Afghan Taliban representatives say they have called off two days of peace talks with U.S. officials in Qatar, just hours after they had announced the talks would take place without any delegates from Afghanistan’s government.
A Taliban representative in Afghanistan had told Reuters early on Jan. 8, 2019, that the talks would begin in Qatar’s capital, Doha, on Jan. 9, 2019.
That Taliban figure also had said the group was refusing to allow what he called “puppet” Afghan officials to take part in the Doha meetings.
But a Taliban representative in Doha told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan later on Jan. 8, 2019, that the militant Islamic group had “postponed” the talks “until further consultations” could resolve an “agenda disagreement.”
Another Taliban source told Reuters the disagreement focused on Washington’s insistence that Afghan government officials must be involved in the talks.
He said there also was disagreement on a possible cease-fire deal and a proposed prisoner exchange.
Afghan Peace Talks Off Called Off By Taliban, Citing ‘Puppet Officials’ Asked To Attend
“The U.S. officials insisted that the Taliban should meet the Afghan authorities in Qatar and both sides were in disagreement over declaring a cease-fire in 2019,” he said. “Both sides have agreed to not meet in Qatar.”
The Taliban has consistently rejected requests from regional powers to allow Afghan government officials to take part in peace talks, insisting that the United States is its main adversary in Afghanistan.
The talks in Doha in early January 2019 would have been the fourth in a series between Taliban leaders and U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.
The Taliban also called off a meeting with U.S. officials in Saudi Arabia early January 2019 because of Riyadh’s insistence on bringing the Western-backed Afghan government to the negotiating table.
Former Afghan Interior Minister Omar Daudzai, a senior adviser to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, was traveling to Pakistan on Jan. 8, 2019, for expected talks with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmud Qureshi about the peace process.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe was the start of superhero fandom for millions. For many, many others, it was just the latest iteration of graphic works of art – this time, come to life on the big screen. And inside each of those was a small cameo, a little role to play for the man who started it all, Stan Lee.
For the veteran community, Stan Lee was a fantastic example of life after serving. In the Pinks and Greens of his World War II enlistment, the young Lee might be unrecognizable to many of us today. But in true superhero form, he saw the world needed his help and he donned his superhero uniform in 1942 (which just happened to be one of the Army’s signal corps) and enlisted after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Lee during his WWII-era enlistment.
It’s probably more difficult to imagine Stan Lee in his early years, merely filling inkwells as an assistant at a pulp comics publisher. It was there that Lee created his first comic stories, including the exploits of Captain America. Eventually, he worked his way up to editor-in-chief of that same publication.
Lee’s time in the Army came just after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The Army installed the young Stanley Martin Lieber (Lee’s birth name, he changed it to his pen name later) as a telephone pole lineman. After realizing it made a mistake, he was moved to the training film division to create posters and worked as a writer of films, shorts, and comics for the duration of the war.
Throughout his life, Lee would use his experiences to influence his characters and his later works – and the Army was a small but significant part of it.
After leaving the Army, Lieber went back to his work in publishing, destined to become the great Stan Lee we know today. Throughout the 50s and 60s, he and artist Jack Kirby created some of the most enduring characters in American literature, thanks in no small part to Lee’s perspective on what makes characters relatable. Where rival DC Comics and other publishers at the time created heroic, idealistic archetypical characters, Lee created complex characters with deep flaws who also happened to be imbued with tremendous power and the will to do what was right.
Save for the superpowers, these were people we could all relate. They were to be the kinds of hero many aspired to be. The publisher who gave Stan Lee his start as an assistant and later his role as chief soon changed its name to Marvel Comics. Stan Lee began creating the characters we all grew to love in our early years, the same one the Marvel Cinematic Universe is gifting to our children.
Lee collaborated with artist-writer Jack Kirby on stories, like The Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk,Iron Man, Thor, SilverSurfer, and X-Men. With artist-writer Steve Ditko, he created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, and with artist Bill Everett came Daredevil. Lee created or co-created many of the world’s now-beloved favorites.
“I’ve tried to write stories that anybody would enjoy,” Lee once said. “I’ve tried to make them understandable enough, and exciting or suspenseful or interesting enough for youngsters… to hold their interest. And I’ve tried to make them hopefully intelligent enough for older people.”
