This special operator was a real life 'Jason Bourne' - We Are The Mighty
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This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’

They called him “the East European.”


He was a former Delta Force operator who’d taken a career turn into the shadowy world of “non-official cover” intelligence operations for the Army. He lived in the shadows — traveling around the world to build and maintain his cover as a businessman, with members of his former unit wondering where he’d gone.

But on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the East European executed a daring mission on behalf of America’s top commando units, driving into the heart of Saddam Hussein’s power and surveilling his most fearsome tool of the Iraqi dictator’s oppression.

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’
The East European conducted clandestine electronic surveillance deep inside Baghdad with no official cover. (DOD photo)

The stunning story of the East European is detailed in Sean Naylor’s book “Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command.” The operator is said to have been an original member of Delta Force and was on the ill-fated Eagle Claw mission to rescue American hostages in Tehran. Born in Eastern Europe, the elite commando was said to be a “funny, outgoing guy with a heavy accent,” Naylor writes.

The operator left the assaulter side of Delta and worked in the Training, Evaluation and Operational Research office of the unit, which among other things develops high-tech gadgets for Delta commandos to use on covert missions. Later, the East European descended into the shadowy world of a NOC.

These intelligence agents, Naylor writes, were playing a dangerous game. They could infiltrate countries where Americans dared not travel under a realistic cover, but if they were caught, they had no ready support and no diplomatic immunity like CIA officers do. The East European had traveled to Iran in hopes of recruiting military sources there and had even worked inside Iraq in the 1990s as part of the United Nations’ search for WMD. His cover was maintained by a U.S.-allied country in Eastern Europe, and he’d even had access to that country’s embassy in Baghdad, Naylor explained.

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’
Inspectors and other IAEA staff prepare for the resumption of inspections in Iraq 18 Nov, 2002. (Photo Credit: Mark Gwozdecky / IAEA)

But it was after the attacks on 9/11, that the East European was given his most dangerous mission yet.

It was a typical drive from Amman to Baghdad for the American agent, but the vehicle he was driving into Saddam’s capital wasn’t typical at all. The SUV that would carry him into the city was bristling with surveillance equipment implanted by the National Security Agency. The super-secret listening devices were designed to capture cellphone and handheld radio traffic and send the signals back to the U.S. for analysis, Naylor writes.

The East European simply parked the SUV in front of the Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad and left it there. Military intelligence operatives hoped to get tips on Iraqi military positions just before the invasion and track the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein.

“If you were trying to establish every time that Saddam Hussein’s personal security detail drove around Baghdad, this was a way of doing that,” a Joint Special Operations command officer told Naylor. “The Iraqis were notoriously poor at OPSEC.”

After leaving the vehicle at Iraqi intel HQ, the East European walked the streets of Baghdad with a special GPS device, tagging targets in the Iraqi capital for airstrikes.

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’
The East European pinpointed targets deep inside Baghdad for U.S. bombers during the ‘Shock and Awe’ campaign. (Photo from Democracy Now)

“Such missions entailed enormous risk, not only from the Iraqi security services if the agent was compromised, but from the bombing campaign itself,” Naylor wrote. “Protecting him required careful, up-to-the-minute planning of the airstrikes.”

So if it wasn’t the Mukhabarat that could bring death and destruction to the East European, it was American bombs.

The East European quietly exfiled from Iraq after the invasion and served several more years in military-related intelligence services. But that drive into the heart of Baghdad shows that the feats of Hollywood superstars like Jason Bourne aren’t entirely the stuff of fiction.

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ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

Members of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), made up of an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters, inspect the Tabqa dam on March 27, 2017, which has been recently partially recaptured, as part of their battle for the jihadists’ stronghold in nearby Raqa.


Clashes raged around a key northern Syrian town on Tuesday after the Islamic State group launched a counter-attack to fend off a U.S.-backed advance near the jihadists’ stronghold Raqa.

Backed by air power from an international coalition bombing, the Syrian Democratic Forces are laying the groundwork for an assault on the heart of the jihadists’ so-called “caliphate.”

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’
ISIS has a history of targeting Kurds and their allies. (Dept. of Defense photo)

A key part of the campaign is the battle for the ISIS-held town of Tabqa on the Euphrates River, as well as the adjacent dam and military airport.

The SDF seized the Tabqa airbase late Sunday and began pushing north towards the town itself, but ISIS fighters doubled down on their defenses on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“The fighting is a result of ISIS launching a counter-offensive to exhaust the Syrian Democratic Forces around the Tabqa military airport,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

He said the SDF was working to “consolidate its positions” near the airport ahead of a final push for the town.

