The La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness (Collaborative) announced today [Monday, Dec. 19, 2016] that it met the ambitious goal they set in September of this year: to end homelessness for veterans in the City within 100 days (by Christmas Day). This makes La Crosse the first city in Wisconsin to end homelessness among veterans.
Over the 100 days, the Collaborative increased its monthly housing placement rate for veterans by 400%, demonstrating what’s possible when multiple agencies join forces and focus on clear, measurable goals.
This goal was not accomplished by doing business as usual. It was accomplished by unprecedented cross-agency collaboration between over thirty agencies, including: the Tomah VA Medical Center, Couleecap, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, La Crosse Police Department, and the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (full list of Design and Leadership Team members).
This effort elevated action-oriented problem-solving over traditional planning.
With the support of Gundersen Health System’s Office of Population Health, the Collaborative is using a proven innovation and improvement model (adapted from one developed by Community Solutions and the Rapid Results Institute for the 100,000 Homes Campaign) to accelerate housing placements and profoundly improve system performance.
“The key to our success has been the amazing collaboration within our initiative and a strong shared focus from everyone on the team”, said Kim Cable, Design Team member and Housing and Community Services Director at Couleecap). “This is just the beginning of our journey to end all homelessness in the City of La Crosse. We are excited and inspired by our initial success and the support from the community.”
“I am so proud of the La Crosse Collaborative’s incredible efforts to end veteran homelessness here in our community”, said Mayor Tim Kabat, a Leadership Team member.
“La Crosse signed on to the national effort, as part of the Mayor’s Challenge, to work together and provide permanent housing for our homeless veterans and it is awe-inspiring to see this dream realized. We are so fortunate to live in such a caring, compassionate, and hard-working community.”
“This is a tremendous achievement and milestone for our community,” said Victoria Brahm, Acting Director of the Tomah VA Medical Center. “I am extremely proud of our staff members who worked with the Collaborative. This is the result of a lot of hard work – getting to functional zero was a tough challenge, but one that we were never going to give up on.”
“Gunderson’s Office of Population Health is focusing on elevating the health of the community by engaging beyond the health system walls, and partnering with organizations in communities who are going upstream to prevent illness, disease, injury, and crisis”, said Sandy Brekke, Senior Consultant, Office of Population Health, Gundersen Health System.
“It’s hard to be healthy when you go to sleep hungry, homeless, or in substandard housing. As an institution, GHS recognizes that safe, secure housing is foundational to the health of individuals and families in our community and are proud to support the effort to end homelessness in La Crosse. We are grateful to the Design Team of the La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness, they have brought the community together and have worked incredibly hard to make sure that our Veterans have a warm place to call home.”
The Collaborative will celebrate its success tomorrow afternoon, December 20th, at the Waterfront Banquet Room, hosted by Don Weber, CEO of LHI and Leadership Team member, who said: “Veteran homelessness is our nation’s silent shame. It goes without saying that any who has served and protected our nation should not have to worry whether they will have a roof over their heads. In dedicating ourselves to ending Veteran homelessness in our region, our community has proven that the story does not have to end here. Our Veterans deserve our lifelong commitment to returning to them the same comfort and safety they’ve so selflessly secured for us through their service.”
For more information on what it means to end homelessness (defined nationally as reaching “functional zero”), visit the FAQ section on the Collaborative’s website. On the website, you can also donate to ongoing efforts to end homelessness, sign up to volunteer or—if you are a landlord—offer housing to others who are homeless in La Crosse.
Criticizing Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is widely seen as among Iran’s so-called red lines. Dozens of intellectuals, activists, and politicians have been sidelined, harassed, or jailed for challenging the man who holds the final political and religious say in the Islamic republic.
Yet in late May 2018, a female student rose in Khamenei’s presence to harshly criticize the state of affairs in the country, including actions by powerful bodies controlled by the Iranian leader that have been cited by critics as major barriers to reform.
Sahar Mehrabi called for “deepening democracy” in Iran in the May 28, 2018 speech, delivered at an annual Iftar gathering that Khamenei holds to celebrate the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.
Mehrabi offered a list of “numerous crises” facing the country, including increasing social inequality, declining public trust, environmental problems, and discrimination against minorities. She asked Khamenei what he would do to tackle those issues.
She indirectly pointed the finger at the supreme leader, noting that the bodies under his watch are virtually untouchable. “The impossibility of conducting investigations into the work of some of the institutions under the supervision of Your Excellency, such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the judiciary, the state broadcaster, and the Mostazafan Foundation” — a reference to one of Iran’s largest foundations — “is in itself problematic,” Mehrabi said.
Mehrabi offered a list of “numerous crises” facing the country, including increasing social inequality, declining public trust, environmental problems, and discrimination against minorities. She asked Khamenei what he would do to tackle those issues.
At the meeting, Khamenei responded that while he appoints the heads of some of those powerful bodies, including the judiciary and the state broadcasters, he does not specifically manage their work. “For example, regarding the state broadcaster, I’ve always had and still have a critical position vis-a-vis both current and past managements,” he said.
Seemingly acknowledging other problems, Khamenei added that “taking all issues into consideration, I believe the Islamic establishment has made progress in the past 40 years in all its ideals.”
Mehrabi also echoed some of the positions espoused by relative moderate President Hassan Rohani, criticizing Iran’s aggressive Internet censorship, pressure on the press, the arrest of students, what she described as a crackdown on women “under the pretense of guiding them,” and the situation of opposition figures Mir Hossein Musavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, along with reformist cleric Mehdi Karrubi, who have been under house arrest since 2011 for challenging the Iranian establishment.
“What answer does Your Excellency have in response to questions, criticisms, and protests?” Mehrabi asked.
