency leave due to his father’s passing, Rodriguez pushed past his grief to talk to students and coordinate a sandal drive with the school that his daughters attend, Blessed Sacrament Elementary School in Laredo, Texas. Their Catholic school is part of the parish that Rodriguez and his family belong to.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez, a platoon sergeant for the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard, stands with several of the children in Djibouti. Rodriguez gifted 500 sandals to barefoot orphans and children during their deployment.

(Photo by Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura)

“I am very active in my daughter’s school and I wanted to get my daughters involved and proactive in something in Africa as well,” Rodriguez, a platoon sergeant for the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard, said. “I talked to the principal, who said she would talk to Father Wojciech, the priest in charge of his church in Laredo. The school sent out flyers thru the National Junior Honor Society asking parents to donate one pair of sandals.”

On Veteran’s day, Rodriguez who is completing his fourth deployment, visited his daughter’s school to talk about his service in the military and the children in Djibouti.

“I described how the weather was there, how hot it was and asked them to imagine standing outside, barefooted in Laredo,” Rodriguez said. “My daughters and their classmates are at that age where they are learning to help others and how to ask for help as well. I want them to learn a sense of compassion.”

From September to December, his daughter’s school collected six boxes filled with roughly 500 sandals of varying sizes. After the sandals were collected, the students raised money to send the two by three-foot shipping boxes to Djibouti for Rodriguez and his unit to deliver to the children.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez, a platoon sergeant for the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard, hands out sandals to barefoot orphans and children with his platoon during their deployment, February 2019 in Djibouti.

(Photo by Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura)

“This is the first time that we have done something so big that reaches out of the country,” Cynthia Sanchez, math and science teacher at Blessed Sacrament School. “It’s a trickle-down effect, from parents, and at school they are learning how to help others so that they can teach their own kids.”

Normally, the school participated in blanket, canned food and sweater drives, and periodically will make trips to feed the homeless.

“They feel good and warm inside about helping others with no incentives but because they want to give it,” said Sanchez. “We weren’t expecting that amount. A lot of parents and kids wanted to do their part and National Junior honor Society members went outside of the school into their communities to get donations.”

Anxiously waiting for the packages to arrive, Rodriguez received the sandals in February.

In order to distribute the sandals in the community, Rodriguez coordinated with the local orphanage and the village elder for approval.

After he received approval, Rodriguez and his platoon set out to deliver the sandals to the children of the community.

“When we handed out the sandals the children were so surprised,” Rodriguez said. “Their happiness turned into overwhelming joy, to trying to be next, I made sure they all were good. It got chaotic at times but these children had nothing but what they were wearing and most were barefooted.”

Rodriguez, who kept close contact with his daughter’s school immediately alerted the school, via e-mail, that he had handed out the sandals to the children.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

Children from Djibouti pose for a photo after receiving sandals from Texas Army National Guard Soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez and his platoon, February 2019 in Djibouti.

(Photo by Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura)

In response, Anacecy Chavez, a Blessed Sacrament School teacher wrote:

“When I read this my heart jumped. You are a super hero for me and many others for serving our country and helping those around you.”

The Director of the orphanage, Caritas Djibouti, also thanked Rodriguez and his daughter’s school for their donation.

“We had the good surprise a few days ago to receive, through Mr. Rodriguez, a nice and generous donation of shoes for the street children here at Caritas,” said Francesco Martialis, director of Caritas Djibouti. “It was such a generous support which will be usefully used for sure! And also many thanks for the Church support that we feel, from here Djibouti, an isolated place, through your donation. It is precious to us.”

Rodriguez, who has been a soldier on the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force for 18 years, is no stranger to getting involved into the community. Task force members routinely support local law enforcement agencies and community-based organizations in an effort to detect, interdict and deter illicit drug activity.

In addition to being an involved member of his church, Rodriguez said that his experience as a task force member enhanced his ability to build relationships on an international level, communicate and coordinate with partners in order to make the drive a success.

Although Rodriguez’s tour is coming to a close, he has continued to solidify the connections of his church at home with the local Djibouti church — which coincidentally are both named Blessed Sacrament.

Rodriguez spoke to the Bishop of the Djibouti Catholic Church about maintaining contact in the case that they may be able to provide more donations for the children.

“It is great to hear that our young youth are striving to be humanitarians as that is something this world is missing more of,” Rodriguez said. “It gives me great pride to know that the sacrifices we make as soldiers to protect our country is giving our youth the opportunity to grow into caring, responsible and giving citizens of our communities.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the US will never recognize a nuclear North Korea

North Korea’s lack of willingness to give up its nuclear weapons program does not mean U.S. recognition of the regime as a de facto nuclear weapons state will end the standoff on the peninsula.


That is the view in the Trump administration, according to analyst John Park at the Harvard Kennedy School, who spoke on Jan. 25 at the Asia Society on the economic symbiosis that characterizes the China-North Korea relationship.

“With respect to living with a nuclear North Korea, very strong voices in the U.S. administration right now have an equation,” Park told UPI.

“It’s Kim Jong Un equals irrational, plus unable to be deterred, plus revisionist, plus commercial.”

“That means he’s literally crazy so you can’t get into some kind of arrangement.”