Jesse Iwuji, NASCAR driver, shows Luke Airmen tires that are used for the race during their visit through the garages at the Camping World 500 Mar. 19, 2017, at the Phoenix International Raceway, Avondale, Ariz. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Alexander Cook)
We Are The Mighty wants to wish a very Happy Birthday to our favorite racecar driver. Jesse Iwuji turns 33 today, and we are wishing him the happiest of days. While his birthday is no doubt a special day, this year’s celebration is a bit more sweeter.
As many of you know, Jesse is unique among NASCAR drivers. He is a Naval Officer who is following his dreams of becoming a racecar driver. That dream took a big step up this week.
Jesse was recently promoted into NASCAR’s Xfinity Series where he will be driving the No. 13 Toyota Supra for MBM Motorsports. He will continue to also race the No. 33 Chevrolet Silverado for Reaume Brothers Racing in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.
In addition to the promotion in NASCAR, Jesse also was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy – talk about having an amazing month.
Here are some of Jesse’s friends, family, superior officers, fellow drivers and colleagues wishing him a happy birthday. You can tell the impact a man has from the company he keeps, and this collection of amazing people shows just how awesome Jesse is and why WATM is such a big fan:
Jesse Iwuji NASCAR Xfinity Series Debut at Road America | US Navy | Military | Congratulations
Jesse was born on August 12, 1987, the son of Nigerian immigrants. Born and raised in Texas, he was an athlete in high school and excelled in both sports and school. That excellence landed him at the United States Naval Academy. Jesse played for the Midshipman while learning to be a Surface Warfare Officer. In addition to playing safety, Iwuji also ran track for the Naval Academy.
He graduated in 2009 and went into the Fleet, first working on mine countermeasures which included a deployment to the Persian Gulf in 2012. He later served on the USS Comstock before moving into the Naval Reserves in 2017.
Moving into NASCAR is no easy feat. But with his belief in honor, courage and commitment, Iwuji pushed forward through all the obstacles. He first thought about becoming a racecar driver during a Navy football event at the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Throughout his active duty career, he balanced his duties and deployments with his pursuit of his passion. Upon entering the Reserves, he started accelerating his career with stints in the NASCAR KN Pro Series East and West which are regional proving grounds for drivers looking to prove themselves on the stockyard circuit.
From there, he moved into the truck series where he has competed for the last three years. His recent promotion to the Xfinity Series puts him one step closer to the NASCAR Cup Series which is, for those of you who don’t know, the highest echelon of stock car racing in the world.
Jesse’s debut on the Xfinity circuit was at the Henry 180 where he finished the race in the 26th spot. His next race should be at the legendary Watkins Glen road course this weekend.
Hopefully soon, we will see him racing in the Cup Series at places like Daytona, Talladega, Martinsville, Dover and Bristol.
Happy Birthday Jesse and congratulations on both your promotions!
Veterans in the cannabis industry have been denied home loans from the Department of Veterans Affairs, prompting a response from Congress.
When one veteran was denied his home loan benefit, he reached out to Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Massachusetts), who joined with 20 members of Congress in writing to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.
The lawmakers wanted to know why their constituents were denied loans after citing their income sources as state-legalized cannabis activities.
“Denying veterans the benefits they’ve earned…is contrary to the intent Congress separately demonstrated in its creation of VA benefit programs,” Clark wrote in her May 23, 2019 letter.
Read the letter:
In the letter, shared with Roll Call, Clark stated, “A substantial number of veterans earn their livelihoods in this industry and, in coming years, that number is likely to further rise. The VA must acknowledge this reality and ensure veterans who work in this sector are able to clearly understand and can equitably access the benefits they’ve earned.”
She also acknowledged that “the ambiguity under which the cannabis industry operates is unique, and we fully understand the VA’s resulting aversion to legal and financial risk. [However]…in recent years, the Department of Justice has substantially narrowed its prosecutorial priorities in this area, and Congress has taken action to prevent federal interference with the implementation of state cannabis laws.”
Though Marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug, illegal under federal law, Military.com points out that “thirty-four states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands now have some variation of medical marijuana programs, while a dozen other states allow cannabidiol that is low in tetrahydrocannabinol — or THC, the psychoactive component of pot that makes a user high — for medicinal purposes.”
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Dan Anglin, CEO of CannAmerica, was also denied a VA home loan due to his work in the cannabis industry — and he’s not afraid to speak out about it.
