MIGHTY CULTURE

TMF President Ryan Manion has one speed…GO!

It’s pouring rain as the photographer and I run through the cobbled streets of Philadelphia. You can see it in the locals’ faces and the Colonial buildings still standing strong just blocks from the Liberty Bell that this city is tough. For over 300 years, Philly has been the home of patriots, presidents and even movie characters such as Rocky Balboa. Yet, there is one theme that continues to define Philadelphians. No matter how much they struggle, get kicked around or scarred, there will be a moment when they rise, gritty and determined, and GO on with their mission.


We arrive at the Union League, a brick and brownstone club, which has supported the military and veterans since 1862. As we pass two statues of soldiers marching off to war, I receive a text, “Finishing a board meeting. Use the side entrance. You won’t be allowed in unless you are in a jacket. Which I assume you are not.” The subject of our next interview is 100% correct and I instantly know we are in the place where Ryan Manion and her team hold court each December.

Ryan is the President of the Travis Manion Foundation, co-author of the Knock at the Door, mother, Gold Star sister and marathon runner. She’s busy. Always on the go, and the second week of December is her Super Bowl.

The night before our interview, she led the annual If Not Me, Then Who gala, which honors fallen heroes, veterans, active-duty troops and military families. Today, she’s leading the TMF board meeting, which includes current CEOs and former generals. Tomorrow, she’ll go on Fox Sports to represent TMF at the Army-Navy game where Navy will take home the win (but we don’t know that yet). Ryan has thankfully given us thirty minutes of her downtime for a one-on-one interview which she tells me is “no big deal” after I thank her again.

The Travis Manion Foundation is a big deal. The non-profit, which started as a small family effort, is now an organization that coordinates thousands of community volunteers across the nation. Ryan, who lost her brother, 1st Lieutenant Travis Manion, and her team are driven by the mission to “empower veterans and families of fallen heroes to develop character in future generations.”

The most amazing thing about Ryan Manion is not only all that she and her team have accomplished since 2007 but the fact that she is still going, and going strong. Ryan, who grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, is a former smoker who now runs marathons and does ruck marches. She talks fast and moves faster. “Come on, let’s GO,” she tells us when we see her. I follow, knowing without a doubt that Ryan is the next generation of tough as nails leader that Philly is known for.

WATM: How’s your Army-Navy week going?

Ryan’s phone rings. It’s a family call. She answers while we start taking photos. Then she’s back.

Ryan Manion: It’s been a little heavy this week. We started off Tuesday with a meeting for all our senior TMF leadership, which we did for the first time. They flew in from all over the country. Then Tuesday night, we had a huge book event here in Philly, and my son has pneumonia.

WATM: OMG, that is a lot.

Ryan: He’s fine. Home with the family. He had a cold for three days. It didn’t even seem like a big cold. You know, it’s been kind of crazy.

WATM: How do you manage everything on your plate?

Ryan: I love what I do, and I get to work on wonderful things. We’ve been working on a project for tomorrow’s Army-Navy Game. We’re bringing 30 wounded warriors and their families to meet the President during the third quarter.

WATM: Wow, that is amazing. Did you ever see yourself doing this kind of work? Especially leading an organization such as the Travis Manion Foundation?

Ryan: Today, one of our board members said it best, “It all just gets back to Travis, saying, if not me, then who?” And that kind of simplified the journey for me. I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God. I’m sitting here with all these people because of my brother.’

WATM: You and your family established the organization as a way to carry on Travis’s legacy. Does it still feel that way a decade later?

Ryan and her brother Travis at the Army-Navy Game.

Ryan: Last night, somebody at the gala who was a Marine that served with Travis came up to me and said, “You know, I’ve been at this gala for eight years now, and every year gets better and better. It’s unbelievable. But I got to tell you, I was sitting there thinking, these people don’t know who Travis Manion was.”

WATM: How did that make you feel?

Ryan: Travis is my personal driver, but this organization is bigger than one person. I am excited for so many to see the fruits of what he stood for through this organization.

WATM: If Not Me, Then Who?

Ryan: Exactly. My brother wrote those words before he deployed to Iraq, and they represent the character, leadership and selfless service that is the backbone of all our programs. Whether it is our strength-building seminars, expeditions, fitness events or service projects, we unite our volunteers, both civilian and veteran, in the common cause to better their communities by living the mantra of “If Not Me, Then Who…”

WATM: What do you think draws people to the foundation and your work?

Ryan: It’s funny because our board was just asking me the same thing.

WATM: And?

Ryan: I have to tell you, the thing about our organization is that it’s like the feeling you get when you’re around your family. It started out as a family affair. It was a small family that was grieving the loss of their loved one. But even as we’ve grown, it doesn’t matter what event you’re at or how many show up. You know, tomorrow there will be a thousand people at our tailgate, everyone’s going to feel like they’re part of a team, a family.

WATM: Was that the plan from the beginning?

Ryan laughs. I’ve been to a few TMF tailgates, and we both know the answer.

Ryan: I can’t articulate in words why that is. But you’ve been around it, you see it, and I don’t know what drives that. We come from a very different place from a lot of other traditional veterans service organizations, especially those in the post 9/11 world. I think they’re all doing great work. They came with an idea, “Ok, this is the problem, and this is how we’re going to solve it.”