SDF fighters are also bearing down on the Tabqa dam after capturing its northern entrance on Friday from ISIS fighters.

The fight around the structure has been backed by forces from the US-led coalition, with American-made armoured vehicles bearing the markings of the U.S. Marine Corps seen moving along a nearby road.

An AFP correspondent at the dam on Tuesday said it was generally quiet around the dam itself, despite the occasional ISIS-fired mortar that landed in SDF-controlled parts of the riverbank.

Airplanes could be heard humming above as SDF forces patrolled the northern entrance of the structure.

On Tuesday, coalition forces could be seen standing near military vehicles less than one mile from the dam, their mortar rounds casually stacked nearby.

After a brief pause in fighting on Monday to allow technicians to enter the dam complex, SDF fighters resumed their operations around the structure, said spokeswoman Jihan Sheikh Ahmed.

“ISIS amassed its fighters and attacked our forces in the area, which forced us to respond and resume the operations to liberate the dam,” she said.

Earlier this year, the United Nations raised concern about the prospect of damage to the dam in fighting, warning that water levels — which put pressure on the structure — were already high.

ISIS has also issued warnings through its propaganda agency Amaq that the dam “is threatened with collapse at any moment because of American strikes and a large rise in water levels”.

On Tuesday, technicians accompanied by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent could be seen examining the dam to assess whether water levels had risen in recent days.

“The explosions and the clashes are threatening the dam, and we ask for all sides to distance themselves from it,” said Ismail Jassem, an engineer from the SDF-controlled Tishreen Dam in neighbouring Aleppo province.

“The water levels are acceptable now. We came to open up one of the gates to relieve the pressure,” he told AFP.

The SDF launched its offensive for Raqa city in November 2016, seizing around two thirds of the surrounding province, according to the Britain-based Observatory.

At their closest point, the forces are just five miles from Raqa city, to the northeast.

But they are mostly further away, between ten to fifteen miles from Raqa.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of source on the ground in Syria, said ISIS had deployed around 900 fighters from Raqa city to various fronts in the wider province.

“Fighting is raging on every front around the city of Raqa, accompanied by non-stop air strikes,” Abdel Rahman said.

Syria’s conflict began with protests against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011 but has turned into a brutal war pitting government forces, jihadists, rebels, and Kurds against each other.

UN-mediated talks between government and rebel representatives continued Tuesday in Geneva, aimed at bringing an end to the war that has killed 320,000 people.

MIGHTY TRENDING

10 things you need to know about dating someone in the military


They move fast.

This may not go for everyone, but typical military life usually means being away for months at a time. Because of this unique schedule, members of the armed forces tend to move on different romantic timelines than the average Joe. Often, that equates to getting a lot more serious a lot more quickly.

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’

Being in the military might run in the family.

There are plenty of young adults who opt to join the military all on their own. That said, it’s not uncommon for military life to be passed down through generations. Serving one’s country is a badge of pride in many families. What does that mean for you? If you decide to settle down with someone in the armed forces, be prepared for your own kids to follow a similar path.

They’ll love you, but they also love their country– a lot.

Even if military life is completely new to you (or even seems a little crazy), respecting their decision to serve their country is non-negotiable. They’re doing it to protect not just you, but everyone else, too. That’s a lot of love!

You might have to move, more than once. 

The military brat title exists for a reason. It’s not uncommon for military families to have to hop from base to base over the years, so prepare yourself for that possibility.

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joshua W. Brown

They’ll be gone often.

This goes without saying, but their schedules won’t be predictable. They’ll be gone for major holidays and life events, and you won’t have a say. If you can’t roll with the punches, stay out of the military dating game.

Their squad will be their second family. 

Seriously. Whether they’re in the Army, the Navy, the Marines, or the Air Force, they learn right off the bat to stand by their team. They have each other’s backs, for better or worse. They’re responsible for getting each other home safely. When your partner’s battle buddies (brothers and sisters, really), are around, embrace it and give them time to catch up.

They may keep a few secrets.

The harsh reality is that veterans have seen a lot more than most civilians can imagine. They’ve seen pain, made tough calls, and experienced a different kind of heartbreak. When they return, they may not want to talk about it. If they seem like a closed door, don’t take it personally. They probably don’t want to burden you with difficult memories, and they may not be ready to relive them. It can take time to open up! At the end of the day, some secrets might just stay secret…and you have to be okay with that.

Complete strangers will take over your lives.