She suggested that the only way forward is a return to law and the country’s constitution “with all its articles.” “The solution is to accept the right of the people to determine their fate and to be allowed to participate in their political, social, and economic life,” Mehrabi said.
Mehrabi added that no hope lies in the Iranian expat groups calling for regime change in Iran.
Regime Change Needed?
Monarchists and others have intensified their demand for an end to Islamic rule in Iran just as the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has pushed a tougher line toward Iran, including by abandoning the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers trading curbs on Iran’s atomic activities for an easing of international sanctions.
Some analysts interpreted a recent speech by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in which he made 12 demands on Tehran, including ending all nuclear enrichment and ending its support for proxy groups, as a return to U.S. calls for regime change in Iran.
[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2Fwikipedia%2Fcommons%2Fe%2Fe1%2FMike_Pompeo_transition_portrait_full.jpg&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fupload.wikimedia.org&s=880&h=cab39cbaab86713f43cebe96a72aca20c792ca8c5fa31c3faf53c4b06a8f25ad&size=980x&c=3616767409 image-library=”0″ pin_description=”” caption=”U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo” photo_credit_src=”https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e1/Mike_Pompeo_transition_portrait_full.jpg” crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252Fwikipedia%252Fcommons%252Fe%252Fe1%252FMike_Pompeo_transition_portrait_full.jpg%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fupload.wikimedia.org%26s%3D880%26h%3Dcab39cbaab86713f43cebe96a72aca20c792ca8c5fa31c3faf53c4b06a8f25ad%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3616767409%22%7D” expand=1 photo_credit=””]
In her speech, Mehrabi said the answers to Iran’s problem lie “within the Islamic republic.” “In our view, the solution is the deepening of democracy — democracy based on all people, all minority, workers, teachers, students, the forgotten layers of society,… and the poor,” she said.
Khamenei later added via Twitter: “I [understand] the feelings of that young person who says the situation is very bad. But I don’t support her comments at all.”
Mehrabi’s speech was praised by an editor of the hard-line Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, as “the peak of democracy” in Iran.
Others challenged such a claim, complaining that so long as media outlets are being shuttered, students banned from studies, and state broadcasters made to reflect the views of hard-liners, there cannot be talk of genuine democracy in Iran.
Mehrabi’s criticisms came amid frustration over the state of the economy, which sparked nationwide protests in December 2017, and January 2018, that quickly turned into protests against the Iranian establishment and the 78-year-old Khamenei himself.
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.
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.”
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.
“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.
The Syrian military said it has taken an enclave in Damascus from Islamic State (IS) militants that gives it full control of the capital for the first time since the civil war began in 2011.
The recapture of IS-held pockets in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk and the nearby Hajar al-Aswad district in southern Damascus on May 21, 2018, came after a massive bombing campaign that decimated the remains of the residential area where about 200,000 Palestinian refugees used to live.
The camp has been largely deserted following years of attacks and the last push on the Yarmuk camp came after civilians were evacuated overnight.
State TV showed troops waving the Syrian flag atop wrecked buildings in a destroyed neighborhood.
The gains by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces also allowed allied militia groups to secure areas outside the city near the border with Israel.
The Iranian-backed militias, including the Lebanese group Hezbollah, have been key — along with Russian air power — in aiding Syrian government forces to recapture huge areas around Damascus and in the country’s northern and central areas.
Iranian officials have pledged to remain in Syria despite calls by the United States, Israel, and others for it to remove its fighters.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told Assad at a meeting in Sochi in May 2018, that a political settlement in Syria should encourage foreign countries to withdraw their troops from Syria.
Putin’s envoy to Syria, Aleksandr Lavrentyev, said Putin was referring to, among others, Iranian forces.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened Iran on May 21, 2018, with the “strongest sanctions in history” if Tehran doesn’t change course and end its military involvement in other Middle East countries.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told reporters shortly before Pompeo spoke that Iran’s presence “in Syria has been based on a request by the Syrian government and Iran will continue its support as long as the Syrian government wants.”
On June 6, 1944, Onofrio “No-No” Zicari stormed Omaha Beach in one of the deadliest battles of World War II: D-Day. The 21-year-old New York native survived the sniper fire and artillery bombardment, enduring what he would later remember as one of the most harrowing memories of his life. The experience was so traumatic, it would give him nightmares for the remainder of his life. But at the suggestion of his caretaker and with the support of charitable donations, the 96-year-old Las Vegas resident is making his first trip back to France for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
“Maybe this will bring me some closure,” Zicari said. “So that’s why I’m going. Maybe there is something there that will help me put this all behind me. I’m 96 years old, how much longer can it go, you know?” he laughed. “Maybe I’ll see the beach.”
Zicari was offered the opportunity by Forever Young Senior Veterans, a nonprofit that organizes trips for veterans of U.S. wars, granting them an opportunity to return to the places they fought. Before he would accept the invitation, which includes joining a group of surviving World War II veterans to travel to several sites in Normandy, Zicari had one stipulation — he needed his caretaker and family friend Diane Fazendin to accompany him. “If she wasn’t going, then I wasn’t going,” he said. A GoFundMe set up for Zicari raised ,222, with nearly half of that coming from a donation from the Italian-American Club. With that amount, Fazendin can accompany Zicari throughout his journey, which begins June 3 and runs through June 10, 2019.
Onofrio “No-No” Zicari (left) mans a machine gun position.
However, the logistics of travel hasn’t been the only thing keeping the D-Day veteran from returning to France. The trauma of that day left Zicari with PTSD that continues to this day. “I was having nightmares, in fact, I just had one the other night. This all brings back a lot of memories for me,” he said.