We came with, “I just lost my brother, my mom and dad just lost their son. And we want to make sure that we continue his legacy.” So when you come at it from that place, there’s no chance that it’s gonna be anything but super authentic in what you’re doing. Since then, it’s been, “Ok, we’re going to do this. Oh, people are into it. Ok? Let’s keep doing it. Oh, wow. We’re really doing something here now.” That’s the plan.

Ryan smiles as I point to her new book, The Knock At the Door.

Ryan Manion with a copy of her book, The Knock at the Door.

WATM: So let’s talk about the book. First of all, congratulations.

Ryan: Thank you. Yes, it’s pretty awesome.

WATM: What’s the feedback you’re getting so far?

Ryan: The feedback has been tremendous. We’ve found that this book, to some degree, breaks down the wedge between the civilian and military worlds because everyone receives some type of knock at the door. We all have challenges that we weren’t expecting to appear in our lives.

The Knock At the Door shows what a military family goes through when they lose someone. But this story doesn’t end there. Our story just begins there. So it’s set in a much different context. The Knock At the Door empowered me and my co-authors into another chapter of our lives. We all had different journeys from shock to finding purpose.

WATM: In the book, you describe how physical fitness helped you find focus. Specifically moving from smoking to running the Marine Corps Marathon?

Ryan: I totally recognize the extreme of it all. Physical fitness is huge both in general and in times of grief. It was truly eye-opening when I discovered the effect it had on my daily psyche. I mean, people say, exercise is a little bit of a drug and they’re right. That’s why I had to write about my physical journey alongside my emotional one. I went through some dark times after I lost my brother. I struggled with anxiety and depression and was ultimately diagnosed with PTSD. It was realization that I was not ok that helped me to pick up the pieces.

WATM: Is there anything that people are really responding to or the people are coming to you afterwards and saying, I love this. That you’re finding people are really resonating with?

Ryan: I think for me, people were surprised about how vulnerable I was in the book. You know, I’ve been given the opportunity to run a veteran serving organization that requires a lot of professional appearances and public speaking. People get to meet me as the President of the Travis Manion Foundation, but this book showed a whole different side of me.

WATM: Was it scary to be that vulnerable and open?

Ryan: Yes. You know, the other thing that’s been really great about the book is the response from the Gold Star community. If you would have asked me before I wrote, what’s your biggest fear? It would be that like the Gold Star community doesn’t connect with this. And they have.

Ryan with her TMF GORUCK.

WATM: What do you think Travis would say about all of this?

Ryan: I don’t know what Travis would be doing now. I don’t know if he’d still be in the Marine Corps, if he’d be out and working in corporate America or doing something less traditional. I have no idea. But I know that he would be involved in this world. He would not be the veteran that takes off the uniform, goes away and is unconnected to what’s happening in their community. But would I be connected to this world? Probably not, because my brother would have been. I think he would be proud that I am involved and active with the Travis Manion Foundation, but he would have hated that it’s named after him.

WATM: I think I can understand that.

Ryan: We were years into this thing, and my dad’s like, “I just feel like I don’t think Travis would like that his name is everywhere. It’s nameless, maybe we should change the name?” And my response was something like, “Dad, you’re kidding. We’re in too deep. Travis’s name represents this generation.” And so, that’s my rebuttal. I think Travis would be super proud of what’s happening in his name.

WATM: Is there anything that you’re looking forward to in 2020? Maybe something you’re scared about or something we should keep on our radar?

Ryan: The next big thing I’m doing is going to Puerto Rico at the end of January for one of our service expeditions. We have eight or nine of these service expeditions a year, but this one is special. I will be traveling with a Marine who was with Travis when he was killed. We will be doing rehab projects for veterans’ homes effected by the hurricane a couple of years ago. I am looking forward to that.

WATM: Will you keep us updated on the trip?

Ryan: Of course.

WATM: Last question. Who do you think will win the Army-Navy Game tomorrow?

Ryan: Navy all the way. (Turns out she was right)

For more information on Ryan Manion or the Travis Manion Foundation visit www.travismanion.org.


Articles

This soldier fought for pro-Russian separatists before joining the US Army

A former Russian-backed separatist in Eastern Ukraine recently completed U.S. Army training, Thomas Gibbons-Neff of the Washington Post reported Monday.


The 29 year old French-American citizen, Guillaume Cuvelier, reportedly spent his youth in the French far-right before going to Eastern Ukraine in 2014. During his childhood in France, he was a member of a neo-fascist group that broke from the National Front. The association presumably fostered his anti-European union views.

Cuvelier’s assumed the militant name Lenormand and fought for the Donetsk People’s Republic, a separatist region of Eastern Ukraine sponsored by the Russian government. A photo WaPo reviewed shows him standing shoulder to shoulder with a militant accused of orchestrating the shoot-down of Malaysian Flight 17.

After arriving in Ukraine, he also set up a unit that declared France is “a slave of the American Empire” and the NATO alliance is a “terrorist military alliance.” Cuvelier appeared to change his tune after going to fight with U.S. backed Kurdish militias in Iraq in 2015. He was eventually kicked out for beating a fellow American volunteer with a rifle. He then made his way to the U.S. to join the Army.