In a way, the government will dictate where you live. Where your kids go to school. When you can take that family vacation. People you’ve never met will decide whether your partner is home for the holidays. Flexibility is a must, as is loyalty. Starting a life with someone in the military means that you, too, will live a military lifestyle. Before you take that leap, make sure you can handle it!

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie

Being a military spouse is scary.

When your partner is deployed, nothing is guaranteed. You can pray they are safe, but you can’t always be sure. It’s scary, but it also makes their return home so much sweeter. You really learn to cherish every moment together.

When they’re home, they’re all yours.

If members of the armed services know one thing, it’s devotion. Life with them may be complicated, but it will be filled with adventure, new experiences, and lots of love.


Feature image: U.S. Marine Corps

MIGHTY HISTORY

The insanely lucky sub that changed naval warfare in one fight

U-boats were still in their infancy in 1914, and most naval officers looked down on the fleet. At best, they were considered defensive weapons that could help hold an enemy fleet away from the coasts. But then, on Sept. 22, 1914, a German U-boat saw a cluster of three British warships and managed to sink them all in under 90 minutes without suffering damage.


The September engagement took place while the war was less than two months old. The three British cruisers were old and considered unreliable. They were so fragile, in fact, that many naval leaders had argued they shouldn’t be assigned to the North Sea at all, but they were overruled. The three vessels and their escorts became known as the “Livebait Squadron.”

Despite the ships’ flaws, though, the crews did know how to mitigate their risk of submarine attack, mostly through zigzagging and posting lookouts to watch for periscopes or surfaced vessels, but they didn’t take those precautions.

The seas were rough, too rough for their destroyer escort, and so the British officers assumed they were too rough for submarines. This wasn’t entirely off base. Submarines rode close to the surface or even above it most of the time, and the water tossed around the boats quite easily. America’s future Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz, who spent a lot of time on submarines early in his career, would complain about how badly the boats were battered by the waves.

But for the crew members of the German boat U-9, it was just a cross they had to bear. It wasn’t like they could slip back to Germany every time the waves got bad. So, on September 22, they were still in their assigned zone, riding close to the surface and sucking up any pain, when the Livebait Squadron came into view.

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’

A painting depicts the HMS Aboukir sinking after being hit by the U-9 in 1914. The other two ships would sink within an hour.

(National Museum of the U.S. Navy)

And when they spotted the three British cruisers, none of them zigzagging to make their shot harder, they decided to go ahead and rob the Royal Navy of one of those big, important ships. The captain, Kapitänleutnan Otto Weddigen, ordered two torpedoes fired at the lead vessel, the HMS Aboukir.

One of them struck home, setting off a massive explosion that unquestionably doomed the ship. But no one had spotted the tell-tale stream of bubbles from the torpedo as it had raced to the ship in the rough seas, and so the ship’s captain just assumed he had hit a mine. He signaled to the other ships for assistance.

On the German U-boat, it must have looked like a gift from heaven. If the cruisers had realized they were under attack and set up to sink the U-boat, then the U-9 would have had to choose between bailing on the fight, diving for a few minutes or hours, and risk sinking in the engagement. But since the cruisers just lowered their lifeboats and didn’t prepare for combat, the U-9 could take another consequence-free swing at Livebait.

Weddigen fired next at the HMS Hogue, dooming that ship as well. By this point, the remaining ship, HMS Cressy understood it was under attack and deployed torpedo defense batteries and began to sail in a zigzag pattern, but it stayed in the area to try and rescue more sailors. This was a mistake.

At 7:20 and then 7:30, Weddigen fired torpedoes that sank it, and then watched it drop beneath the waves. Low on ammo and already successful beyond his wildest dreams, Weddigen turned for home.

On the surface, Dutch and English ships raced to save all the sailors they could, including 15-year-old Kit Wykeham-Musgrave of the HMS Aboukir. He had barely survived the suction of the first ship sinking, had been rescued by the crew of the Hogue and made it onboard right before that ship was sank, and then climbed onto the Cressy only to have it shot out from under him as well.

Almost 1,400 enlisted men and 62 officers would not be so lucky, drowning in the rough and cold water of the North Sea instead.

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’

The HMS Aboukir sinks after being hit by the German submarine U-9.

(Public domain)

The German sailors were greeted as heroes in their home port. The entire crew received Iron Crosses Second Class, and the captain was awarded that medal as well as the Iron Cross First Class. But in Britain, the people were furious and demanded that senior Navy leadership be held accountable.