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans
Such a sad Kim Jong Un… (Image from Reddit)

In 2017, North Korea repeatedly called for recognition as a nuclear weapons state, a move which, according to Pyongyang, could put an end to its missile tests and other provocations.

Park said recognition is not seen as the solution in Washington.

“In the case of North Korea, it’s a millennial with nuclear ICBMs,” he said, comparing Kim Jong Un to other nuclear powers like China and Russia that are considered to be more rational actors.

“That is frightening to any military or national security professional.”

That Kim is regarded as a revisionist also means the United States cannot be certain of a peaceful coexistence with North Korea as a full-fledged nuclear weapons state.

“There is the view that Kim Jong Un will be a nuclear bully, using conventional and other weapons to get his way and eventually affect [Korean] unification on North Korea’s terms,” Park said.

“Also, once he has a viable weapons system, he’ll sell it.”

Michael Swaine, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the United States has to decide what policy to pursue based on an evaluation of North Korea strategy.

“The issue is possession versus use,” Swaine said.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans
A North Korean ICBM. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

If it is weapons possession, but not use North Korea seeks, then the United States will also need to develop a strategy to deal with Pyongyang, a plan that needs to “deter the hell out of them, contain them.”

“But [the weapons] are going to be there,” Swaine said.

Sanctions have been used frequently by the U.S. Treasury to pressure North Korea, and on, Jan. 24, another 16 individuals, nine companies, and six ships were added to the expanding blacklist.

But Park said governments should be aware of the “unintended negative consequences of sanctions” that only help North Korea develop “superbug traits, certain types of resistance” to economic penalties.

“Clearly sanctions are having an impact on key areas,” Park said.

“However, in other areas, if you make the analogy of sanctions as antibiotics, applying these antibiotics on the North Korean regime in key instances, the regime is exhibiting superbug traits.”

Park, a former investment banker, said some Chinese entrepreneurs may be doubling down at a time of heightened risk.

“As you apply more sanctions in this specific area, these Chinese private companies see that as a business opportunity,” Park said.

“They view the elevated risk as a way of propositioning a North Korean client.”

Also Read: Top US spooks say the North Korean dictator isn’t crazy at all

The analyst added economic pressure in the form of wholesale embargoes, rather than targeted sanctions, has put the sanctions approach on overdrive, although the measures may be “too late” because of advancements in the nuclear program, which, in turn, leaves military pressure as the “last policy option standing.”

That scenario could raise the likelihood of war, a view held by some experts in China, Swaine said.

In an ongoing national debate in the world’s second-largest economy, there are those who “believe North Korea has been compelled to adopt policies because of U.S. pressure, U.S. forces on the peninsula,” the analyst said.

“It also reflects a deep suspicion of the United States.”

Swaine, who has met with senior Chinese officials to discuss North Korea, added Trump’s mention of the military option for North Korea is a tactic that is making the Chinese nervous.

“The Trump administration is very unclear…but it thinks it can squeeze the Chinese more” through the mention of the military option, he said.

But the Chinese are also growing impatient with North Korea.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans
China and North Korea used to be friends. Now China won’t even take their calls.

President Xi Jinping, who Trump once described as a “very good man,” has refused to meet with Kim Jong Un.

“That’s quite unprecedented,” Swaine said, explaining China’s peninsula policy has also been driven by a desire to improve relations with the South.

“The Chinese see that the Korean peninsula, eventually, if it’s unified, will largely be unified under the aegis of the South Korean government.

“In other words, [they see] the North Korean government isn’t going to succeed.”

Articles

It looks like there’s going to be a GWOT memorial after all

President Donald Trump signed a bill August 18 authorizing the construction of a privately funded Global War on Terrorism Memorial in Washington, DC.


In signing the “Global War on Terrorism War Memorial Act” passed by the House and Senate, Trump did not designate a site but authorized a memorial somewhere on “federal land in the District of Columbia,” the White House said.

Trump also authorized the non-profit Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation to raise funds and oversee the project.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans
Pfc. Erik Park from San Mateo, Calif., fires his M777 155 mm howitzer at Forward Operating Base Orgun-E Sept. 3, 2011. Photo by Spc. Ken Scar.

The bill to establish the memorial was sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, an Army veteran of the Iraq War, and Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia.

On the House side, the bill’s sponsors were Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisconsin, and Seth Moulton, D-Massachusetts; both are Marine Corps veterans of the Iraq War.

In a statement, Ernst said “I am thrilled the President has signed into law this important legislation authorizing the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation to begin creating a place of remembrance for those who served, their loved ones, and all impacted by this war.”

Manchin said “I’m proud of the work done by my colleagues in approving the first step towards building a memorial that commemorates our sons and daughters who answered the call to fight.”

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans
Washington, DC National Mall. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Both Manchin and Ernst said the likely site for the memorial would be the National Mall. “This authorization is the first step in a process that will culminate with the design and construction of a Global War on Terror[ism] Memorial on the National Mall without using any federal funds,” they said.

The Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation has on its advisory board retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, the former commander in Iraq and Afghanistan, and retired Army Capt. Florent Groberg, a Medal of Honor recipient for valor in Afghanistan.