Veteran Dan Anglin Denied Home Loans Due to Owning a Cannabis Company
This is a letter to the military spouse that started the journey to parenthood, with hope and excitement. The one thinking this would be so easy because that’s what society has led you to believe, only to still be trying one, two, three or however many heartbreaking years later. The one who has watched countless friends bring home children during this time that feels more and more discouraged.
This is a letter to the military spouse walking down the family planning aisle looking for a pregnancy test with your fingers crossed, full of anticipation, thinking this is the month that your dreams come true and you will cross the line into motherhood. For the one looking at ovulation test kits instead of pregnancy tests thinking maybe this is what will make the difference this month in your journey. You are beginning to wonder if anything can help you. Kicking yourself each month for not just buying the 50 count test kits on Amazon because you have likely spent hundreds of dollars on tests already. But still, you buy them because you still have hope that you can be a parent one day.
To the military spouse digging through the trashcan in the hopes that the positive line appeared late because it just needed more time. Maybe it was too faint for you to see the line, or the lighting was bad when you tested so you missed it. To the one that tests again, and again. Noticing every little symptom, feeling that this time it must have happened, but the test still gives you that same soul-crushing negative.
To the military spouse that ugly cries on the toilet when your period starts yet again. You really thought this was the month that it had finally happened because Aunt Flo was late. Only she showed up with a vengeance and all you want to do is crawl into bed and hide from the world. Each agonizing cramp and trip to the bathroom is a constant reminder that this cycle was a total bust.
To the military spouse that can’t listen to one more person ask, “So when are you two having kids?” or the subtle hints from family members. Each question or comment cuts you deep down inside and makes you feel even more broken. You feel like a failure because you can’t do the one thing that seems to define womanhood. The boiling anger, resentment and jealousy you feel when you see someone that wasn’t even trying or that accidentally got pregnant. That feeling that takes over that you can’t seem to define.
To the military spouse that is at another doctor’s appointment trying to find answers. Desperately looking and waiting for them to determine the cause, the reason. Answers to why this isn’t happening as it should. Praying that there is some reason and that you aren’t left without answers. Hoping that you can pop a few pills and that will do the trick. Maybe you’re moving to plan B, C or D and you are praying that this is the right combination of medications or treatments this cycle.
To the military spouse facing postponements or cancelations in treatment cycles because of deployments, PCSes or COVID-19. Wondering if you are missing your last chance. Wondering if this is the last egg you have left. Full of questions and uncertainties. Waiting for however long with anxiety and fear. Hoping with every ounce in your body that this doesn’t ruin your chances once this delay is all over. For the one that dreads having to start all over again once you are able.
To the military spouse worrying over the financial realities that come with infertility. Worrying if Tricare will cover testing. Stressing over the cost of medications that the insurance doesn’t cover. Trying to find thousands of dollars to pay for the chance at having your own family. You have a deep biological desire to carry and give birth to a child of your own. Making the hard decisions of which treatment route to go, and how many cycle attempts you make before there is no more money left in the pot. For the ones exhausted from searching for grants, loans, any program that could possibly help with the financial burden of infertility.
To the military spouse avoiding social media because it is flooded with the gut-wrenching reminder that you are childless. That each pregnancy announcement, gender reveal and newborn photoshoot you scroll past is a stab at your empty womb. Maybe you have resorted to unfollowing or even unfriending friends and family because it hurts too much to see their posts. While deep down you truly are happy for them, your feelings of jealousy, sadness and rage take over and it’s easier to not be reminded.
To the military spouse attending a baby shower that is politely smiling and limiting conversation because on the inside you are struggling. Struggling to fight back the flood of tears and overwhelming sadness. Wondering if you will ever get to experience this for yourself or if you will always be barren. Looking for the quickest route to the door or bathroom in case the flood of tears starts to stream and the last thing you want is to cause a scene.
To the military spouse that got her positive test after all the struggles and heartache to have it all ripped away. For the ones that saw a heartbeat and thought they were in the clear this time. Or you thought this time it would be different, that this time you wouldn’t miscarry, but then everything came crashing down around you. Maybe you only know the devastating realities of pregnancy loss and long to be the one that experiences the joys of bringing home a child.
To the military spouse that feels alone, broken, weary, or even depressed: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. For the one that feels all these and more month after month, or year after year. To the one that has days where getting out of bed feels impossible. For the one that can’t face the world or function for days at a time. Let me say it again: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. One in 8 couples face the same problems with infertility.