For Weddigen, the success would be sweet. He received his medals from the Kaiser personally and wrote a memoir titled The First Submarine Blow is Struck. (His success on September 22, while revolutionary, was not actually the first “submarine blow” as both the German and British navies had already each lost a cruiser to the other side’s submarines.)

But he would not long enjoy his fame. While the U-9 would rack up 18 kills before retiring in 1916, Weddigen was soon re-assigned to U-boat 29. While attacking British ships in March 1915, the boat was spotted by the famous British battleship HMS Dreadnought which proceeded to ram and sink the German submarine, killing Weddigen.

(A final admin note: Weddigen claims in his memoirs to have fired only four torpedoes that day: one at the Aboukir, one at the Hogue, and two at the Cressy, all of which hit. This might have been true, but his memoirs reek of propaganda and were written in the late months of 1914 when his fame was peaking. Naval historians think it is more likely that he fired six and had four hits.)

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how Sam Adams will help launch your vet-owned business

Do you love beer? Do you love money? Are you a military veteran who owns a business? Would you like to improve your business strategy and learn from experts through mentoring in essential business disciplines, such as social media, sales and distribution, marketing, and package design?

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, then listen up. The StreetShares Foundation is teaming up with Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream to provide the military and veteran-community with access to capital and mentoring through StreetShares’ Veteran Small Business Awards.


The StreetShares’ Veteran Small Business Award will provide $100,000 in business grants to the chosen recipient in addition to educational resources and support. By connecting you with experts and hosting speed-coaching events all across the country, StreetShares gets to help you, a veteran and entrepreneur, succeed!

To apply, submit a video pitch and short application to the StreetShares Foundation website. In your application, be sure to include a business idea, how you’d use reward funds, how your product or service fits your target market, team and company history, and how your business impacts the military and veteran community.

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’

(The StreetShares Foundation Twitter)

About the StreetShares Foundation

The StreetShares Foundation was launched on Veterans Day, 2016, with the goal of educating, inspiring, and supporting veteran business owners across America. The Foundation is run by veterans and is based just outside of our nation’s capital.

“Research shows military veterans give back to their communities in powerful ways. But studies also show this special breed of entrepreneurs need coaching and better mentor networks,” said StreetShares Foundation Board Member, Mark L. Rockefeller. “Our partnership with Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream addresses these needs head-on. Together, we’ll provide community-impact veteran business owners with free coaching, mentoring, and grants to put their dreams in motion.”

For more information, visit their website.

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’

(Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream)

About Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream

Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream is a philanthropic program that embodies Sam Adams’ pursuit for greatness by providing food and beverage startups with real-world business advice. Since 2008, they’ve provided coaching and loans to over 40 breweries across the country totaling more than id=”listicle-2557006807″ million.

Articles

Vets First helped this former airman build her spiritual home

“It is neither your title nor your name that defines you, but what is written on your heart.”


Rene Locklear White has held many titles: lieutenant colonel; Air Force veteran; wife; mother; Native American religious leader.

But none of these things define her.

Serving as a space satellite surveillance officer, White says, “I spent 22 years in the Air Force. Proudly. Happily.”

That pride and that happiness are what define her more than anything.

With her husband, Chris “Comeswithclouds” White, White runs Sanctuary on the Trail, a Native American Christian church in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. The church has five key areas of focus this year, the Spirit Speaks Forum, arts and culture advancement, disaster relief, human rights advocacy, and veteran wellness.

The focus on veteran wellness doesn’t jut apply to spiritual wellness, but to physical wellness. Together, the Whites work with veterans to understand their benefits and to get wounded warrior care for themselves and their families.

Comeswithclouds built their house with his son, Jacob, and the home is a beautiful reflection of who they are.

“We can honor nature and be a part of it, all the time,” White said. “The house is built, but now we’re.. building the community,” Comeswithclouds noted.

Currently, the family hosts Ceremony at their home, inviting members and strangers alike to experience the land in its purest, untouched state. The way Native Americans thousands of years before them did.

For more information, visit Sanctuaryonthetrail.org.

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Drink ’em if you got ’em: 5 alcoholic beverages with military health benefits

Drinking in the military is rather common (and always in moderation), as anyone who’s served long enough to make it to the barracks knows.


This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’

Everyone has their own reasons to imbibe (fun, tradition, bets, etc.), but perhaps the most important reason is for health reasons. Here are five alcoholic beverages with little-known health benefits.