In a statement following Trump’s signing, the foundation said the bill exempted the memorial from the 10-year waiting period under the Commemorative Works Act of 1986, and authorized the foundation to oversee the fundraising, design, and construction of the memorial.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans
A member of Company B, Task Force 2-28, 172nd Infantry Brigade, braces against the prop wash from a UH-60 Black Hawk while securing the landing zone in a stream bed by the small village of Derka near Combat Outpost Zerok, Sept. 20, 2011. DoD Photo by Spc. Ken Scar

“Today’s historic signing is dedicated to our three million brothers and sisters who have deployed in the Global War on Terror, especially to the ones we have lost, and those who face great obstacles since their return home,” said Andrew J. Brennan, a West Point graduate and Afghanistan veteran who started the foundation and serves as executive director.

“We’re looking forward to building a sacred place of healing and remembrance for our veterans and their families, and want to thank our partners and advocates who worked tirelessly on Capitol Hill to pass this bipartisan legislation,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia unsheathes a mysterious new laser weapon

A new Russian laser weapon designed to instantly obliterate targets entered military service December 2018, the Russian defense ministry revealed.

Russia’s Peresvet laser system, named after the medieval warrior monk Alexander Peresvet, entered experimental combat duty on Dec. 1, 2018, the Russian defense ministry’s official Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper reported Dec. 5, 2018.

The military began taking possession of the first shipments in 2017 as part of Russia’s ongoing military modernization program, according to The Moscow Times, and there is speculation the lasers could shoot down incoming missiles and airplanes.


Watch Russia unveil Peresvet laser system:

Заступление на опытно-боевое дежурство новейших лазерных комплексов «Пересвет»

www.youtube.com

Russian President Vladimir Putin first announced the existence of this new laser weapon in March 2018 during his State of the Nation address, during which he briefly introduced the “Combat Laser Complex.”

“We have achieved significant progress in laser weapons,” he boasted, “It is not just a concept or a plan any more. It is not even in the early production stages. Since last year, our troops have been armed with laser weapons.”

“We are one step ahead our rivals,” Putin added without providing any evidence.

Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov offered a bit more information in an interview with Russian state media outlet TASS, explaining that the device could destroy targets “within fractions of a second.”

“We can talk a lot about laser weapons and movies were made about them a long time ago and fantastic books have been written, and everyone knows about this,” he introduced. “But, the fact that these systems have started entering service is indeed a today’s reality.”

The Russian defense ministry posted a video of the weapon in July 2018, before it had officially entered service.

Боевой лазерный комплекс «Пересвет»

www.youtube.com

Not much is publicly known about the Peresvet combat laser system, as Sputnik, a Russian media outlet controlled by the government, noted. What exactly it does has been the subject of much speculation.

“It is expected to be an air-defense system that can track and shoot down hostile aircraft and missiles,” Sputnik explained, adding, “Some suggest it will be tasked with ‘blinding’ sophisticated enemy systems, making them inoperable.”

Other countries, like the US and China, are also developing directed energy platforms.

China unveiled the LW-30, a vehicle-based laser weapon built to quickly eliminate a variety of aerial targets, at Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai in November 2018.

Experts speculated that the weapon designed by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) could be deployed to the South China Sea.

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

Articles

House panel seeks to increase Army ranks by 45,000 soldiers

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans


The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee has introduced a defense bill that would increase the U.S. Army by 45,000 soldiers.

Rep. Mac Thornberry’s version of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Bill would provide money to add 20,000 soldiers to the active Army’s end-strength, bringing it to 480,000.

The bill would also add 15,000 to the National Guard and 10,000 to the Reserves, resulting in a Guard strength of 350,000 and a Reserve strength of 205,000. The panel was expected to approve the measure on Wednesday.

Under the President Barack Obama’s current proposed defense budget, the Army projects its end-strength to be at a total of 980,000 soldiers by fiscal 2018, including 450,000 for the active force, 335,000 for the Army National Guard and 195,000 for the Army Reserve.

“The Chairman’s Mark halts and begins to reverse the drawdown of military end strength, preserving the active duty Army at 480,000,” according to summary of the proposed bill.

The size of the Army has been a major concern among lawmakers, many of whom have stated that the active force is too small to deal with the growing number of threats facing the U.S.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has testified that there is a “high-military risk” if the service continues to operate at its current size, but also told lawmakers that growing end-strength without additional funding would lead to a hollow force.

Thornberry’s revised budget earmarks just over $2 billion in additional funding for the troop increase, according to language in the bill. That’s about $2.5 billion short of what the Army would need, according to Army senior leaders that have testified it will cost about $1 billion for every 10,000 soldiers.

“Where possible, Chairman Thornberry’s proposal cuts excessive or wasteful expenditures and rededicates those resources to urgent needs,” according to the bill’s summary. “Even with a vigorous re-prioritization of programs, the Committee was unable to make up essential shortages in the President’s budget and simultaneously provide a full year of contingency funding.

“The proposal is designed to restore strength to the force through readiness investments and agility through much needed reforms, while providing a more solid foundation for the next President to address actual national security needs,” it states

The proposal also would increase the strength of the Marine Corps by 3,000 and the Air Force by 4,000.

“Perhaps it is also true every year, that when it comes to overall spending levels for defense, we are presented with only difficult, imperfect options,” Thornberry said in his opening remarks at Wednesday’s committee-wide markup session within the House Armed Services Committee.