To face those beaches again, Zicari found encouragement through his PTSD support group at VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System. The group of World War II, Korean, and Vietnam veterans meets every Friday, and enjoys camaraderie in addition to the peer support. “They’ve really helped me,” he said. “It was a huge relief for me when I found this group. It wasn’t until I moved to Nevada 30 years ago that I enrolled at this VA. Another Vet told me about the PTSD support groups at the VA. So I said, ‘alright, I’ll go.’ I was relieved when I was talking to the other veterans. They understood my feelings. And I’ve stayed right there with them for nearly 30 years.” When Zicari joined the group, there were six other World War II veterans who regularly attended the meetings. “Now it’s just me,” he said.
Zicari was drafted into the Army at the age of 19, where he trained to become a supply soldier. After training for months for desert warfare in preparation for deployment to Northern Africa, he soon found himself in Scotland and Wales, preparing for a completely different kind of warfare. His company began practicing for amphibious landings in preparation for the inevitable invasion of continental Europe in what would eventually come to be known as Operation Overlord. “We knew we would have to go, but we didn’t know when,” Zicari said. That day, June 6, 1944, would soon arrive. Despite months of preparation of training, nothing could prepare him for what would come. “The night before, we were joking around. We didn’t know what to expect. We were all gung ho. Until we landed, then it stopped.”
The next morning, Zicari’s unit arrived in Normandy in preparation to land on Omaha Beach – the most heavily defended area of five sectors allied infantry and armored divisions would land on during the D-Day invasion. “We were the fifth or sixth wave to hit Omaha Beach,” he said. “Our landing craft was knocked out, it took a couple of direct hits and killed a couple of sailors that were on board. The boat got grounded on a reef. After it beached, we had to get off and landed in the water and almost drowned. I was the ammo man for a machine gun crew, and I carried two boxes of ammo, another guy carried two barrels, one carried a magazine, one carried the tri-pod, it was the five of us. Our gunner lost the barrels. He didn’t want to drown, so he just dropped them. I had the ammo, and I said, ‘what am I going to do with this ammo?’ So, I let go of the ammo.”
Onofrio “No-No” Zicari (right) poses for a photo with Mickey Rooney (middle) and fellow soldiers.
Once Zicari finally got his head above water, he was struck by the chaos that laid in front of him. “We didn’t know where we were,” he said. “All we kept hearing was ‘gotta go inland, gotta go inland! Can’t go back!’ But we got pinned down there for quite a long time. We saw a lot of dead soldiers. It was havoc. I can’t explain what war is. We were all gung ho before we landed, but once we saw what was going on, I said ‘I want to go home.’ A lot of prayers were said on that day, believe me.”
Zicari was able to join up with the remainder of his outfit, but struggled to shake loose many of the horrors around him. “I was in shock. I was numb. I didn’t know what to do. Everybody was lost. I got pinned down by a pillbox, and we had shells landing all over. I got up and went alongside a landing craft that was beached. I looked over and I see this redheaded soldier, and he was sitting on his helmet. He got hit bad. He looked at me and just started to laugh, ‘I’m going home, I’m going home.’ Whether he made it home or not, I don’t know. But that stuck with me.”
After several hours of intense fighting, Zicari was wounded by a piece of shrapnel in the knee. Although the wound was relatively light, medics recommended he seek immediate care. “They wanted to send me back to the hospital ship, but I told them no. I didn’t want to lose my outfit.” Zicari said. “They might send me to the infantry, and I didn’t want to go to the infantry, that’s for sure.”
When the intensity of the battle had died down, and the Germans were pushed back from their positions on the beachhead, Zicari and his unit had the task of bringing the ammunition and supplies onto the beaches. While the initial intensity of the fighting had decreased, they still faced occasional artillery and sniper fire. But the worst job was soon to come. “On the third day, we had to go back and pick up the bodies and equipment on the beaches,” he said. “After that, I never went back again. It was too sad.”
After Normandy, Zicari continued fighting across France, even making it to Belgium and relieving the 101st Airborne following the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne and surrounding Ardennes Forest. But it was June 6 that would shape his memories of the war; memories that he hopes to put to rest 75 years later.
Onofrio “No-No” Zicari (middle) with his PTSD peer support group.
Following the war, Zicari moved to California with his wife, where they raised six children. His family became close friends with their neighbors, Fazendin and her husband. Even after the Zicaris moved to Nevada, they kept in touch. “We’ve been friends for many years,” said Fazendin, who currently lives in Florida and has acted as Zicari’s caretaker for a recent cruise and other short trips. This will be her first time traveling to Europe, and the furthest the two will travel together.
Zicari lives independently in his Las Vegas home, near much of his family. Even though he doesn’t own a cell phone or watch, he stays sharp by doing four crossword puzzles each day and completing woodworking projects. His garage is adorned with massive birdhouses and wooden trains that he has perfected over the years. He gets his socializing by meeting with his fellow veterans at the VA. His PTSD peer support group even meets up for a holiday meal at the Medical Center cafeteria. And it was with their encouragement, the help of his caretaker, and financial support of charitable donations that Zicari will finally be able to make his return to Omaha Beach in June 2019.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Fearing the US could drag it into a shooting war with China in the South China Sea, the Philippines is questioning its alliance with the US and pushing for a review of its decades-old defense treaty with Washington.
The nation’s top defense official said on March 5, 2019, that the government should review the mutual defense pact signed nearly seven decades ago, adding that the regional security environment has become “much more complex,” The New York Times reported on March 5, 2019.
“The Philippines is not in a conflict with anyone and will not be at war with anyone in the future,” Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said, adding that the US is much more likely to get involved in a war in the region than the Philippines is.
“The United States, with the increased and frequent passage of its naval vessels in the West Philippine Sea, is more likely to be involved in a shooting war … [and] the Philippines will be automatically involved,” Lorenzana said, referring to the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea.