His status in the U.S. military is currently under review “to ensure the process used to enlist this individual followed all of the required standards and procedure,” according to a U.S. Army spokesman’s statement to WaPo.

When confronted with his lurid past, Cuvelier pleaded with Gibbons-Neff not to publish the story saying, “I realized I like this country, its way of life and its Constitution enough to defend it.” He continued, “By publishing a story on me, you are jeopardizing my career and rendering a great service to anyone trying to embarrass the Army. My former Russian comrades would love it. … so, I please ask you to reconsider using my name and/or photo.”

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Senate extends controversial spy law that affects US citizen privacy

The Senate voted Jan. 18 to extend a controversial surveillance program for six years, ending months of debate over a law that has been the linchpin of post-9/11 U.S. national security.


The bill essentially reauthorizes Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows the U.S. government to collect the communications of foreigners overseas without a warrant, even if Americans’ communications are picked up and searched by officials along the way.

The measure passed 65-34, with support from Republicans and Democrats.

President Donald Trump is expected to sign the extension into law by Jan. 19, despite reservations he expressed in a tweet last week.

An aerial view of the National Security Agency (Image NSA)

Before the vote Jan. 18, Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina called the 702 provision “the single most important intelligence tool that exists for us to keep Americans safe.”

Opponents say the program allows the government to sweep up Americans’ communications under the guise of targeting foreigners abroad. Privacy rights advocates argue that this so-called “incidental” collection doesn’t happen by chance.

“Individual decision making about whom to target is warrantless,” Sarah St. Vincent, a surveillance researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Business Insider. “There’s no oversight on a case-by-case basis. The FBI can warrantless search data, and they can do that at any stage, even if a formal investigation is not open.”

On Jan. 16, the Senate voted 60-38 to invoke cloture on the bill, effectively ending debate and moving forward with a vote. A bipartisan group of senators, including Rand Paul, Ron Wyden, Steve Daines, Patrick Leahy, and Elizabeth Warren, held a press conference shortly after the decision to urge their colleagues to support a warrant requirement to search Americans’ data.

Also Read: Now there are NSA cyberweapons for sale on the black market

“Most of us agree the program has value and is useful, but we should not use information that is collected on Americans,” Paul said. “The database is enormous. Maybe millions of Americans are caught up in this database.”

Paul has consistently railed against the law arguing that it violates Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights.

Trump tweets, confusion ensues

Just hours before the House was set to vote on the bill last week, Trump interjected in the debate with a tweet that appeared to contradict the official White House position, setting off confusion on Capitol Hill as to where the president stands on the issue.

“‘House votes on controversial FISA ACT today,'” Trump tweeted. “This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?”

Edward Snowden receives the Sam Adams award for Intelligence Integrity in Moscow. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

An hour later, after House Speaker Paul Ryan privately explained the importance of the bill to Trump, the president attempted to clarify his position.

“With that being said, I have personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office and today’s vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land,” he tweeted. “We need it! Get smart!”

Section 702 became law in 2008 when Congress amended FISA rules. The public was left mostly in the dark about warrantless surveillance until 2013, when former National Security Administration contractor Edward Snowden leaked an estimated 1.7 million classified intelligence files, covering a wide range of secret government surveillance tactics and programs.

The files revealed that Section 702 was being used to justify the PRISM program, which allowed the government to collect communications from tech companies.

MIGHTY MOVIES

David Harbour’s dad bod is the real star of the new ‘Black Widow’ trailer

The latest trailer for Black Widow has doubled-down on some dad bod cosplay, and I couldn’t be happier. Yes, the newest preview for Scarlett Johansson’s standalone Marvel movie is looking more and more like a James Bond movie, which is great, but the real question is, when is Black Widow’s fake dad going to get his own movie?


In case you missed it, back in December, we got our initial glimpse of David Harbour as the “Red Guardian” in the first trailer for Black Widow. But weren’t we all a little distracted by Baby Yoda and holiday shopping back then? Yeah. I was, too. Now we can get back to what really matters: thinking about David Harbour as Red Guardian and wondering if he is really Black Widow’s dad. Technically speaking, in the comics, Red Guardian is a character whose real name is usually Alexei Shostakov. In some of the old comics, Alexei Shostakov was married to Natasha Romanova, a.k.a. Black Widow. Obviously, Harbour’s version of this character isn’t married to Scarjo, and he acts way more like her dad. In all likelihood, he is not her dad biologically. But in terms of her Russian secret agent family, it seems like Red Guardian is about as dadcore as it gets.

Marvel Studios’ Black Widow | Special Look

www.youtube.com

To be clear, the reason why Red Guardian has a costume that emulates Captain America is that’s what Red Guardian was supposed to be: the Russian version of Cap. The old comic book backstory mostly suggests that unlike Cap, there was no super serum involved, so Red Guardian doesn’t have any superpowers. That is until David Harbour came along and added Dadbod to the list of superpowers possessed by the Red Guardian. In the new trailer (you can watch it above) Red Guardian describes what we’re seeing as “water weight,” and we totally get it. Same man. Same.