“But, the bottom line for me this year is that it is fundamentally wrong to send service members out on missions for which they are not fully prepared or fully supported,” he added. “For that reason, I think that it is essential that we begin to correct the funding shortfalls that have led to a lack of readiness and to a heightened level of risk that we have heard about in testimony and that some of us have also seen for ourselves.”

The bill, currently in its draft form, will have to be passed by both the House and the Senate. Obama could also choose to veto the bill after passage.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia wanted to take on the F-22 with this unique-looking fighter

In the mid 1990s, Russia had a problem. It was a pretty important one, too, for both pilots and the grunts on the ground. It was a problem they needed to solve very quickly.


Earlier that decade, a United States F-15 Eagle had easily shot down the MiG-29 “Fulcrum,” supposedly the pinnacle of Soviet fighter technology, in combat over Iraq. Worse, the F-22 Raptor was headed into service, and as it did so, it dominated the once-dominant Eagle. Russia needed to play catch-up.

That was where Sukhoi came in. Sukhoi had designed the Su-27/30/33 Flanker family of aircraft, which did reasonably well over Eritrea, fighting the MiG-29 Fulcrum. As such, Sukhoi began to work on both an upgraded Flanker (later known as the Su-35) and on fifth-generation projects to counter the F-22 Raptor. According to MilitaryFactory.com, Sukhoi’s prototype was the S-32 Berkut. The plane first flew in 1997, and was later called the Su-37.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans
The X-29 technology demonstrator aircraft. (NASA Photo by Larry Sammons)

 

The Berkut looked like an ordinary Flanker, but the big difference was in the wings. The Russians went with forward-swept wings to improve the design’s agility at low speed, not to mention improved takeoff and landing performance. The big problem is that that the wings can snap if the force goes the wrong way. Russia got around that by using composites that were flexible enough to handle stresses.

This wasn’t the first time someone modified a design for forward-swept wings. Northrop used the F-5E Tiger II as the basis for the X-29, a forward-swept wing test-bed that flew in the 1980s. Nazi Germany had a forward-swept wing bomber, the Junkers Ju 287, but only one prototype was completed.

By the mid-2000s, it was obvious that the Su-37 would not be a combat airframe, and suffered the same fate as the X-29. The Russians re-designated it the Su-47, flew a number of test flights, then retired the four prototypes.

Articles

This is how a vet can go from a battlefield to a pit crew

Veterans often wonder what to do when they leave the military. Sometimes finding the right job can be tough, but for some, perhaps motor sports may be an option, if not as a career, then as a way to help recover from the invisible wounds of war.


According to Racer.com and USA Today, a number of efforts to encourage veterans to get involved in various types of auto racing have emerged recently. One is MilitaryToMotorsports.com, a venture from Andretti Autosports. The Andrettis are one of the biggest names in the auto-racing world, and this team has won the Indianapolis 500 four times, captured four IndyCar championships, plus two X-Games Gold Medals.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans
Auto racing legend Mario Andretti observes flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln during a visit to the ship as part of the centennial celebration of the Indianapolis 500 auto race. The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility in support of maritime security operations and theater cooperation efforts.

According to the MilitarytoMotorsports.com site, veterans can apply to be anything from a motor transport driver (perfect for folks who drove a HEMTT in their service) to a machinist to hospitality staff to being on a pit crew. In other words, the job you did in the military could have a lot of applications in helping an IndyCar driver win the next Indianapolis 500!

The chairman of Military to Motorsports is Navy veteran David Tilton, whose lengthy career included a tour on the amphibious assault ship USS Saipan (LHA 2) and a tour with the Naval Special Warfare Development Group. He retired after a back injury in 2003, and first became involved with Andretti Autosports in 2015.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans
Staff Sgt. Doug Miller and Master Sgt. Scott Dolese, aircraft structural maintenance technicians, work a jack support box repair from the inside and outside of a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, May 17 at the 167th Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air National Guard phtoo by Senior Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

“I am very excited to be part of the launch of the Military to Motorsports Program with Andretti Autosport,” said Tilton. “This program will give well-deserved military personnel the opportunity to utilize their skills and discipline, gained during their service, as part of one of the most successful teams in motorsports.”

NASCAR is not being left out, as a number of NASCAR drivers and teams have become involved with Hope for the Warriors, a Veterans Service Organization founded in 2006. According to USA Today, the drivers and team invite veterans like ex-Marine Ryan Harshman, a combat-wounded vet, to races.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans
A US Army MH-6 Little Bird at a NASCAR race. (DOD photo)

“NASCAR events can be very organically therapeutic. If you can challenge somebody’s hesitations by putting them in an environment like that where they’re very excited to be there, it helps. They are distracted from the chaos, but the chaos is actually helping to ease the PTSD and the noise issues and so forth,” Hope for the Warriors President Robin Kelleher told USA Today Sports.

Today, Harshman is working at an outdoor store, and remains involved with the charity.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the recent strike on Syria might have been illegal

President Donald Trump’s administration for the second time ordered a military strike on the Syrian government without asking for permission from Congress, and it could indicate the legislature has lost its ability to stop the US president from going to war.

The US Constitution, in Article I, Section 8, clearly states that the power to declare war lies with Congress, but since 2001 successive US presidents have used military force in conflicts around the world with increasingly tenuous legality.