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
The US Navy routinely conducts freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, sailing warships past Chinese-occupied features in a challenge to Beijing’s discredited claims. These operations, which have already occurred twice this year, infuriate Beijing and have led to confrontation.
The Philippine defense chief suggested, as his country has before, that the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty needs to be reexamined and in many places clarified.
“I do not believe that ambiguity or vagueness of the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty will serve as a deterrent. In fact, it will cause confusion and chaos during a crisis,” Lorenzana said.
On March 1, 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attempted to reassure a nervous US ally, stressing that the US would defend the Philippines in the event of armed conflict, but Manila, the Philippine capital, has its doubts.
“America said, ‘We will protect you. We will — your backs are covered, I’m sure.’ I said, ‘It’s okay,'” Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said March 3, 2019, according to the Philippine Star. “But the problem here is … any declaration of war will pass Congress. You know how b—s— America’s Congress is.”
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
Speaking on March 5, 2019, Lorenzana called attention to America’s failure to prevent the Chinese seizure and occupation of disputed territories in the South China Sea. “The US did not stop it,” he said.
But the biggest concern remains the possibility that the US could pull the Philippines into a war with China, something the country is determined to avoid.
“It is not the lack of reassurance that worries me,” Lorenzana said. “It is being involved in a war that we do not seek and do not want.” Manila has maintained a conciliatory stance toward China since Duterte took office in 2016, with the president repeatedly remarking that he is not interested in a war with China, as that is a war his country cannot win.
The country, however, continues to press Beijing on Chinese encroachment into areas considered Philippine territory.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Azerbaijani T-72’s lead BMP’s during the military exercises on May 20, 2020. (Photo by Azerbaijan Ministry of Defense/released)
At the end of May, the Azerbaijan Ministry of Defense announced the conclusion of their Large-Scale Operational-Tactical Exercises as part of their combat training plan for 2020. The week-long exercises included some 10,000 military personnel, 120 tanks and armored vehicles, 200 missile systems, 30 aviation units, and various unmanned aerial vehicles.
According to a statement from the Azerbaijan MOD, “During the exercise, the combat readiness, planning and operation of various military units will be developed, and the small and large scale capabilities of the strike groups will be checked.” The MOD released a statement at the conclusion of the exercises stating, “According to the exercises leadership’s evaluation, the troops fully achieved the goals assigned during the completed exercises. The military personnel amassed its practical experience and skills in carrying out combat operations and also demonstrated real abilities in the field.”
The Azerbaijani Military Exercises can be likened to exercises held at Fort Irwin, CA and Fort Polk, LA, the U.S. Army National Training Center and Joint Readiness Training Center respectively. Units come to these training centers to validate their planning, tactics, crews, and equipment in preparation for deployment.
However, rotations to NTC and JRTC were cancelled in March due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. The 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the Washington Army National Guard and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, NY were on deck for the now-cancelled NTC and JRTC rotations. In lieu of their training exercises, the 81st BCT was made available to Washington state governor Jay Inslee to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2nd BCT remained at Fort Drum to continue to train for their next mission. NTC and JRTC rotations have yet to be rescheduled.
Soldiers train for their worst day of combat in “The Box”. (U.S. Army photo from army.mil/released)
U.S. relations with Azerbaijan began immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union on December 25, 1991 when the U.S. formally recognized 12 former Soviet republics, including Azerbaijan, as independent states. In March 1992, respective embassies were opened in Washington and Baku. Due to its strategic location in the region, Azerbaijan has been an integral contributor in the War on Terror. The country has provided troops as well as overflight, refueling, and landing rights to U.S. and coalition aircraft in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Additionally, at the height of combat operations, over one-third of nonlethal equipment such as fuel, food, and clothing used by the U.S. military in Afghanistan traveled through Baku.
Relations have also been influenced by the ongoing dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region between Azerbaijan and Armenia. In 1988, the local Karabakh provincial government appealed to the Soviet Union to transfer them from the Azerbaijani SSR to the Armenian SSR. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Armenians in the Karabakh region and Armenia held spontaneous mass demonstrations, the first of their kind in the USSR, in support of the appeal. The demonstrations sparked clashes between Azeris and ethnic Armenians in the Karabakh region, which continued through the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Clashes turned into a bona fide war in January 1992 when the Nagorno-Karabakh parliament declared the region’s independence and intention to join with Armenia. Formal hostilities ended in May 1994 with a Russian-brokered ceasefire and the de facto independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh/Republic of Artsakh. However, the region is still recognized by most nations as part of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Consequently, clashes have continued to erupt along the border to this day.
Ethnic Armenians of the Artsakh Armed Forces conduct exercises in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. (Photo by the Artsakh Defense Ministry/released)
The Azerbaijani Military Exercises have raised alarm and garnered condemnation from the Armenian MOD.
“It is noteworthy that the exercises are exclusively offensive in nature, during which massive strikes of missile-artillery, aviation, and high-precision weapons at the operational depth of the enemy will be utilized,” the Armenian MOD stated, calling them, “a threat to the regional security environment.”
On May 20th, the U.S. Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) penned a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper expressing concern over the Azerbaijani Military Exercises and a 0 million allocation of U.S. security assistance to Azerbaijan. The letter was co-signed by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Jackie Speier (D-CA), Vice Chairs Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) as well as Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Jim Costa (D-CA), T.J. Cox (D-CA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), James Langevin (D-RI), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ),Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Tom Suozzi (D-NY) and Juan Vargas (D-CA). The full text of the letter to Secretaries Pompeo and Esper is reprinted below.
Dear Secretaries Pompeo and Esper:
We are gravely concerned about the military exercises reported to be held by the Republic of Azerbaijan from May 18 to 22, 2020. These exercises are dangerous, violate diplomatic agreements and have the potential to destabilize security in the South Caucasus at a time when the COVID-19 global pandemic has taken hundreds of thousands of lives and threatened the health of many more. We strongly urge the Department of State and the Department of Defense to condemn these egregious actions taken by the Azerbaijani military.