Not only will Black Widow finally give Scarjo’s titular character her long-overdue solo movie, but it also seems like the Marvel Cinematic Universe is continuing to court its not-so-secret core demographic, as DadBod Red Guardian follows in the footsteps of DadBod Thor. Lots of dads might want to be Cap or Falcon, but there are also plenty who would settle to be Red Guardian.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

This is why the Pentagon just dispatched its top general to Korea

The top US general is on the Korean Peninsula as annual US and South Korean military exercises risk further increasing tensions with North Korea.


US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford said his visit to the region this week is aimed at reassuring allies South Korea and Japan, while building the military-to-military relationship with China in order to prevent miscalculations.

He met with South Korean President Moon Jae-In and South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo August 14 in Seoul, and travels to China August 14 and Japan later in the week.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reiterated in a Wall Street Journal opinion article posted late August 13 that the US goal is the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and that it is up to North Korea to show its willingness to engage in good-faith negotiations.

Mattis (left) and Tillerson (right). DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

“North Korea now faces a choice. Take a new path toward peace, prosperity, and international acceptance, or continue further down the dead alley of belligerence, poverty, and isolation,” Mattis and Tillerson said. They also highlighted a need for China to use its “decisive diplomatic and economic leverage over North Korea.”

Meanwhile, senior US national security officials said August 13 a military confrontation with North Korea is not imminent, but the possibility of war has increased.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo said on Fox News Sunday North Korea’s push to develop a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile capable of hitting the United States, “… is a very serious threat and the administration is going to treat it as such.”

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, on ABC’s This Week program said “…We are not closer to war than a week ago, but we are closer to war than we were a decade ago.”

DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro

Dunford said the military’s “primary focus” is supporting the administration’s diplomatic and economic campaign to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, while preparing military options in the event that campaign fails.

“We’re all looking to get out of this situation without a war,” Dunford said, even as he stressed Pyongyang possessing nuclear weapons that threaten the United States and its regional allies is “unacceptable.”

“As a military leader, I’ve got to make sure that the president does have viable military options in the event that the diplomatic and economic pressurization campaign fails,” he added.

But some experts do not agree that Pyongyang’s acquisition of nuclear weapons is an unacceptable option. Richard Bush, a senior fellow in the Brookings Institution’s John L. Thornton China Center, said the Trump administration has “made a big mistake” by determining that North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons capable of hitting the United States is something to fight over.

“The bigger danger or focus should be ensuring that North Korea doesn’t use those capabilities,” Bush told VOA.

Dunford arrived at Osan Air Base plans to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-In and his South Korean military counterpart on Monday before traveling to China and Japan later in the week.

President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

New military exercises to start

Annual exercises between the US and South Korean militaries, dubbed Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, begin later this month. North Korea has always condemned these exercises, and some experts fear these war games could increase hostilities from Pyongyang while irking Beijing, a key influencer of North Korea.

“If you have the current tensions and pile on top of that these exercises, it’s going to make for a much worse situation,” Joel Wit, who helped negotiate the 1994 US-North Korea nuclear deal that delayed North Korea’s nuclear program for almost a decade, told VOA.

A senior official with US Pacific Command, which overseas military activity in the region, said China will almost certainly propose to Dunford that the US and South Korea stop these exercises. However, the Trump administration would not agree to that proposal because it considers the exercises necessary for readiness in the event of an attack, the official added.

In the past, China has been reluctant to deny resources to North Korea in order to pressure Pyongyang to curb its nuclear weapons ambitions. But in the last few weeks, China has appeared to take measures to keep its bad-behaving neighbor in check.

A Trident II ICBM launching. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Last week, China voted alongside a unanimous UN Security Council to impose strict new sanctions on Pyongyang in response to North Korea’s launch of two intercontinental ballistic missiles last month. Estimates say the new sanctions could cost Pyongyang $1 billion a year.

And on July 11, China’s Global Times Newspaper warned that China will not come to North Korea’s aid if it launches missiles threatening American soil and would only intervene if the United States strikes North Korea first.

Bruce Bennett, a defense analyst at RAND Corporation, noted that Chinese President Xi Jinping has held eight summit meetings with the South Korean president but none with the young North Korean leader, which he said “clearly suggests” that Xi “thinks Kim Jong Un is a lightweight and really not important.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

‘Locked and loaded’

The chairman’s visit comes just two days after US President Donald Trump warned in a tweet that military solutions were “locked and loaded” should North Korea act unwisely. “Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path,” Trump tweeted.

North Korean state media announced the country is drawing up plans to fire missiles near the US Pacific territory of Guam, as the US military continued preparations for a potential military response.

The United States has carried our several B-1B Lancer strategic bomber jet flights from Guam to the peninsula, with the last one carried out about a week ago. Japanese and South Korean jets have escorted the bombers at times.

B-1B Lancers fly in formation. Photo by US Forces Korea

The United States also has deployed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-ballistic missile system to South Korea that can shoot down short, medium, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Two of the system’s six launchers are fully operational, and President Moon has ordered consultations on the possibility of deploying the final four interceptors, which are already in-country. THAAD’s ability to take out missile threats has proven 15 for 15 in tests conducted since 2005, when the system began operational testing.