Today, the US backs up most of its military activity using broad congressional legislation known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force. The joint resolution, which Congress passed in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, allows the president to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”

This has essentially become a carte blanche for the US president to fight terrorism wherever it rears its head.

But on April 13, 2018, the Trump administration attacked Syrian targets in retaliation for an attack on a Damascus suburb the US says involved chemical weapons. Trump ordered a similar punitive strike a year ago, in April 2017.

At Harvard’s Lawfare blog, the law professors Jack Goldsmith and Oona A. Hathaway summed up all of the Trump administration’s possible arguments for the legality of the Syria strikes in an article titled “Bad Legal Arguments for the Syria Airstrikes.”

The article concludes that the US’s stated legal justification, that Article II of the Constitution allows the US to protect itself from attacks, falls short and that other legal arguments are a stretch at best.

Rep. John Garamendi, a California Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee who spoke with Secretary of Defense James Mattis hours before the strike, told Business Insider the strikes were probably illegal.

“The bottom line is I do not believe he has legal authority to conduct those strikes,” Garamendi said.

Congress ‘derelict in its duty’ as Trump doesn’t even try to get approval

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans
The Laboon firing a Tomahawk land-attack missile.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kallysta Castillo)

Trump “could have and should have come to Congress and said these facilities and the use of poisonous gas is horrific, it is illegal based upon the international conventions, and I want to take military action,” Garamendi said, adding that he thought “a limited authorization to do that would have passed Congress in one day” if it had been written in a concise, limited way.

But Trump did not ask for permission, and it shows the incredible power of today’s US presidents to start wars.

“I think that Congress was derelict in its duty,” Garamendi said. “Congress clearly has abdicated one of its most crucial functions, and that is the power to take the US into a war. The Constitution is absolutely clear, and it’s for a very important reason.”

Fred Hof, a former US ambassador to Syria who is now at the Atlantic Council, said that while there was some reason for Congress to allow the president leverage in where and when he strikes, the two branches of government still needed to coordinate.

“Most, maybe all, in Congress would concede there are circumstances in which the commander-in-chief must act quickly and unilaterally,” Hof wrote to Business Insider. “But there are reasons why the Constitution enumerates the duties of the Congress in Article One, as opposed to subsequent Articles. I really do believe it’s incumbent on the executive branch to consult fully with the Congress and take the initiative in getting on the same page with the people’s representatives.”

Lawrence Brennan, a former US Navy captain who is an expert on maritime law, told Business Insider “the last declaration of war was in the course of World War II,” adding that Congress had “absolutely” given the president increased powers to wage war unilaterally.

Possibly illegal strikes create a ‘window’ for the US’s adversaries

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans
President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The US missile attack had questionable legality, but it wasn’t even Trump’s first time ordering strikes against Syria’s government, as a salvo of 59 cruise missiles targeted a Syrian air base in April 2017.

Before that, the US attacked Libya’s government forces in 2011. The US is also using the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force as justification for attacking Islamist militants in the Philippines, among other countries.

Garamendi said that by neglecting to request congressional approval, Trump had “given Syria, Russia, and Iran an argument that never should have happened.” He said by opening an internal US argument over whether the strike was legal, Trump had committed a “very serious error” and “opened a diplomatic attack that could easily have been avoided.”

Trump certainly did not start the trend of presidents ordering military action without congressional approval, and he has enjoyed wide support for his actions against chemical weapons use, but the move indicates a jarring reality — that the US president can go to war with thin legal justification and without even bothering to ask Congress.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Get a taste of freedom with SIG Sauer’s latest AR

The AR-15 is one of the most multi-faceted guns of our time. Whether you’re a competition shooter, a hunter, an avid self-defense proponent, or you just love to customize, this highly versatile rifle is one of the most popular among gun owners today. SIG Sauer recently unleashed their newest model of the AR-15, calling the M400 Tread “the new face of freedom.”

Whatever your reason for owning an AR-15, one thing everyone appreciates about the firearm is its modularity. These rifles are among the easiest to customize and tailor-fit to your personal needs and preferences. The struggle most face is cost — the firearm itself is a large investment, making aftermarket customizing more of a wish-list than a reality. SIG Sauer took notice of this and acted.


This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

(Photo courtesy of SIG Sauer)

“SIG Sauer has created a premium rifle, at a moderate price point, that is packed with innovation and flexibility, and does not sacrifice the quality that our consumers demand from SIG,” Tom Taylor, the company’s chief marketing officer and executive vice president, said in a press release.

Out of the box, the M400 Tread is impressive. This budget-friendly rifle comes ready with features that typically cost extra and are considered upgrades. The Tread features a 16-inch stainless steel barrel with a free-floating M-LOK handguard; a single-stage, polished/hardcoat trigger; ambidextrous controls; a mid-length gas system; a Magpul MOE SL-K six-position telescoping stock; and is available in 5.56 NATO. Again, this is out of the box with an affordable MSRP of 1 — and we all know you’ll pay less at the gun counter. Suddenly, customization has gone from “wish list” to reality.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

The author appreciated the total package provided by the SIG Sauer Tread, including the Romeo5 red dot optic.