1. Gin and Tonic

Health Benefit: Anti-malarial

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’

The Gin and Tonic was created by the army of the British East India Company to give to soldiers serving in India and other tropical locations where malaria was common. The tonic of the time had large quantities of quinine, a malaria preventative, dissolved in it and thus tasted terribly bitter. To compensate, the soldiers mixed their daily gin ration with sugar and lime into the tonic water to make it more palatable. Unfortunately, the quinine levels of tonic have been severely reduced so Gin and Tonics won’t be making a comeback as a replacement for the dreaded malaria pills.

2. Red Wine

Health Benefit: Anti-Radiation

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’
Maybe they never smile because their teeth are stained red.

Well ahead of their time, the Soviet Navy issued a ration of red wine to its sailors onboard nuclear submarines because it decreased radiation absorption (or more likely calmed the nerves and stomachs of sailors being exposed to radiation on their shoddy submarines… remember K-19?) As it turns out, they were correct to give the sailors red wine. The results of a 2008 study show that resveratrol, a natural anti-oxidant in red wine, can protect cells from radiation damage. So talk to your CBRNE NCO to see if he has any anti-radiation medicine stashed in his office.

3. Rum

Health Benefit: Mental Well-Being

Anyone who has ever served aboard a ship at sea knows life can be tough, but todays modern amenities make things much more bearable. For early sailing ships heading out over the horizon, this was not the case. Enter alcohol. Originally the sailors were served beer but it had a tendency to spoil, so it was replaced by spirits, in particular, rum.

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’
The daily ration was apparently a bucket.

To help the sailors cope with the tough life of sailing they were given a daily ration of rum (known to the British Empire as a ‘tot‘). It is also likely that sailors were given the rum to steady their nerves before a battle. Much to the dismay of sailors, rum rations were discontinued some time ago, with the Royal New Zealand Navy being the last to do so in 1990.

4. Beer

Health Benefit: Surviving life in the military

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’
All the cool kids do it.

While this may sound like either a no brainer or a stretch, the benefits of beer for troops are numerous. First of all, beer has been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure. While all the PT troops do helps, the beer helps relieve stress, which is a major cause of high blood pressure and every service member knows the military is a stressful place. Speaking of PT, drinking beer can help prevent fractures and improve bone density, relieve joint pain, and has been shown to be a better post-workout recovery than water. Beer can also help fight colds and infections. Finally, drinking beer has been shown to decrease the risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia and can improve creativity. But remember: all of this is when consumed in moderation, so take it easy on the case in your wall locker.

5. Whiskey

Health Benefit: Weight loss

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’
Pictured: Fat Burning supplements.

Have you been enjoying the health benefits of beer a little too much, noticed that your run time is suffering and you are having trouble passing height and weight? Have no fear, whiskey is here to save the day! Whiskey, already a favorite of American troops, has many of the same health benefits of beer without the calories or cholesterol. Whiskey also has the added benefit of containing antioxidants, which fight cancer and aging. So if you need to get back into fighting shape, pass on the beer and get some good old fashioned American whiskey.

Articles

Did you know that US troops can take a 3-year break from their service?

In a little-known personnel policy, members of the armed forces can take a so-called “intermission” from their service contract if they feel that the military is holding back their personal development.


The Air Force is launching its third iteration of the “Career Intermission Program,” or CIP, which allows airmen to take a sabbatical from their Air Force career while they pursue what Air Force Times calls “personal goals.”

“Some women leave the Air Force because they want to start a family,” Lt. Gen. Samuel Cox told the Times in 2014. “So why don’t we have a program that allows them, in some cases, to be able to separate from the Air Force for a short period, get their family started and then come back in?”

The Air Force does not consider the reasons for wanting to take time off when deciding who to admit into the new program, which has been in development for a few years. While starting a family was one of the primary ideas for implementing the pilot program, higher education quickly became the primary motivation.

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’
Capt. Tamiko Gheen carries her son, Gavin, while hiking. Gheen is taking three years away from the Air Force through the service’s Career Intermission Program. She’s expecting her second child and hopes to get a master’s degree while spending more time with her family during the break.

In the first year of the CIP program, 70 percent of airmen opted to go back to school with the remainder leaving to start families or take care of ailing relatives.

All branches of the military were authorized for such programs in the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), at the Navy’s request.

The Marine Corps started its program in 2013 with the Army following suit in 2014. The Navy program offered retention of full health and dental coverage, continued commissary and base shopping privileges and a payment of a small reserve stipend. Other branches used that as a guide for their own programs.

Career Intermission puts participants into the Individual Ready Reserve with limited benefits before they are returned to active duty at the end of their program. They are also required to maintain all service branches’ health and fitness standards and periodically check in to their respective services. The catch is that any military member in their service’s CIP is required to serve an additional two months of Active Duty for every month on the CIP.