To the military spouse facing infertility: This does not define you. This is not who you are. This is not your fault. Your worth is not any less, nor does it make you any less of a woman. This is not a measure of your success. You are not broken or damaged. You are strong. The pain you feel is real and it is okay to ask for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. And it is okay for you to talk about it. Be a voice and share your story so others can see that they are not alone. You get to decide on your journey, just know that there is a whole military spouse community right here with you to support and encourage you because you are not alone and it is okay to talk about it.
April is Infertility Awareness Month and this is National Infertility Awareness Week. For resources about infertility, please visit: https://infertilityawareness.org/. And from our hearts to yours: You are not alone.
For most, if not all, of us, surviving is our number one priority. We may not be consciously craving it, but every little thing we do is to survive this race called life. So, it’s important to know all the things most likely to end that life.
We pursue education to be prepared for the future. We work because we need money to buy what we need to sustain ourselves (and enjoy a lot of other luxuries in between). When we watch our favorite TV shows and geek out on fictional characters, we take care of our mental health.
And all of that is crucial to surviving life. But what if there are threats that are beyond your control? What if the danger to your life is something that you can’t prevent from happening? What if, for example, a new disease has spread worldwide and everyone is vulnerable to catching it – even you? What would you do then?
It sounds like a plot for a fictional story, but it’s actually a very plausible scenario. We have had many outbreaks of deadly diseases in the recent times, and we could have them again in the future. With all the political and social unrest happening these days, it’s also not unlikely that we’ll see civil turmoil close to our neighborhood. How would you keep yourself safe then?
The world is not a perfect place, much less safe. We always have to look out for ourselves to survive. Keeping ourselves safe in normal situations is already a challenge, but with all the disasters that are possible (or expected, in some cases) to happen to us, it’s going to be much more difficult. You don’t have to be helpless, though.
Here are some tips on what you can do to survive in case of disasters presented by the guys over at Mike’s Gear Reviews.
The recent delivery of a QF-16 from Boeing to the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron marks an important milestone on the road to recovery for Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.
“The arrival of this QF-16 brings us one step closer to resuming operations,” said Col. Steven Boatright, 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group commander. “It is vital to the warfighter that we resume operations when it is deemed safe to do so.”
The QF-16 enables live fire weapons testing in the Joint Gulf Range Complex, which is made up of 180,000 square miles that stretches from Key West to northwest Florida, and allows for joint test and training exercises.
The 82nd ATRS currently has 18 QF-16s assigned to Tyndall AFB. Six QF-16s are unmanned, but all of them are modified to be flown remotely. The manned configuration of the aircraft can be used with a pilot in the cockpit to train the remote pilots flying from the ground station.
“It is important that we continue to accept new target aircraft into the fleet to keep test programs on schedule and to deliver capability to the warfighter,” said Lt. Col Ryan Serrill, 82nd ATRS commander. “Our people are safe and are eager to get the flying mission back off the ground. Our mission is one that will continue at Tyndall and we look forward to getting back to flying operations.”
A QF-16 is prepared for takeoff during an unmanned live fire exercise at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., June 25, 2014.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aaron Montoya)
In addition to supporting the test community, the WEG hosts visiting fighter aircraft units from around the globe to participate in Combat Archer. During their two week stay at Tyndall AFB, units are evaluated on all phases of air-to-air combat operations including an end-to-end kill-chain evaluation of man, weapon, and machine in a realistic combat environment.
“No other Air Force in the world comes anywhere close to the same scale of weapons testing as the Air Force,” said Serrill. “We recognize the importance of this data to continually improve our warfighters ability which is why it’s so important that the WEG mission continue.”
Government civilians and contractors provide the backbone of QF-16 operations in both its manned and unmanned configurations. They are critical to our unique unmanned mission, as they are the only ones that operate the target in its final unmanned configuration.
“Our group is comprised of military, civilians and contractors,” said Boatright. “These are men and women who have called Panama City home for decades, and have poured so much of their life into Tyndall AFB and Panama City. We couldn’t do what we do in the WEG without them. I am proud to be able to serve alongside not just our uniformed military, but our local civilians and contractors. It is devastating to see what the hurricane did to this community, but we will rebuild. The men and women who survived Hurricane Michael are just as eager as I am to be fully mission ready again.”