Even in normal circumstances, these exercises would be unacceptable due to their offensive nature and the failure to follow diplomatic notification practices. On May 14, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry released information describing military exercises that would take place from May 18 to 22. Azeri reports state that the exercises are expected to include 10,000 servicemen, 120 artillery and armored vehicles, 200 missile systems, 30 aviation units, and various unmanned aerial vehicles. The failure to provide adequate notification as prescribed under the 2011 Vienna Document and the size of the exercises demonstrates Azerbaijani President Aliyev’s intention of further aggravating historical tensions with the Republic of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.
We are especially concerned that over 0 million in security assistance the United States has sent to Azerbaijan over the last two years through the Section 333 Building Partner Capacity program has emboldened the Aliyev regime. This taxpayer funding defies almost two decades of parity in U.S. security assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan. The aid appears to have allowed Azerbaijan to shift resources toward offensive capabilities and further threaten Armenian lives and regional stability as the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues warned in letters sent to you in September and November of 2019.
We cannot allow Azerbaijan to use the global coronavirus pandemic as cover for these dangerous military operations. We urge you to immediately condemn the reckless actions of the Azerbaijani military and to work with our allies and international partners to halt the provocative actions being taken by the Aliyev Regime.
We look forward to your prompt reply to this request.
U.S. Representative Frank Pallone. (U.S. House of Representative Official Portrait, 113th Congress/released)
The following day, May 21, U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Lynne Tracy announced during a Facebook Live appearance that the Trump administration is ending USAID’s humanitarian Artsakh demining program. In response to criticism over the defunding of the program, Ambassador Tracy underscored the benefits of the demining program and its successes over the past 20 years, but noted that the U.S. is, “preparing populations for peace…to help toward that goal of achieving a lasting peaceful settlement of the conflict.”
For decades, this region and its inhabitants have navigated a tumultuous era of changing borders and armed conflict. The U.S. has had to walk a fine line between these two conflicting nations as they continue to clash, both politically and militarily, over this area in the Caucasus region. This path of attempted neutrality between the two nations may not be an option for the U.S. in the future if tensions continue to rise.
Nagorno-Karabakh Army T-72 tanks on parade. (Photo by the Nagorno-Karabakh Army/released)
Disclaimer: The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and the Republic of Artsakh refer to the same region. Nagorno-Karabakh is derived from the Soviet name for this region and recognized by Azerbaijan and the international community, while Artsakh is the Armenian name for this region and utilized by Armenians to advocate for the sovereignty of the region. The people of the region generally prefer the Republic of Artsakh, but both are technically correct.
Longtime politician Bob Dole, who was severely wounded in World War II by German gunfire, was honorably promoted to colonel May 16, 2019, in a private ceremony at the WWII Memorial.
Dole, 95, served as a captain in the 10th Mountain Division before pursuing a political career that included nearly 30 years as a U.S. senator for Kansas and the Republican presidential nominee in 1996.
Surrounded by the memorial’s pillars and arches, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley promoted Dole in front of a crowd of Dole’s friends and family and other Army leaders.
In its 244-year history, Milley noted, the Army has only honorably promoted three former officers. First, George Washington was promoted to general of the Armies, and then Lt. William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition was promoted to captain.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, left, and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, right, present former Sen. Bob Dole a wooden box with colonel rank in it during a honorary promotion ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., May 16, 2019.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
Dole is the only living recipient of such an Army promotion.
“I’ve had a great life and this is sort of icing on the cake. It’s not that I have to be a colonel; I was happy being a captain and it pays the same,” Dole said, jokingly.
While a student at the University of Kansas, a 19-year-old Dole volunteered for the Army Enlisted Reserve Corps in 1942. Six months later, he was called up to active duty and commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1944.
He later deployed to Europe where he served as a platoon leader fighting against Nazi Germans in the hills of Italy.
Former Sen. Bob Dole, left, with his childhood friend, Bub Dawson, in 1944. Dole received an honorary promotion at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., May 16, 2019.
On April 14, 1945, Dole’s company launched an attack, but a stone wall and a field of land mines trapped them in an exposed area, according to an excerpt on his 1996 presidential campaign website.
As a German sniper began to fire on his unit, Dole selected a group of soldiers to go with him to take out the sniper when his radioman was hit.
Dole, now on his stomach, pulled the wounded soldier across the battlefield into a foxhole. Seconds later, an enemy shell exploded, ripping into his right shoulder, shattering his collarbone and part of his spine while leaving his arm dangling.
Former Sen. Bob Dole addresses the crowd during his honorary promotion ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., May 16, 2019.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
“I lay face down in the dirt,” Dole said in the excerpt. “I could not see or move my arms. I thought they were missing.”
At first, Dole was paralyzed from the neck down and the Army sent him to a military hospital in Kansas so he could die near his home. Sensation slowly returned to his legs and left arm, but then he caught a fever of almost 109 degrees.
To save his life, doctors performed an emergency kidney operation.
“His war was over against the Nazis, but his fight was really just beginning,” Milley said.
Former Sen. Bob Dole stands at attention along with his wife, Elizabeth Dole, left, and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley during the playing of the National Anthem at Dole’s honorary promotion ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., May 16, 2019.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
It took nearly three years and nine operations for Dole to recover from his wounds, which left him without the use of his right arm and limited feeling in his left arm. He improvised ways to strengthen his arms, and even learned to write left-handed, according to the website.
Dole earned two Purple Heart medals and two Bronze Stars with valor and, in 1947, he was medically discharged from the Army as a captain.