THAAD is also deployed on Guam, along with Aegis ships that have Standard Missile 3 interceptors used to destroy medium and intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

The US mainland is defended from intercontinental ballistic missiles by ground-based interceptors located at Fort Greely, Alaska.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US is drawing up plans for a quick withdrawal from Afghanistan

The US Defense Department is exploring its options to completely withdraw all US troops deployed in Afghanistan, in the event President Donald Trump abruptly makes the decision, according to NBC News.

The ongoing planning, which was not explicitly directed by the White House, includes procedures for a completely withdrawal of US forces within weeks, current and former officials reportedly said.

The Defense Department’s move comes in the wake of Trump’s decision to withdraw the majority of US troops in Syria, as Turkish-backed forces embark on a campaign against Kurdish groups near the Syria-Turkey northeast border.


An official described the planning as “prudent,” while another official called the recent actions in Syria as a potential “dress rehearsal” for Afghanistan, NBC News reported.

Trump initially recalled roughly two dozen service members in the immediate vicinity of the Turkish excursion into Syria, but later expanded that order to around 1,000 US troops in northern Syria. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Oct. 21, 2019, said that an undetermined, small number of US troops could still be stationed in northeast Syria to secure oil fields and prevent ISIS from taking control.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

(U.S. photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)

Trump initially recalled roughly two dozen service members in the immediate vicinity of the Turkish excursion into Syria, but later expanded that order to around 1,000 US troops in northern Syria. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Oct. 21, 2019, said that an undetermined, small number of US troops could still be stationed in northeast Syria to secure oil fields and prevent ISIS from taking control.

“USA soldiers are not in combat or ceasefire zones,” Trump said in a now-deleted tweet on Sunday. “We have secured the Oil. Bringing soldiers home!”

Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces caught numerous military officials and lawmakers by surprise, and attracted bipartisan condemnation for what they characterized as an abandonment of US allies and principles. Roughly 11,000 Kurds — who were allied with the US in the region — were killed in the fight against ISIS, and many more were relied upon by the US to evict the extremists from their strongholds.

“This impulsive decision by the president has undone all the gains we’ve made, thrown the region into further chaos, Iran is licking their chops, and if I’m an ISIS fighter, I’ve got a second lease on life,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said during a Fox News interview on Oct. 7, 2019. (On Oct. 20, 2019, in an about-face, Graham told Fox News he is “increasingly optimistic this could turn out very well.”)

Sen. Lindsey Graham.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Former US Central Command commander and retired Army Gen. Joseph Votel also condemned the withdrawal, and reflected on the US’s reliance on the Kurds.

“Without it, President Donald Trump could not have declared the complete defeat of ISIS,” Votel wrote of the Kurdish help against ISIS in Syria. Trump has frequently claimed ISIS has been unequivocally defeated.

The US has pulled out 2,000 troops from Afghanistan so far this year, bringing the total number of forces in the country to around 13,000, Task Purpose reported. Earlier in October 2019, Esper said he was confident the US military could withdraw thousands more troops without adversely affecting operations.

Esper, who visited Afghanistan on Oct. 21, 2019, advised not to compare US policy for Syria with that of Afghanistan.

“Very different situations, very different adversaries if you will, very different level of commitment,” he said, according to NBC News. “Very clear policy direction on one.

“All these things should reassure Afghan allies and others they should not misinterpret our actions in the region in the recent week or so in regard to Syria and contrast that with Afghanistan,” Esper added.

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

Articles

This Warthog pilot will receive the Silver Star 14 years after saving troops in battle

During the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, elements of the 3rd Infantry Division had come under fire from Iraqi forces, including T-72 tanks. That’s when the boots on the ground called for air support.


According to a report by the Air Force Times, two A-10s, one of them flown by Gregory Thornton, responded to the call. During the next 33 minutes, they made a number of close passes.

Thornton came within 1,000 yards of the enemy, using his A-10’s GAU-8 cannon in some cases. Ultimately, he and the other pilot would be credited with killing three T-72s, six other armored vehicles, and a number of other targets.

A-10 fires its GAU-8 during an exercise at Fort Polk. | US Air Force photo

Fourteen years after that battle, Thornton, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, will receive the Silver Star in a ceremony in July that will be presided over by Gen. Mike Holmes, the commander of Air Combat Command. The ceremony will take place at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

“This courageous and aggressive attack, while under withering fire and in poor weather, along with Capt. Thornton’s superior flying skills and true attack pilot grit, allowed Task Force 2-69 Armor to cross the Tigris River with minimal combat losses and successfully accomplish their objective of linking up with coalition forces completing the 360-degree encirclement of Baghdad,” the citation that outlined the award reads.

The A-10 shows off its non-BRRRRRT related talents. | US Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Bob Sommer

Thornton had been assigned to the 75th Fighter Squadron at Pope Field, near Fort Bragg, prior to his retirement. At the time of the incident, Thornton was a captain in the Air Force.

The Air Force is reportedly considering replacements for the A-10. Aircraft involved in what is being called the OA-X program are going to start testing this summer. Meanwhile, efforts are underway to get new wings to prevent the premature retirement of some A-10s.