Leatherman’s new magnetic architecture is changing the game for multi-tools. Sure, they’ve had one-handed technology for a few years now, but it’s insane how easy it is to access everything in the tool with just one hand.
And their new P4 model is accessible for left- or right-hand dominate use.
“What makes these tools really special is how you don’t have to use your fingernails to access anything,” said Jeremy, the rep at the Leatherman booth at SHOT Show 2019. This year they are releasing six of best multi-tools they’ve ever had — which is saying something. Leatherman has been the lead in multi-tool technology for 25 years.
They’re calling it their new FREE line, and if you can’t get your hands on one yet, check out the video above to see how effortlessly each implement is accessed. They’ve got new locks, non-metallic springs, and magnet technology that, according to Blade HQ, “just changed the game bigtime, buddy.”
In the run up to Marine Gen. James Mattis‘ deployment to Iraq in 2004, a colleague wrote to him asking about the “importance of reading and military history for officers,” many of whom found themselves “too busy to read.”
His response went viral over email.
Security Blog “Strife” out of Kings College in London recently published Mattis’ words with a short description from the person who found it in her email.
Their title for the post:
With Rifle and Bibliography: General Mattis on Professional Reading
The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience (or by your men’s experience), i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men.
Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.
With [Task Force] 58, I had w/ me Slim’s book, books about the Russian and British experiences in [Afghanistan], and a couple others. Going into Iraq, “The Siege” (about the Brits’ defeat at Al Kut in WW I) was req’d reading for field grade officers. I also had Slim’s book; reviewed T.E. Lawrence’s “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”; a good book about the life of Gertrude Bell (the Brit archaeologist who virtually founded the modern Iraq state in the aftermath of WW I and the fall of the Ottoman empire); and “From Beirut to Jerusalem”. I also went deeply into Liddell Hart’s book on Sherman, and Fuller’s book on Alexander the Great got a lot of my attention (although I never imagined that my HQ would end up only 500 meters from where he lay in state in Babylon).
Ultimately, a real understanding of history means that we face NOTHING new under the sun.
For all the “4th Generation of War” intellectuals running around today saying that the nature of war has fundamentally changed, the tactics are wholly new, etc, I must respectfully say … “Not really”: Alex the Great would not be in the least bit perplexed by the enemy that we face right now in Iraq, and our leaders going into this fight do their troops a disservice by not studying (studying, vice just reading) the men who have gone before us.
We have been fighting on this planet for 5,000 years and we should take advantage of their experience. “Winging it” and filling body bags as we sort out what works reminds us of the moral dictates and the cost of incompetence in our profession. As commanders and staff officers, we are coaches and sentries for our units: how can we coach anything if we don’t know a hell of a lot more than just the [Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures]? What happens when you’re on a dynamic battlefield and things are changing faster than higher [Headquarters] can stay abreast? Do you not adapt because you cannot conceptualize faster than the enemy’s adaptation? (Darwin has a pretty good theory about the outcome for those who cannot adapt to changing circumstance — in the information age things can change rather abruptly and at warp speed, especially the moral high ground which our regimented thinkers cede far too quickly in our recent fights.) And how can you be a sentinel and not have your unit caught flat-footed if you don’t know what the warning signs are — that your unit’s preps are not sufficient for the specifics of a tasking that you have not anticipated?
Perhaps if you are in support functions waiting on the warfighters to spell out the specifics of what you are to do, you can avoid the consequences of not reading. Those who must adapt to overcoming an independent enemy’s will are not allowed that luxury.
This is not new to the USMC approach to warfighting — Going into Kuwait 12 years ago, I read (and reread) Rommel’s Papers (remember “Kampstaffel”?), Montgomery’s book (“Eyes Officers”…), “Grant Takes Command” (need for commanders to get along, “commanders’ relationships” being more important than “command relationships”), and some others.
As a result, the enemy has paid when I had the opportunity to go against them, and I believe that many of my young guys lived because I didn’t waste their lives because I didn’t have the vision in my mind of how to destroy the enemy at least cost to our guys and to the innocents on the battlefields.
Hope this answers your question…. I will cc my ADC in the event he can add to this. He is the only officer I know who has read more than I.
US military officials believe Syrian forces accidentally shot down a Russian aircraft, according to a CNN report published on Sept. 17, 2018.