“As we know, he persevered and healed and he went on to distinguish himself in the service of his country many, many times over in both the House of Representatives and the Senate,” Milley said.
Former Sen. Bob Dole, lower right, and his wife, Elizabeth Dole, pose for a photo with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey before Dole’s honorary promotion ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., May 16, 2019.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
Some of Dole’s legislative legacies, the general noted, include passing laws that made it easier for families to access food stamps, improvements to the Social Security program, extending the Voting Rights Act, and passing the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In April, President Donald Trump signed legislation to authorize Dole’s promotion after Army leadership was asked to review his service record and contributions to the nation’s defense.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, left, and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, right, present former Sen. Bob Dole a framed copy of the legislation to promote him to colonel during a ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., May 16, 2019.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
Dole was also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in January 2018 for his service to the nation as a “soldier, legislator and statesman.”
“Thank you all for being who you are and what you stand for,” Dole told the crowd, “and that you love America and you’re willing to fight for America, regardless of the consequences.”
Aircraft carriers are symbols of American military might, and, recently, a Chinese military professor caused a stir by calling for China to sink two of them to crush America’s resolve.
That’s certainly easier said than done.
The US military conducted a “Sink Exercise” test in 2005, using the decommissioned USS America for target practice to test the defensive capabilities of US carriers in order to guide the development of future supercarriers. The ship was bombarded repeatedly and hammered in a variety of attacks.
The carrier withstood four weeks of intense bombardment before it was finally sunk, according to The War Zone.
These leviathans of the seas are beacons of American power for a reason. China could knock one of the US’ 11 carriers out of the fight, but sinking one of these 100,000-ton warships is another thing entirely. That’s not to say it can’t be done. It’s just no simple task, experts told Business Insider.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) transits the Pacific Ocean.
(U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Kenneth Abbate)
“It wouldn’t be impossible to hit an aircraft carrier, but unless they hit it with a nuke, an aircraft carrier should be able to take on substantial damage,” said retired Capt. Talbot Manvel, who previously served as an aircraft engineer and was involved in the design of the new Ford-class carriers.
At 1,100 feet long, carriers are floating nuclear power plants, fuel tankers, bomb arsenals, and an airfield stacked atop each other like a layered cake. They are then surrounded by cruisers and destroyers to defend them from missiles, fighters, and torpedoes — even if that means sacrificing themselves.
China can bring a lot of firepower to a fight.
The Chinese military has a lot of different weapons it could throw at a US carrier in a war.
China has its “carrier killer” anti-ship ballistic missiles, such as the DF-21D and the DF-26, which are capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads, as well as a variety of anti-ship cruise missiles and torpedoes.
China would likely use missiles to suppress the carrier, using ballistic missiles to damage the air wing’s planes and wreck the flight deck, where planes launch and land. Weapons like cruise missiles, which can strike with precision, would likely be aimed at the hangar bay, superstructure, and maybe some of the airplanes, Bryan Clark, a former US Navy officer and defense expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), told Business Insider.
These targets are all far above the carrier’s waterline and are meant to knock the carrier out of the fight.
“If they really wanted to sink the carrier, they might have to turn to a torpedo attack,” he added. “Torpedo defense is hard, not really perfected, and so [torpedoes] actually end up being the more worrying threat.”
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) transits the South China Sea.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Jasen Morenogarcia)
US carriers are behemoths that are built to take a hit.
Displacing more than 100,000 tons, the US Navy’s Nimitz-class aircraft carriers are among the largest warships ever built. Their ability to take a beating “is a function of both their size and the compartmentalization of the carrier,” Clark explained.
“In the case of the USS America, the size alone resulted in it being pretty survivable,” he said before calling attention to some other aspects of the powerful ships.
Each carrier has a number of main spaces, which the crew would try to seal off should the carrier take a hit below the waterline, say from a torpedo. The ship is so incredibly large that it would take a number of these compartments filling up with water for the ship to sink.
The type of steel used on the ships also makes them difficult to penetrate, Manvel said. “It has an underbottom and side protection of several layers of steel.” There are also “voids that allow for warhead gas expansion.”
The extra armoring is also designed to keep damage from detonating the ship’s weapons magazines, where bombs and missiles are stored.
Additionally, the US Navy pays attention to how it moves weapons around the ship, keeping these bombs and missiles as protected as possible. And steps have been taken to reduce the number of hot surfaces that could ignite.
There are also a lot of redundant systems, which means that critical systems can be rerouted, making it hard to take out essentials, such as the propulsion system, which would leave the ship dead in the water if destroyed. As long as the ship can move, it can retreat if necessary.
“Given enough time and weapons, you can sink a carrier. But, if you have defenses, people doing damage control, and propulsion, the carrier can take damage and drive away to eventually come back,” Clark told BI.
US carriers “can take a lick and keep on ticking,” Manvel, who taught at the US Naval Academy, said.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) launches a rolling airframe missile (RAM).
US carriers and their escort ships are armed to the teeth.
Carriers and their escort ships are armed with sonar and torpedoes to prevent the stealthy boats from getting close enough for a torpedo attack. And the battle group is also armed with electronic countermeasures and kinetic interceptors for missile defense. They also have various close-in weapons systems to strike at incoming threats as a last resort.
Submarines are their gravest threat to sinking. Russian subs, for instance, are often armed with 1,000-pound torpedoes that were designed to destroy carrier groups, and it’s conceivable that enough fired at once and on target could sink a carrier.
For just this reason, the US has put a lot of effort into anti-submarine warfare, so US carrier strike groups have “the ability to put weapons on submarine contacts very quickly,” Clark told BI. Escort ships can launch torpedoes or rocket-fired torpedoes, and SH-60 helicopters can drop torpedoes or sonobuoys to track submarines.