(Photo by Karen Hunter/Coffee of Die Magazine)

But how does it run? SIG cut zero corners in quality with the Tread. I spent a great deal of time running this “new face of freedom” and found that it holds its own among its costlier counterparts. I used a variety of ammunition, from inexpensive to higher quality, and the Tread never wavered. I even tried non-SIG magazines to see if that would induce seating or feeding issues. Intermixing various Elite Tactical Systems (ETS) magazines with the SIG magazines did not make a difference. So, to all you clear magazine junkies, fear not — the Tread can handle them.

Staying true to the tagline “the new face of freedom,” SIG wanted Tread owners to be able to freely and affordably customize their rifle. With the launch of the Tread, they created a full line of Tread-branded accessories. One I fell in love with was the Romeo5 optic. The Romeo5 is a 2-MOA red dot sight with 10 illumination settings. It is Picatinny rail compatible, waterproof up to three feet, fog proof, motion activated, has a 40,000-hour battery life, and comes with a low mount riser and co-witness riser mount — the latter meaning you can see your iron sights through the optic.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans


tested these features at a Close Quarter Combat (CQB) training course with Alliance Police Training in Alliance, Ohio. This was a 36-hour course running drills, including low light/no light inside their shoot house. The Romeo5 was phenomenal! The Ohio weather was rainy and cold — with the shoot house having no ceiling, we were exposed to the weather, but the optic served me well. Never once did I have to deal with fog or a blurred view. I zeroed the optic before the course, and it never lost its zero. The accuracy was spot on, and I was able to attain quick sight alignment while taking headshots on each target.

This was my first time in this type of training environment, and the targets can be tricky. The goal is to eliminate the threat, and the best way for me to achieve said goal was headshots. We were allowed two shots per threat. Most of my shots landed right between the eyes with a grouping of less than an inch and half; some of the rounds were even going through the same hole. I was totally enamored with this optic and very thankful to put it through its paces in such an environment.

The other accessories included in the Tread-branded line include: an M-LOK handguard with lightening cuts to reduce weight, available in 13- and 15-inch lengths; a three-chamber compensator; an ambidextrous charging handle made of aircraft aluminum and a dual roll pin design; adjustable flip-up front and rear iron sights; an M-LOK front sight adapter with co-witness height made of lightweight aluminum; multiple configurations of M-LOK grip kits; factory upgraded flat blade and single-stage triggers.

“The new face of freedom” is here. With the M400 Tread, having an AR-15 that is tailored to your desires and needs is not only affordable, but also comes with the quality and precision that we have come to expect from SIG Sauer.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

VA nurse takes charge at fatal highway accident

When faced with trauma in a hospital emergency department, nurses have a myriad of tools and resources available to tackle whatever challenges come their way. But imagine being faced with a situation as the only lifesaver at the scene of a horrific accident in a remote location, dealing with 10 patients and a lack of necessary equipment. Add a language barrier, cultural sensitivities, and sweltering heat and even the most experienced nurse can be challenged.

That was the scenario that a VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System nurse faced recently.


On the afternoon of June 20, an SUV traveling a lonely stretch of highway between Las Vegas and St. George, Utah, experienced a sudden tire blow-out, overturning and flipping off the road. The event threw several passengers from the vehicle and trapped others inside.

Maria VanHart, a VASNHS emergency department nurse, was heading home to Utah after her shift at the North Las Vegas Medical Center. Nearly 30 minutes into her commute, she happened upon the single-vehicle accident. While a few onlookers had stopped to assist the victims, none of them were trained to manage the scene.

VanHart assessed the situation, and then quickly acted. “I did what I was trained to do,” she said. “I didn’t panic… just immediately did what needed to be done.”

10-year-old was her translator

One of VanHart’ s first challenges was communicating with the victims. She soon learned that the family had travelled to the United States from Syria for a wedding. Of the 10 passengers, only a 10-year-old boy was able to speak English. “He was walking around with some minor bumps and bruises, but overall looked OK,” said VanHart. He would serve as translator for all her patient care questions. “The first thing I told him was ‘I need you to show me everyone who was in the vehicle.'”

The driver of the vehicle was the father, who had suffered only minor bruises. An older teenage girl holding a baby were walking around the scene, both seemingly unscathed. The boy’s immediate concern was for his brother, a 14-year-old who was trapped inside the overturned vehicle.

“He was not breathing and (based on his condition) I knew immediately that he was dead.”

VanHart quickly turned her attention to others who needed immediate care. The mother of the family was thrown from the vehicle during the accident and was laying 10 feet behind the wreckage. VanHart concluded that she had suffered a severe pelvic injury and had potential internal bleeding.

Needed helicopter for mother and infant

At the front of the vehicle were two more victims on the ground: a boy in his late teens who had a broken leg and an infant girl who didn’t initially appear to have any injuries. While bystanders told VanHart that the infant was fine, she wanted to examine her just in case. “When I did my assessment on her, I could see some facial bruising, agonal breathing, and one of her pupils was blown, so I knew she had a head injury. She may have been having some seizure activity because her eyes were fluttering. She and the mother needed to be flown to a hospital immediately.”

Soon after, the Moapa Police Department arrived on site. “The scene was very active,” said Officer Alex Cruz. “Between attempting to stop traffic, rendering first aid and requesting additional units, it was hectic to say the least. Maria was calm and knew what she was doing. She was directing people on what to do while rendering aid herself. She was like an orchestra conductor.”