Syrian anti-aircraft artillery reportedly responded to a number of Israeli missiles that were launched towards the coastal city of Latakia when it accidentally shot the Russian maritime patrol aircraft, according to a US military official cited in the report.
Syria, Russia’s ally in a prolonged proxy war in the region, claimed its air defenses “intercepted a number” of the missiles headed toward the city, Reuters reported on Sept. 17, 2018, citing state-media.
Russia’s defense ministry also announced it had lost contact with an IL-20 aircraft carrying 14 service members, Syria’s state-run media reported. Russia’s presence in Latakia includes a large naval base, which was reportedly under attack by an unclaimed missile strike that Syria alleges to have come from Israel.
Although Israeli Defense Forces also declined to comment on the missile strikes, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sept. 16, 2018, that his country will be “taking action to prevent our enemies from arming themselves with advanced weaponry.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A US Central Command spokesman did not comment on where the strikes originated from but denied US forces were involved: “The US was not involved in any strikes in Western Syria or in the shoot down of any planes tonight,” US Navy Capt. Bill Urban said in a statement to Business Insider.
Russia and the Syrian regime have previously boasted about their air defense capabilities. After an airstrike in which US and its allies fired over 100 missiles towards suspected chemical weapons facilities in April 2018, Russian forces claimed the “high-effectiveness” of Russian-supplied weapons and “excellent training of Syrian servicemen” had shot down 71 missiles.
Russia’s claim was contradicted by US reports that said Syria’s air defenses were “largely ineffective” in response to its “precise and overwhelming” strikes.
“The Syrian response was remarkably ineffective in all domains,” US Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie said at the time.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Military life brings enough stress. How you’re going to put food on the table shouldn’t be one of them.
Today’s military is a much more diverse population and also more likely to be married, unlike those who served a generation or two ago. According to a 2018 White House report, 74% of military families have children, and 42% of those children are between the ages of 0 and 5 years old.
According to a 2018 study completed by the Military Family Advisory Network, 13% of military families experience food insecurity. That same study reported that as many as 24% of military families skip meals or buy cheaper, less healthy meals to make do.
Currently, many junior military families do not qualify for food assistance even though they are in desperate need of it.
The United States Department of Agriculture did a survey that same year, which found that only 11.1% of American homes were experiencing food insecurity. This could indicate that junior military families may be experiencing higher rates of food insecurity than the average American family.
Lack of Cost of Living Allowances (COLA) in notoriously high-cost areas is another issue affecting the financial wellness of military families. The Department of Defense released its rates for 2020, with a decrease of id=”listicle-2645192734″.9 million dollars. With such high rates of financial insecurity affecting military families, it is unknown why the DOD made the decision to implement a reduction.
Reports have shown different numbers; some say one in four military families are utilizing food banks; others showcase that million in SNAP benefits aren’t really accounted for.
While the image of our uniformed service members in line at a food bank or using SNAP benefits is an uncomfortable one, it is a reality for many military families.
In 2017, a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives to address their food assistance needs, but it was never brought to a vote. A second bill named the Military Family Basic Needs Allowance, made it through the House but was never called for a vote in the Senate.
How could the needs of those who would sacrifice their lives for this country be ignored?
The National Military Family Association is a non-profit organization that has championed bills like the Military Family Basic Needs Allowance, which they fought to have included in the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act. Despite it not being included, their website indicates that they will continue advocating for military families and ensuring they receive what they need to serve this country without fear of food insecurity.
The Department of Defense objected to the second bill, with part of their reasoning being that the service member receives a basic allowance for subsistence (BAS). However, it can be argued that BAS is only intended for the service member. It does not account for the military spouse and children that service member most likely has. This leaves families couponing, utilizing food banks, and seeking financial support services through faith-based agencies.
Blue Star Families conducted a survey in 2018, and 70% of military families reported that having two incomes as being something vital for well-being. With well-documented rates of high unemployment for military spouses and a lack of quality childcare, it demonstrates why two-thirds of military families report stress due to their current financial situations. This was the first time the Blue Star Family annual survey had financial insecurity as a top stressor.
There are many pieces of recent legislation that have been signed and are aimed at increasing gainful employment opportunities for military spouses, leading to less financial stress on the military family. While this appears to be a step in the right direction for increasing rates of employment among military spouses, it doesn’t address the many other barriers.