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’
Lt. Cmdr. Danielle Leiby took the time to start a family.

In 2015, 59 airmen — 22 officers and 37 enlisted — applied to the Air Force program. The application window for the second round closed at the end of August 2015, and a panel convened at the end of September to choose who will begin those sabbaticals. The program is limited to 20 enlisted and 20 officers per service.

Congress may potentially extend the program to 400, again, at the Navy’s request. Sgt. Major of the Army Dan Dailey thinks the caps in place are there for a reason.

“You don’t want to punish people for doing it, but you don’t necessarily want to sell it, either, because not everybody can do it,” Dailey told the Army Times. “There’s always going to be a limit to those things.”

Troops in critical functions or accepting critical skills retention bonuses are not considered for the CIP, although exceptions can be made for hardship situations. It’s also important to check the service-specific guidelines for application. The Army’s CIP is limited to NCOs. Acceptance and benefits to the program are at the discretion of the individual service secretaries.

 

The window to apply for the third iteration of the Air Force CIP is now open.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How these Vietnam War veterans honor Old Glory

Tony Garcia knew he was in trouble. He was diagnosed with PTSD and was starting to understand why he was feeling disconnected and depressed – but he was still feeling alone in his experiences as a Vietnam War veteran.

“We were trained to be a sharp blade for fighting,” Garcia said, “but we were never shown how to come back home. I felt like nobody understood me.”

The years of silently dealing with his time in Vietnam as a soldier had nearly caught up to Garcia when he started attending weekly group counseling sessions at the newly established VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System in 2011. He and 10 other veterans were some of the first veterans to meet in the new space in Harlingen, Texas, and the more his fellow veterans shared their experiences the more he recognized the similarities in their struggles.


It’s this group of veterans, and the stories they shared with each other at VA, that Garcia credits with changing his outlook on life and giving him new purpose.

Guardians of the Flag: Veterans honor legacy of Vietnam War

www.youtube.com

“That gave me the tools I needed to keep moving forward,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for the VA and the therapy – I would still be lost in my depression.”

It was during one of his group meetings that Garcia learned of a special piece of history that somehow found its way to South Texas.

One of the veterans began talking about his experience at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon before it fell to North Vietnamese forces in April 1975. The Marine and Rio Grande Valley native recalled how in the middle of trying to evacuate the compound he encountered two employees trying to destroy the ceremonial flag in Ambassador Martin’s office. According to the story, the veteran approached the men who were apparently angry that they would not be evacuated and wrestled the flag from them before they could further damage it.

The veteran, who asked Garcia to keep his identity private, took the flag home with him to South Texas and kept it in his home for about 30 years. After his wife asked him to get rid of the tattered flag, the veteran gave it to a friend in a neighboring town with instructions to pass the flag along to another veteran should he ever need to part with it too.

“I couldn’t believe what they were telling me,” Garcia said. “I couldn’t believe the flag had made it all the way here and it was in somebody’s garage.”

At that time, it was an amazing story that piqued Garcia’s interest. He felt a connection to the flag even then, but he wouldn’t get to see or hold it until a few years later when his fellow veterans asked if he would take it.

“They didn’t know what to do with the flag, so they offered it to me,” Garcia said, “and immediately I said I would take it and care for it.”

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’

Tony Garcia (left) and his fellow Warriors United in Arms members move the ceremonial flag in Brownsville, Texas.

Garcia, who had recently founded a veterans organization with several of his friends, decided the flag would not be hung up on a wall in his home or stay in storage. As the Warriors United in Arms of Brownsville, the group would find a way to protect, display, and tell the story of the flag they all felt a deep connection with.

“I really do believe this flag represents the American fighting man in Vietnam,” Garcia said. “This flag represents everything we went through as Vietnam War Veterans. Like the flag we all went and did what Uncle Sam wanted, and like the flag we were disrespected when we came home . . . I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t forgotten.”

Today, the ceremonial flag is encased and held in the main vault at the IBC Bank in Brownsville, Texas. Garcia and his fellow warriors frequently take it to local schools, businesses and events. They tell the story of how the flag founds its way to them, and they explain why it’s such an important symbol.

On 2019s Vietnam War Veterans Day, the group will display the flag at the VA clinic where Garcia first heard its amazing story. The goal, Garcia said, is to help Vietnam War veterans and show them that they are not alone.

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

Articles

These photos show the amazing views of Air Force cockpits

Few people get to experience the amazing rush, and have the incredible view, that pilots with the US Air Force are able to experience.