MIGHTY CULTURE

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

When most of us join the Navy, we don’t expect to be put into positions where our lives are in danger. For sure, we know it’s a possibility; as is joining any branch of the Armed Forces, but not as probable as our USMC and Army brothers-in-arms.

But now that a sailor has fallen to the virus, it’s apparent just how potent and diverse enemy combatants can be.


I served four years on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, from 2006 to 2010. The crew aboard CVN-71 refer to their ship as The Big Stick, personifying the ship as the US’s show of force to allow us to “Walk Softly” throughout the world. My job was to safely and efficiently maintain the electrical and steam plant systems within the two powerful Nuclear Reactor plants that power and propel the ship.

We steamed everywhere from South Africa to England to the middle of nowhere deep in the Atlantic ocean. We also spent six months sending F-18 Super Hornets to Afghanistan to provide Close Air Support for ISAF forces on the ground.

PHILIPPINE SEA (March 18, 2020) An F/A-18F Super Hornet, assigned to the “Black Knights” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 154, lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) March 18, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas V. Huynh)

Sailing a warship is inherently dangerous. There are cables with thousands of volts of heart-stopping power running through them, manifolds of high-pressure steam harnessing enough force to easily cut a person in half and thousands of people carrying-out dynamic operations both above and below-deck. Not to mention the mighty (and oftentimes unpredictable) sea, rocking and listing the ship with sometimes violent and turbulent waves.

In my four years on The Big Stick I lost three fellow shipmates to these various dangers. Now that the world is fighting a new, global enemy, unconventional deaths like losing a sailor to COVID-19 are becoming a new normal for families all across the world. And now, we see that active duty military members are just as susceptible as anyone else.

Photo courtesy of August Dannehl

Part of the allure of joining the Navy is being able to see the world. The main mission of the Navy is to bring US sovereign territory, in the form of floating cities like the Roosevelt, to any corner of the planet in just a matter of hours. This allows sailors to enjoy the perks of visiting ports in places like Cape Town, Tokyo and Da Nang. Unfortunately, now, that perk also led to the death of one of my fellow Rough Riders.

The virus likely infiltrated the ship during a port visit to Vietnam’s fifth largest city. Da Nang offered its sandy beaches and opulent hotels to provide some RR for the crew of the TR but before long, the crew was ordered back to the ship, underway early and restricted to “River City” communications (meaning no phone calls or internet access).

Back in 2008, steaming off the coast of Iran, River City was set pretty much all the time (and we hated it) but we knew it was necessary. Recently, this order meant something very serious was unfolding and the sailors aboard knew it.

Photo courtesy of August Dannehl

When that first River City was set just weeks ago, it was hard to imagine just how serious this situation would be. No one could have predicted then that over 500 Rough Riders would test positive for the coronavirus, a Navy Captain with 30 years of military experience would be fired, a Trump-appointed official would resign and one sailor would ultimately die in the line of duty from this silent, unpredictable enemy.

Living for months at a time on a carrier out to sea, confined to extremely small and cramped spaces, living and working alongside fellow Sailors in close proximity; these truths have always been the downsides of Navy service. Now, in the age of COVID-19, they have proven deadly.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Army is trying to stop this St. Patrick’s day tradition

St. Patrick’s Day has an entirely different meaning in the United States than it does in elsewhere in the world. The actual Irish hold a solemn, religious holiday, while the diaspora of those of Irish descent take the time to celebrate their heritage. Non-Irish Americans celebrate the day for good luck and use it as a perfect excuse to go drinking with the guys.


The city of Savannah, Georgia, however, holds their own St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. The river turns green, everyone wears green, and civilian women show their love to the boys in green. Soldiers from nearby Army installations join in on the city’s parade and, traditionally, women jump into the formations and kiss on the cheeks of a handsome soldier — leaving a huge, red lipstick mark.

On March 8, 2018, official spokesmen from Fort Stewart and parade chief organizers put an end to the kisses.

Troops from all branches march and get kissed. Which just means the Soldiers will be the only ones left out. (Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Sean La Marr)

Savannah is an Army town with Hunter Army Airfield, Fort Stewart, Fort Jackson, and Fort Gordon all within a relatively short distance’s drive. This is perhaps one of the few times where volunteering for parade duty is worth it. The marching soldiers must keep their composure and remain as stoic as possible while beautiful women kiss them.

The reasons given for ending the tradition are that the “soldiers need to look professional” and that “red lipstick is not part of the uniform.” So far, there’s been no word on if the green beads the soldiers are given are also too unprofessional.

When was the last time you saw an entire company of highly trained warfighters blush? (Photo by Sgt. William Begley)

Another (more genuine) reason for prohibiting the kisses is safety. Many security concerns are raised in allowing countless spectators to jump the barricades and run up on the troops, even if it’s done with literally the best intentions.

A silver lining is that no defined punishment has been set. If a soldier just happens to be marching and a woman just happens to kiss him, the punishment is likely going to simply involve push-ups.

That doesn’t sound that bad. You’re about to see the happiest any troop has ever been while getting the sh*t smoked out of them.