The United States is approaching twenty years at war, its longest in recorded history. Without a current end in sight, operational tempo remains high, and with that comes additional stressors placed on our military. With higher than average rates of suicide and a 65% increase of mental health issues affecting our military – they are paying the high price for this war.
Our servicemen and women willingly carry unavoidable stressors because of their commitment to serve this country. It’s time that we take being able to feed their families off their shoulders.
Over the last century, with the introduction of compulsory attendance and development of the modern public education system, teachers have largely held the responsibility of educating America’s youth. COVID-19 brought about the shuttering of our nation’s schools and education was very quickly thrust into the spotlight as parents found themselves back at the helm.
The sudden closure of schools brought about a cascade of consequences educators, parents and government officials were forced to triage. The bulk of this responsibility fell to parents, as they worked to fit a titan of a system into a quickly-changing scenario, with contradicting information, within the fluid environment of a home.
Though these efforts were nothing short of heroic and should be celebrated, the result has left many parents with a sense of trepidation as fall approaches.
As we approach the new academic year, homeschooling has taken on a new level of interest. In fact, a national poll completed in May indicated that 40% of parents were more likely to homeschool after the lockdown ends.
Across the nation, parents are seeking out information that will help minimize the negative impact COVID-19 has on their children’s education. Though they will ultimately have to weigh the options and choose the best fit for their family, there are a number of considerations for each.
District-directed learning and virtual academies
As mandates are passed down by governors, school districts are working to determine how to implement safety measures while balancing the educational needs of their students. As of now, district-directed learning hasn’t been fully fleshed out across the country as the plans are contingent on COVID numbers. Interest in virtual academies are at an all-time high, as parents are looking for options that won’t be impacted by rising COVID numbers. Virtual academies provided public education from state-certified teachers, adhering to the same testing, attendance, and accountability standards as their brick-and-mortar counterparts.
Among the benefits of district-directed and virtual learning is adherence to curriculum standards and special education guidelines. Students are expected to attend classes where they will interact with their teachers and receive feedback on their progress. Parents are expected to help facilitate learning and adhere to the structure of the school system.
Though there are a number of homeschool curriculums that effectively “copy and paste” the structure of public education into the home environment, the foundation of homeschool is built with the child and family center. To these ends, it’s highly individualized and fluid. For those who are new to homeschooling, there are a number of considerations to help guide you.
Homeschool is regulated at the state level, meaning that each state has different requirements. Research is key for military families. Home School Legal Defense Association has a number of resources regarding state and special education laws. Additionally, homeschool families will often utilize an umbrella school for guidance to complete their state requirements, making a potential return to public school easier.
Homeschool curriculums cover a wide range of educational philosophy. From classical style to unschooling, there is a curriculum fit for every family. Most families use multiple curriculums depending on the need and number of children. Some curriculums have module-based learning where students access videos, relieving some of the pressure from parents. Many curriculums are designed with multiple grades in mind, allowing for families to teach certain subjects to multiple-level learners at once. There are online curriculum quizzes designed by veteran homeschoolers to help you find your best fit.
One point that tends to take public-school parents by surprise is the amount of time many homeschoolers dedicate to desk-work. Overall, homeschoolers spend a fraction of the time at a desk compared to their public-school peers. Additionally, the rate with which homeschoolers move through the material is highly individualized. For instance, if the curriculum provides 20 lessons on a certain topic, but the student has demonstrated mastery in 7, they move forward to the next concept. Conversely, if a student is struggling, parents are able to recognize it and take additional time to help ensure success.
Though families are also facing tough decisions about how to proceed in the fall, co-ops have historically been sources of a great community and learning among homeschoolers. The size and design of each co-op vary greatly as each community serves a different purpose. Though many co-ops are also awaiting further guidance smaller gatherings may continue to have fewer restrictions. Additionally, you can connect with a few like-minded families and create a co-op, allowing your students to continue to have a social connection with peers during this time.
Though the circumstances that have led us to this point have been, in many ways, catastrophic; parents should be empowered by policy and lawmakers to make the best educational decisions for their children. At a time when uncertainty is the only constant, embracing alternative forms of education may just be the thing that allows this generation of students to excel.
Nichole is a doctoral-level Board Certified Behavior Analyst, professor, and school psychologist with a specialization in education law and policy. A homeschooling mom of four and Marine spouse of 13 years, Nichole and her husband are stationed outside of Washington, D.C.