The following pictures take us inside the cockpits of the US Air Force.

US Air Force Maj. James Silva, left, and Lt. Col. Steven Myers, both B-1B Lancer pilots, complete a flight in the first newly upgraded operational B1-B Lancer, January 21, 2014, at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas.

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’
US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Richard Ebensberger

First Lt. Greg Johnston and Capt. RJ Bergman fly their UH-1N Iroquois over a mountain range, January 27, 2015, near Malmstrom Air Force Base.

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’
US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillon Johnston

Capt. Jonathan Bonilla and 1st Lt. Vicente Vasquez, 459th Airlift Squadron UH-1N Huey pilots, fly over Tokyo after completing night training, April 25, 2016.

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’
US Air Force by Yasuo Osakabe

A US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot with the 77th Fighter Squadron (FS) settles into his cockpit before takeoff, October 5, 2011, from Shaw Air Force Base.

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’
US Air Force by Senior Airman Kenny Holston

A US Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker aerial-refueling aircraft connects with a Belgian F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, August 18, 2011, during aerial refueling over Afghanistan.

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’
US Air Force by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen

Staff Sgt. Michael Keller takes a self-portrait in an F-15E Strike Eagle during a local training mission over North Carolina, December 17, 2010.

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’
US Air Force by Staff Sgt. Michael B. Keller

Vlado Lenoch, a pilot with Air Combat Command’s Heritage Flight program, taxis the runway at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on March 5, 2016. Lenoch and his P-51 Mustang participated in Air Combat Command’s Heritage Flight Training Course, a program that features modern fighter/attack aircraft flying alongside Word War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War-ear aircraft.

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’
US Air Force by Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro

F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing fly an air-to-air training mission against student pilots, April 8, 2015.

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’
US Air Force by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen

A US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft from the 335th Fighter Squadron approaches a 911th Air Refueling Squadron KC-135R Stratotanker over North Carolina during a local training mission, December 17, 2010.

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’
US Air Force by Staff Sgt. Michael B. Keller

US Air Force Technical Sgt. James L. Harper Jr., aerial-combat photographer, 1st Combat Camera Squadron, Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina, takes a self-portrait during a training mission with the 119th Fighter Squadron, New Jersey Air National Guard on August 19, 2009, over the Atlantic Ocean.

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’
US Air Force by Technical Sgt. James L. Harper Jr.

A US Air Force F-16 aerially refuels from a KC-135 Stratotanker.

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’
US Air Force

Not a bad office view.

Articles

Today in military history: America is attacked

On Sep. 11, 2001, the United States of America was attacked at home when four airplanes were hijacked by al Qaeda terrorists operating on behalf of Osama bin Laden.

At 8:45AM in New York City, American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North tower of the World Trade Center. Eighteen minutes later, United Airlines Flight 175 collided with the South tower. Less than 15 minutes after that, the South tower collapsed and at 10:30AM, so, too, did the North tower. Two thousand, seven hundred and fifty-three people were killed at the World Trade Center. 

Meanwhile, American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon in Washington D.C., killing 125 military and civilian personnel on the ground as well as 64 people aboard the plane. 

By then, passengers aboard a fourth hijacked plane, United Airlines Flight 93, learned of the events in Washington and New York and fought the hijackers aboard their aircraft, crashing their plane in a rural field in western Pennsylvania. Its intended target remains unknown. Forty passengers and crew were killed. 

All together, two thousand, nine hundred and ninety-six people were killed in the attacks, with over six thousand more injured. The United States responded with conflicts across the Middle East that continue to this day, fighting multiple terrorist organizations on multiple fronts.

Featured Image: An aerial view of the damage at the Pentagon two days after Sept. 11, 2001. On that day, five members of al-Qaeda, a group of fundamentalist Islamic Muslims, hijacked American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757-200, from Dulles International Airport just outside Washington and flew the aircraft and its 64 passengers into the side of the Pentagon. (Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Cedric H. Rudisill)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

See the stealth fighters and bombers patrolling the Pacific

The US Air Force has two of its most elite aircraft — the B-2 Spirit bomber and the F-22 Raptor — training together in the Pacific, reassuring America’s allies and sending a warning to strategic competitors and adversaries about the sheer power the US brings to the table.

These stunning photos show the powerful aircraft tearing across the Pacific, where the US has increasingly found itself facing challenges from a rising China.


This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and two F-22 Raptors from the 199th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, fly in formation near Diamond Head State Monument, Hawaii, after completing interoperability training, Jan. 15, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago)

Three B-2 bombers and 200 airmen from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri deployed to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii on Jan. 10, 2019, to support US Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force mission.