The US has also put a greater emphasis on electronic warfare to prevent US carriers from being actively targeted by enemy missiles. The Chinese could “launch a weapon, but it may not be accurately targeted enough to actually hit” a moving carrier from 1,000 miles away, Clark further explained.
There is also a keen interest in improved missile-defense capabilities. “There are lots of ways to shoot it down with kinetic interceptors, like the SM-6, SM-2, Rolling Airframe Missile,” he added.
Of course, there is also the air wing, which could include up to sixty fighters, as well as a number of jammers, helicopters, and early-warning aircraft. “We have a pretty robust air wing that can go hundreds of miles out to provide a buffer for incoming stuff. It would take a lot to get through that,” Manvel said.
Ships with the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group and John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group transit the Philippine Sea during dual carrier operations.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila V. Peters)
American carriers are never alone in hostile waters.
“It’s important to put the carrier where it is least at risk … surrounded by the battle group,” Manvel said.
US aircraft carriers are surrounded by smaller ships, known as escorts. They sail in carrier strike groups consisting of at least one carrier, one cruiser, and one or two destroyers and are capable of unleashing a lot of firepower when needed.
They are exceptionally well defended. “You have to launch hundreds of weapons at the carrier strike group to even get a few of them through,” Clark explained. That doesn’t mean a strike group can’t be overwhelmed, though.
There’s a good chance China has the ability to do that. At a recent talk at The Heritage Foundation, Clark explained that China could hurl around 600 missiles downrange at a carrier group, which could, on a good day, down roughly 75% of the incoming Chinese weapons.
This, however, creates a dilemma for the Chinese military. The People’s Liberation Army has to make the hard decision on how many weapons it will throw away just to knock a carrier out for a few weeks, assuming it has merely been damaged and not sunk.
“Those weapons are gone. They don’t have them for some other part of the fight,” Clark said. “Maybe that is worth it to them. Maybe it’s not.”
And it’s likely in a war that the US would destroy these missile batteries with bombers and long-range missiles before it sends a carrier into their range.
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) pulls alongside the Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), during a fueling at sea.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila Peters)
To strike a killing blow, China has to get close, really close.
China has decent torpedoes, and their submarines are increasingly capable. But whether or not they are good enough to slip past the defenses of a carrier strike group to deliver the kill shot to a US carrier is debatable.
In 2006, a Chinese Song-class submarine reportedly managed to skirt the defenses of the USS Kitty Hawk strike group, surfacing within firing range of the carrier as it sailed through the East China Sea, according to a report by The Washington Times, some details of which have been called into question. The incident reportedly caused the US Navy to reevaluate its approach to Chinese subs.
The US Navy can put a lot of fire on a submarine very quickly, and because submarines tend to be rather slow with limited defenses, the enemy submarine could retreat only once it was spotted.
“Once a submarine has been detected and you start throwing weapons at it, it pretty much has to leave because it is too slow to evade, it doesn’t have a lot of self-defense, and it doesn’t have the sensors necessary to stand and fight,” Clark told BI.
The big question is: Will the US Navy strike group be able to spot an enemy submarine before it manages to get a shot off?
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As Pyongyang continues to erode mountains with weapon tests and exchange fiery rhetoric with President Trump, the U.S. Army has been hard at work prepping for the possibility of open conflict by creating a strategic megabase.
3,500 acres of space, housing for 36,000 inhabitants, and $11 billion worth of recent renovations: Welcome to Camp Humphreys. In addition to an airstrip, communication facilities, and barracks, the base, about 40 miles south of Seoul, houses shops, schools, churches — and even a golf course.
Nice amenities aside, you might be wondering why, with an existing 174 bases in South Korea, the U.S. Army needed such a powerhouse. The answer is two-fold:
1. Consolidating Forces
Camp Humphreys is located just a few miles both from Osan Air Base and Pyeongtaek harbor. Whether forces and assets are coming in via air or sea, they’re just a short jaunt from this megabase, making it an ideal waystation for troops funneling into the peninsula and moving toward the front.
Expanding Camp Humphreys is also a way for the US to consolidate forces in the country. Just a little over a decade ago, forces were spread across over 170 bases in South Korea. With a bolstered Camp Humphreys, the U.S. is on track to reach their goal of dividing forces among under 100 bases by 2020. Plus, if conflict does open up, the U.S. will have a single, central meeting place for quick communications and decision-making.
2. Moving the Battlefield
Previously, the U.S. Army garrison at Yongsan in Seoul was seeing heavy use. While it’s good to maintain a force in South Korea’s capital, it’s probably not a good idea to keep your primary base within range of Northern artillery lined up along the border.
Additionally, the North has threatened (as they love to do) to attack key military installations — going as far as to honor Camp Humphreys with the distinction of target #1. Moving the North’s bullseye south, away from civilian-dense Seoul, just makes good sense for the unlikely event that Kim Jong-un makes good on a threat.
Although it’s out of artillery range, as a prime strategic target, Camp Humphreys needs to be protected from North Korean ballistics. To this end, the base is protected by Patriot Air-Defense missiles installed at Osan Air Base and THAAD missiles further to the south.
Of course, the best outcome in Korea doesn’t involve open conflict. However, nobody prepares for the best and an expanded Camp Humphreys has been ramped up to deal with the worst if it comes.
Air Force veteran, founder of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and absolute giant of a man, Frank Shankwitz, passed away earlier this week at the age of 77.
This is his story.
To say Frank Shankwitz had a rough childhood is an understatement. Shankwitz was born in Chicago and his mother left him when he was young. His grandparents took him, which he recalled as “happy times,” until one day his mother kidnapped him off a playground and told him they were heading back to Arizona.
They stopped in Michigan for five years.