MIGHTY HISTORY

VA recognizes Band of Brothers leader and hero of Brecourt Manor

Richard “Dick” D. Winters was born in rural New Holland, Pa. in January 1918. Richard graduated from Franklin and Marshall College in 1941 with a bachelor degree in economics. On Aug. 25 of the same year, he enlisted into the Army to fulfill a one-year service requirement. He said he had done this as an attempt to avoid completing a full three-year tour if he had been drafted.


Nonetheless, he reported for basic training at Camp Croft, S.C. In 1942, Richard was selected to attend the Army Officer Cadet School (OCS) in Fort Benning, Ga. Once he completed his time at OCS he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division commissioned as a second lieutenant. In the 101st, Richard volunteered for the rigorous paratrooper training program and was assigned to Company E, commonly referred to as “Easy Company,” of the 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 2ndPlatoon, where he was made platoon leader. The regiment was considered experimental at the time as they were part of the first soldiers to be given airborne training. While still in paratrooper training, Richard would receive another promotion, this time to the rank of first lieutenant and assigned the role of executive officer of 1st Platoon. Richard, along with the rest of the 101st Airborne Division, was deployed to England in September 1943 to begin preparing for the invasion of Normandy.

Richard “Dick” Winters.

Eventually, this training was put into action and in the early hours of June 6, 1944, Easy Company was deployed alongside the 82nd and the rest of the 101st Airborne Divisions to commence Operation Overlord and the D-Day invasion. During the early moments of this operation, the plane carrying all of Easy Company’s leading officers, who made up the company’s headquarters, was shot down, which left Richard, a first lieutenant, as the acting commanding officer. In the following days, he destroyed a full battery of German howitzers and the platoon that commanded them, as well as acquired key information detailing German defenses at Utah Beach. Richard achieved these feats with only 13 of his men used in the action dubbed, the Brecourt Manor Assault. Richard was recommended for the Medal of Honor and received the Distinguished Service Cross and a promotion to the rank of captain for his actions. He would go on to fight heroically in Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge. On March 8, 1945, Richard was promoted to the rank of major.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sgJC_vQAL4
Major Richard “Dick” Winters Tribute

www.youtube.com

After World War II, he stayed in Europe as part of the occupation and demobilization effort even though he had the option of returning home. Richard was later offered a regular commission, as opposed to his reserve commission, but declined and was discharged Jan. 22, 1946. Upon his return to the United States, Richard would meet and marry Ethel Estoppey on May 16, 1948. In 1951, Richard was reactivated by the Army and trained infantry and Army Rangers at Fort Dix, N.J.for three more years. He then moved to Hershey, Pa. with his family and founded his own company, R.D. Winters Inc., which sold feed for livestock to Pennsylvania farmers. After retirement, he would speak with historian Stephen Ambrose who would turn his stories into a book named Band of Brothers in 1992. In 2001, actor Tom Hanks adapted that book into an Emmy winning HBO miniseries. Richard would go on to publish his memoirs and give public speeches. Richard passed on Jan. 2, 2011 in Campbelltown, Pa.

We honor Richard’s service.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Our highest honor: Top medals from countries around the world

From simple stars to elaborate medallions, here are 12 of the world’s ultimate civilian awards in all of their splendor.


Kazakhstan’s Order of the Golden Eagle

The medal shimmers with gold, diamonds, and rubies.

The award has been given to more than a dozen foreigners, but only two Kazakh citizens have received it: Nursultan Nazarbaev and Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev, the only two presidents of Kazakhstan.

Order of the Star of Romania

The medal comes with the unusual reward of a free burial site and a military salute when the recipient dies.

Hero of Ukraine

In 2017, Belarusian Mikhail Zhyzneuski posthumously became the first foreigner awarded the title. Zhyzneuski was shot dead in 2014 during the Euromaidan protests. Many countries’ medals come with miniature versions of the honor (seen here on the right) that can be pinned to clothing.

The United States’ Presidential Medal of Freedom

The medal rewards Americans, and occasionally non-Americans, for “exceptional contributions to the security or national interests of America, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

Hero of the Russian Federation

This award is usually bestowed for “heroic feats of valor.” Two recent recipients were the Ural Airlines pilots who in 2019 guided their seagull-stricken passenger aircraft into a cornfield. There were no fatalities or serious injuries among the 233 people aboard.

Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun

The handmade medal represents a dawn sun made from a polished garnet stone surrounded by a star made of gold and enamel which is suspended from the leaf of a Paulownia tree.

Order of New Zealand

The number of ordinary awardees is limited to 20 living people. After a holder of the medal dies, the badge must be handed in and it is then “passed to another appointee to the order.”

The United Kingdom’s George Cross

Among the hundreds of recipients of this award “for acts of the greatest heroism,” perhaps the most unusual is the island of Malta, which was awarded the cross in 1942 for “heroism and devotion” during the Nazi/Italian siege of the British colony in World War II. The cross was later incorporated into the top left corner of independent Malta’s flag.

Order of Pakistan

This award is usually announced each year on August 14, Pakistan’s Independence Day. The latest recipient of the award was St. Lucian cricketer Darren Sammy for his “invaluable contribution to Pakistani cricket.”