Based on the severity of the victim’s injuries, VanHart asked Cruz to request immediate evacuation. “I trusted her expertise and ended calling three helicopters and four ambulances due to her triaging the scene,” he said. “You could tell that she knew what she was doing and there was no time to question her capabilities.”

Calming Syrian father with familiar greeting

Another challenge facing the responders was more difficult to navigate. When paramedics removed the clothing from the woman who VanHart believed suffered internal injuries, her husband became enraged. “I know that as a Muslim, he believed it was inappropriate for men to see his wife without clothing,” VanHart said. “He was still in shock and needed someone to understand him, so I did my best to do that.”

After years of working with doctors of various nationalities, VanHart has picked up phrases in many languages. “One of the things that I learned from working with doctors from the Middle East was a common greeting, ‘As-salamu alaykum,’ which means ‘peace be upon you,'” she said. “So, I sat with the husband and I told him that and he seemed to calm down.'”

Her own emotional crash

After the helicopters were loaded with patients and VanHart had briefed the receiving medical teams at University Medical Center in Las Vegas, she finally took a step back and realized what had happened. She had been on the scene for two hours in 105-degree heat and was exhausted. “When the adrenaline goes away, there’s a crash. It’s an emotional and physical crash. I was dehydrated and physically shaky afterwards. I sat down, drank some water and called my friends for reassurance.”

Breast cancer survivor

VanHart is a breast cancer survivor. She also had lost most of her family to illness at a young age and is married to the former head of a hospital’s trauma nursing department. Health care has always played a big role in her life.

VanHart has a unique philosophy when it comes to assessing her work:

“At the end of the day, there are two things that let me know if I have done my job that day. One is ‘what was my patient-to-hug ratio?’ And the other one is ‘had my mother been the last person I had cared for, would I have done anything differently?’ Everyone out there is someone’s parent or child and they all deserve to be cared for as if they were my own.”

In the photo above, VanHart provides care to a Veteran at the North Las Vegas Medical Center.

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

Articles

This female veteran says they’ll have to pry her uniform out of her hands

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of profiles of incredible female veterans that WATM will be presenting in concert with Women’s History Month.


Young Amy Forsythe was champing at the bit to get into the military and continue her family’s tradition of military service. Her grandfather had been a Marine and her grandmother had been an Army nurse, and the two of them met while serving in on the Pacific island of Saipan during World War II.

To please her parents, Forsythe attended junior college for a few years, but she couldn’t suppress her desire to serve. She enlisted in the Marines in 1993 as a combat correspondent and spent her first year as a radio broadcaster stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans
Amy Forsythe (right) in Iraq in 2006 with her then-boss Megan McClung who was later killed in Ramadi.

 

“I ended up serving about eight years on active duty in the Marine Corps and then I went into the reserves before 9/11,” she explained. “After the attacks, it was inevitable that I would be mobilized.”

She deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan as a public affairs chief with an Army Civil Affairs Task Force in 2002 and 2003, the period when insurgent IED attacks were just starting to heat up. In 2006, she deployed with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force to Al Anbar province, Iraq.

During the 2006 deployment in Fallujah, things started to really heat up,” Forsythe remembers. “We had a lot of close calls — rocket attacks, mortars — we were moving this huge satellite dish around Ramadi and Fallujah trying to avoid heavy engagements. My boss was also a female Marine, Major Megan McClung, and she was killed in Ramadi, which gives you the sense of what was happening.”

Forsythe saw a lot of women serving in combat zones and fighting alongside their male counterparts, regardless of billet or MOS.

“Women in combat isn’t anything new,” she says. “In the Marines, every Marine is a rifleman at the basic level. During Desert Storm, people said Americans weren’t ready for women to come home in body bags, but every person in a forward deployed area is susceptible to injury or death. Women serve and take just as much risk as men. If women can meet the standards, then everyone else can adjust.”

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans
Forsythe in Afghanistan in 2013 with a member of the Afghan National Police.

In 2006, Forsythe and her teammate, then-Cpl. Lynn Murillo took a lot of risks shuttling a satellite dish around Anbar Province, connecting Iraqi military and civic leaders with the pan-Arab media for the first time during the Iraq War. Since much of the success of the American mission in Iraq depended on controlling information, it was a critical mission.

She and Murillo spent most of their time out with Marines on foot patrols covering the Iraqi army training and connecting service members with hometown news stations and national news outlets. After a year in Anbar, she redeployed but was right back there a year later, astonished at the changes in the area.

“I couldn’t believe how things changed in Haditah and Ramadi,” she recalls. “There were still attacks to the base and personnel, but it was amazing to see the improvements to the infrastructure, roads, schools, etc. In 2006, the insurgency was at its worst and out of control. By 2008, Anbar Province was seeing security improvements and new construction underway.”

Her 22-year career spans changes for the U.S. military and for the women who serve. “I’ve seen so many changes through the years, but the wars helped prove women are willing to shoulder the burden of serving in combat zones. After her two tours in Iraq, she returned to Afghanistan in 2012 and also served with U.S. Africa Command based in Stuttgart, Germany, in 2014.

Of all her assignments and risks, one the most harrowing events of her career occurred when she was on temporary duty assigned to the public affairs office at the Washington Navy Yard in September 2013.