When he was 10, they finally reached a tiny town in Arizona on Route 66. “We were broke,” Shankwitz said. “We had no gas, no food, no money, but a family took us in. We slept on their kitchen floor. It was the first time we’d ever been permanent somewhere, kitchen floor or not. A man named Juan became like a father-figure to me, and he introduced me to the idea of giving back. This was the 1950s – ‘give back’ was not a real popular term yet. But he taught me that you can always give back. It doesn’t have to be money – it can be your time or your talents.”
In the seventh grade, Shankwitz’s mom informed him that she could no longer afford to keep him; she was moving and he needed to find a new place to live.
Juan found him a place to stay in town with a widow and Shankwitz paid the weekly rent by finding a job as a dishwasher that paid per week. “All of a sudden I had an extra a week,” he said. “Juan taught me how to turn a negative into a positive and that has been something I’ve carried with me through my entire career.”
Shankwitz went to the Air Force after high school. “It was the Vietnam era,” he recalled, “but they decided I needed to protect England. I remember when we were informed we were not to wear our uniforms during traveling – they were afraid we’d offend the public. I’m so proud today to see our service members wearing their uniforms at airports. I love hearing people thanking them and clapping for them. You should never be embarrassed of the uniform. It’s so important that our military always be proud of their service.”
Following his time with the Air Force, Shankwitz went to work for Motorola. He describes himself then as “somewhat of an adrenaline junkie,” so when a friend of his suggested joining the Arizona Highway Patrol, he jumped at the chance. Shankwitz got involved with the Special Olympics in his off time. “I began to think about Juan,” he shared, “and how maybe I was starting to give back. I enjoyed that so much.” At work, Shankwitz was asked to join a motorcycle patrol that traveled to schools to teach kids about bike safety and he felt like he was getting closer to where he needed to be in serving others.
In 1978, Shankwitz was in a high speed chase with a drunk driver when another drunk driver broadsided him going 80 miles per hour. “I was pronounced dead immediately,” he explained, “and they’d already radioed in ‘963, Officer killed in the line of duty.’ An emergency room nurse from California stopped at the scene and did CPR for four minutes, and brought me back to life. I love California! They said the crash was spectacular. I’d gone through the tunnel and I saw the light. And then I came back. I remember when my senses came back. The sense of smell was first. I smelled this very nice perfume. Then the sense of touch; something was tickling my face. Then the sense of hearing – sirens all around and someone saying, ‘We’ve lost him.’ Last was the sense of sight. And I saw that a beautiful blonde had her lips locked on me and I thought it was heaven! Later, I was told I was saved for a purpose, and that God believed I had more to do. I needed to find out what that purpose was.”
Not two years later, Shankwitz received a radio call from his dispatcher saying she needed him to find the nearest telephone, which was 40 miles away. She put him through to a border patrol agent who had an assignment for him. Shankwitz remembers verbatim: ‘There’s a little boy named Chris. He’s 7 years old. He has leukemia, and he has 2 weeks to live. He likes to watch a show called CHiPs and he wants to be a motorcycle cop just like Ponch and Jon. We’re going to pick him up and have you standing by so he can meet a real motorcycle cop.’ I was in. I got on the bike and flew to the hospital.”
When the helicopter landed, Shankwitz was surprised that Chris wasn’t super sick looking. “Instead,” he said, “this tiny pair of red sneakers jumped out and came running over. He knew every button and switch on that motorcycle. I am watching him thinking, ‘He’s a typical 7 year old, and yet he’s going to die.’ Then I saw his mom, tears in her eyes, seeing her little boy again instead of just this sick patient. Chris became the first and only honorary officer of the Arizona Highway Patrol. We felt pretty good about what we’d done but we knew there was more for him.”
The troopers rallied around Chris. “We went to the uniform store, and asked if they could make Chris his own uniform,” Shankwitz said. “Two women spent all night custom-making a uniform for him. The next morning, we took several motorcycles and cars, lights going, and brought the uniform to him and a smokey hat. He was ecstatic. He asked if he was an official motorcycle police officer, but we told him that he had to earn his wings. We set up traffic cones for him in his driveway and gave him a test, which of course he passed.”
Chris told Shankwitz, “I’m so happy my wish is coming true.” It was the first time Shankwitz had really ever heard that: “my wish.”
Shankwitz and his team went to pick up the custom-made wings they had commissioned for Chris when he got a radio call: the little boy had been taken to the hospital and was in a coma. Shankwitz was devastated.
“We took the wings to his room anyway,” he said, “and just as I pinned his wings on the uniform, Chris came out of the coma. He started giggling. ‘Am I a motorcycle officer now?’ he asked. I told him yes. A few hours later he passed away. I like to believe those wings carried him to heaven.”
The Arizona Highway Patrol did a full police funeral for Chris. Shankwitz explained, “In Chris, we lost a fellow officer that day. When we got to Illinois where he was going to be buried, we were pulled over by the Illinois State Police. When we told them what we were doing, they escorted us. We were met at the cemetery by Illinois Police, all in dress uniform. Like I said, we lost a fellow officer that day.”
“Chris was buried in his uniform. His tombstone reads Chris Greicius, Arizona Trooper. It was a truly unbelievable sight. When we got home, we asked, ‘Why can’t we do this for other children?’ And Make-A-Wish was born. It started with in a bank account. There are now 60 chapters in the United States and Make-A-Wish International has 39 affiliates, serving children in nearly 50 countries on five continents. Over 500,000 wishes have been granted.
Shankwitz said, “Every 34 minutes a child gets a wish, because of one little boy. Never underestimate the difference one person can have on the world.”
More about Frank Shankwitz and the Make-A-Wish Foundation can be found in his memoir, Wish Man, which has also been developed into a movie by the same title, available on Netflix. Rest in peace, good sir.