Bulgaria’s Stara Planina

The spiky medal was previously reserved for foreign dignitaries but is now also awarded to Bulgarians who have given “outstanding services” to their country.

Jewel of India

The platinum-rimmed medal is in the shape of a leaf from the Bodhi tree — the same type Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment under. The Hindi script says “Bharat Ratna” (Jewel of India). A maximum of three people receive the award each year.

Albania’s Honor of the Nation

This medal is awarded by Albania’s president to Albanians or foreign nationals “as a token of gratitude and recognition for those who by their acts and good name contribute to honoring the Albanian nation.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

7 more professional athletes you didn’t know were veterans

The military is a breeding ground for excellence. You have to be a cut — or two — above the rest to make it through those doors and the wringer doesn’t stop until you are appropriately Blue, Green, or Marine.


It is no surprise that some of those excellent members turned out to be some of the all-time great athletes. Check out some of the best to ever step on the field of competition before, after, and sometimes during service to their country.

Related: 6 reasons being E-4(ish) mafia is the best

7. Bernard James – United States Air Force

James served in the U.S. Air Force from 2002 to 2008 as a security forces member, HUA. James would separate from service to eventually attend and play ball for Florida State. He was drafted in 2012 by the Cleveland Cavaliers. James is the youngest veteran on this list at 32.

Bernard James in warm-ups. A long way from the front gate. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

6. Elgin Baylor – Army Reserves

Baylor joined U.S. Army Reserves during his Hall of Fame career. At the time, Baylor was one of the premier players in the early days of the NBA. He was called to active duty during the 1962 season, having to bounce from duty to game and back throughout the course of the season. Baylor is a Hall of Fame inductee and a stylistic predecessor to many of today’s players.

Elgin Baylor. He was basically MJ before MJ… seriously. (Image from Alchteron.com)

5. Alejandro Villanueva – Army

Villanueva attended West Point and received a commission in the U.S. Army in 2010. He would initially go undrafted before eventually finding a home with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2014. In the space between, Villanueva served his country as a U.S. Army Ranger and notched a few tours in the Middle East under his belt. His journey has come full circle, as he made the NFL Pro Bowl in 2017.

Alejandro Villanueva post-game with Steelers in 2015. From Army Ranger to NFL O-line. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

4. Willie Mays – Army

Mays was drafted to the U.S. Army in 1952 during the Korean War. He would miss two seasons while serving his country. He would return to the MLB with the San Francisco Giants in 1954 and promptly liter the record books with his name. Mays would go on to make every All-Star game until retirement in 1973.

A 1951 Bowman of Willie Mays. Just a year before serving in the Korean War. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

3. Nolan Ryan – Army Reserves

Ryan holds the MLB record for strikeouts — nearly 1,000 strikeouts ahead of the number 2 guy — and no-hitters. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves in 1967.

Nolan Ryan after opening up a can of whoop *ss. (Image from BeyondTheBoxScore.com)

2. Randy Couture – Army

Couture served in the U.S. Army from 1982 to 1988. He attained the rank of sergeant before separating to pursue other endeavors. He went on to become an Olympic team alternate three times as a Greco-Roman wrestler before going on to UFC fame.

Former UFC champion Randy Couture spent the afternoon with the Army Marksmanship Unit seeing what the AMU does and getting to know the troops April 17. (Photo from Ft. Benning)

Related: 7 of the top superpowers every Airman possesses

1. Brandon Vera – United States Air Force

Vera enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in the late 1990’s after deciding college wasn’t the route for him. He trained with the Air Force wrestling team before injuring his arm and eventually being medically discharged from service.

Vera went on to rehab himself and make it to the UFC where he has a professional record of 15 and 7.

Brandon Vera landing a front kick during UFC 164. (Image from MMA Mania)

MIGHTY HISTORY

George Washington was voted Britain’s ‘Greatest Enemy Commander’

In 2012, Britain’s National Army Museum organized a contest asking its patrons which of Britain’s historical enemies was their greatest foe? The answer turned out to be the man who, almost through sheer force of will, and despite a lack of trained and equipped troops, organized the worst defeat the British Empire ever suffered. Ever.

The man was George Washington.


“Give us this firecake and I’ll bring forth on this continent a new nation.”

When considering the winner of the contest, the museum took into account Washington’s spirit of endurance against the odds stacked in the British Empire’s favor and the enormous impact of his victory – not in the two centuries to come but in the immediate aftermath.

“His personal leadership was crucial,” said historian Stephen Brumwell, who called the American victory the Empire’s worst defeat. “His army was always under strength, hungry, badly supplied. He shared the dangers of his men. Anyone other than Washington would have given up the fight. He came to personify the cause, and the scale of his victory was immense.”

And he made Cornwallis walk next to his horse after Yorktown, apparently. Ballsy.

Each possible commander must have led an army against British forces in combat, which ruled out enemies like Adolf Hitler. Candidates must also have been within the National Army Museum’s timeframe of the 17th century onwards, which ruled out enemies like William the Conqueror, who actually conquered Britain and changed Western Civilization forever.

The 8,000-plus votes in the survey put Washington well above other notable British enemies, such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Irish Independence leader Michael Collins, Nazi Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, and Turkish founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.