“It started like any other ordinary day, until the Navy Yard Shooter put us in lockdown mode,” Forsythe remembers. Our office was next to Building 174, the scene of a mass-shooting incident. “It was surreal, tragic and beyond belief. After surviving four combat tours, there we were in Washington, D.C., losing all those people.”

After her first three combat tours, Forsythe accomplished what she set out to do in the military. Serving about 18 years in the Marines on both active duty and in the reserves, Forsythe was looking forward to retiring from the reserves until the Marine colonel for whom she worked encouraged her to apply for the Navy’s Direct Commission Officer program.

“I didn’t know this program existed,” Forsythe says. “But accepting a commission with the Navy is a continuation of my desire to serve. When you go from enlisted to officer, you can look forward to a 35 or 40-year career and retire at age 60.”

Her education and experience as a military journalist allowed her land a job as a reporter and occasional anchor for a local television station. And these days, when not activated, she runs a media company in the San Diego area.

“I love seeing veterans transition out of the military and end up owning their own businesses,” says Forsythe. “It’s so encouraging to see vetreprenuers who have certain skill sets and want to own their own business. Putting a dollar price on your services isn’t easy. It’s hard to determine your own value because you don’t want to under-sell yourself.”

She doesn’t consider herself special, but makes it a point to inform anyone, especially female service members, that anything is possible if you are aware of your own potential.

“I would tell other female service members and veterans to be curious. Be creative. Be confident. In other words, keep learning and seeking knowledge, use creative problem-solving techniques and believe in yourself.”

Serving as enlisted and as an officer, on active duty and in the reserves, in both the Marines and the Navy, Forsythe encourages others to seek opportunities in the reserves.

“It’s been a struggle to balance a civilian career,” she says. “But it’s like having the best of both worlds. Cutting ties with the military too abruptly can cause regret for some service members. Plus, the extra monthly pay and camaraderie with other ‘weekend warriors’ is a great way to stay connected with others who have similar experiences.”

“I’m sure they’ll have to pry the uniform out of my hands when that retirement day comes,” says Forsythe. “But I will always advocate for veterans. The service has been such a part of my life, I will continue to serve in uniform for as long as I can.”

Now: This Female Vet Is One Of History’s Most Decorated Combat Photographers

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How you can buy M1911 pistols made from meteorites

Few weapons ever wielded by the U.S. Military are more beloved than the M1911. The weapon was designed by a competitive pistol shooter and equipped with the stopping power necessary to take down a berserk Moro rebel fighter. There’s a reason it was in the American arsenal for more than a century.

These days, the legendary .45 pistol isn’t used as much around the military, but it remains a collector’s item for veterans and aficionados alike. It retains its title of the greatest issued sidearm of all time – and now you can get one that came from interstellar space.


This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

The Big Bang Pistol Set, crafted from a 4-billion-year-old meteorite from Namibia.

It may sound like the first in (probably) a long line of Space Force weapons programs from a less-than-honest defense contractor, but it’s actually just a nifty idea from American firearms manufacturer Cabot Guns. Their weapons are like the concept cars of firearms, with pistols that feature mammoth ivory grips (yes, Wooly Mammoth ivory) harvested from Alaska, a pistol crafted from a 50-layer block of Damascus steel, and a Donald Trump-level .45 with a gold finish, engraved with “Trump 45” along the barrel.

Gimmicky, maybe, but all are truly so well-crafted, they earned the right to be called “elite.” The biggest standout among the manufacturer’s arsenal has to be the Big Bang Pistol Set, crafted from the Gibeon Meteorite that fell in prehistoric Namibia.

The meteorite, believed to be at least four billion years old, is comprised of iron, nickel, cobalt, and phosphorous, along with numerous other rare minerals. The object fell from the sky and broke up in the days before history was recorded, dropping interstellar rocks in a meteor field some 70 miles wide. Prehistoric tribesmen would make tools and weapons of the hard material from the sky.

The Widmanstätten pattern formed by the alloy makes it a particularly interesting design for use in jewelry and other specialty items… like firearms.

This soldier collected 500 pairs of sandals for barefoot orphans

A slice of Gibeon Meteorite, featuring the Widmanstätten pattern.

For just ,500,000, you can own a piece of geological history with the power to end someone else’s history. Crafted from a 77-pound piece of the extraterrestrial rock, from the barrel to its smaller moving parts, the set contains two of the one-of-a-kind firearms. They are both fully functional pieces, made completely from the meteorite and feature the space rock’s natural pattern on the finish.

Firearms fan or not, the pistols are a pure work of art, along with all the other weapons the specialty manufacturer has to offer.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Thousands of Russian private contractors are fighting in Syria

Ivan Slyshkin was killed by a sniper in Syria at age 23, but his name won’t be found among the Russian Defense Ministry’s official casualties in the fight against Islamic State extremists.


That’s because he was one of thousands of Russians deployed to Syria by a shadowy, private military contractor known as Wagner, which the government doesn’t talk about.

Also Read: Ukrainian sniper killed, husband injured, in ambush

The St. Petersburg-based website Fontanka reported that about 3,000 Russians under contract to the Wagner group have fought in Syria since 2015. When Putin went to a Russian air base in Syria on Dec. 11 and told Russian troops that “you are coming back home with victory,” he did not mention the private contractors.

The Russian Defense Ministry has said 41 of its troops have died in Syria, but according to Fontanka, another 73 private contractors have been killed there.

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