Source: Pacific Air Forces

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and two F-22 Raptors from the 199th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, fly in formation near Diamond Head State Monument, Hawaii, during an interoperability training mission Jan. 15, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago)

While B-2 bombers regularly rotate throughout the Pacific, having previously been deployed to Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, the most recent deployment marks only the second time these powerful stealth aircraft have been sent to Hawaii to drill alongside the F-22s.

Source: US sends stealth B-2s to the Pacific, warning regional rivals that America’s bombers are ‘on watch’ 24/7

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’

A B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and F-22 Raptors from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 154th Wing fly near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

The stealth bombers were deployed to the Pacific to send a message to allies and adversaries alike, specifically that “the B-2 is on watch 24 hours a day, seven days a week ready to protect our country and its allies.”

Source: Pacific Air Forces

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’

The B-2 Spirit bomber is reportedly a crucial part of most war plans to fight China.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

When the B-2s were first deployed to Hawaii October 2018, the US military stressed that the deployment highlighted the bomber’s completely unmatched “strategic flexibility to project power from anywhere in the world.”

Source: Air Force

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’

A B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, conducts aerial refueling near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

The multi-role B-2 Spirit bomber has the ability to break through tough defenses, bringing a significant amount of firepower, both conventional and nuclear, to bear on enemy targets.

Source: Air Force

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’

A close-up of the B-2 Spirit bomber refueling.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

Despite its large size, the B-2’s low-observable or stealth characteristics make it almost invisible to enemy radars, allowing it to slip past enemy defenses and put valuable targets at risk.

Source: Pacific Air Forces

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’

An F-22 Raptor from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 199th Fighter Squadron, conducts an aerial refueling with a KC-135 Stratotanker.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

The F-22 Raptor, an elite air-superiority fighter, which the Air Force asserts “cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft,” is an extremely lethal aircraft capable of performing air-to-air and air-to-ground combat missions.

Source: Air Force

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber flies near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, during a interoperability training mission Jan. 15, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’

A B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, conducts aerial refueling.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

Together, a B-2 accompanied by a pair of F-22s could kick in an enemy’s door, let loose a firestorm of devastation, and get out before the enemy figures out what happened.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happens when you hit an RV with a Civil War mortar

After reading the headline of this article, you might be thinking, “why?” We think it’s better to start with, “what?”

In this case, “what” is a replica of the “Roaring Meg,” a mortar used in the English Civil War in 1646 to absolutely devastate the final holdout of Royalists who resisted the Parliamentarians.


See, in mid-17th century England, there was a very spirited debate about just how much of a monarchy England should be. To make a very long story short, King Charles I and the Parliament at Westminster were prosecuting a war against Scottish forces and then Irish rebels from 1639-1641. In 1642, differences of strategy led to the King’s parliament starting a civil war against him.

Yeah, the whole thing was really messy.

The war didn’t go well for the King, and he lost entire sections of his country in 1642 and 1644. By 1646, he had only one good castle left, Goodrich Castle at Herefordshire, but it was defended by a very loyal knight. In June 1646, Parliamentarians demanded that the Royalists surrender, but were politely rebuffed.

This special operator was a real life ‘Jason Bourne’

Except for some missing lead, this is basically what Goodrich Castle looked like after ole’ Meg was done with it. Note that the castle builders hadn’t designed the walls and towers to have those gaping holes in them.

(David Merrett, CC BY 2.0)

So, a siege ensued. For six weeks, the Parliamentarians attacked with artillery and managed to destroy the castle cisterns and a number of other structures, but the defenses held. So, the Parliamentarian commander, Colonel John Birch, commissioned a massive mortar from the local blacksmith.

“Roaring Meg” could fire an approximately 200-pound ball loaded with about 4 pounds of gunpowder that would explode in the courtyard, devastating nearby buildings with the blast wave and shrapnel. Meg destroyed buildings and walls and, combined with the mining operations happening at the same time, forced the defenders to surrender.

www.youtube.com

Now, Meg is a historical display, but a group of men got together to see what, exactly, a replica Meg could do. Because of modern ideas of “safety,” and “survival,” and “not being horribly maimed for the purposes of entertainment,” the men decided to fire the mortar at a caravan without any explosives loaded inside the ball. Then, after getting their hit, they would place explosives with similar power into the caravan and blow it up that way.

The video is pretty sweet (even if it took them a lot of shots to actually hit the caravan, which is normal with an old-school mortar). Check it out above.

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