Transportation experts deliver mail - and love - to troops - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops

For many service members, especially those stationed overseas, mail can be a lifeline to family, friends, and feeling connected to home. For those stationed within U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, there is a team of Airmen dedicated to providing timely, cost effective, and efficient mail services.

The USAFE-AFAFRICA Air Postal Squadron represents the major command as the single point of contact for Air Force postal matters. The squadron provides policy, procedures, and guidance for all USAFE-AFAFRICA postal operating locations and exercises command of aerial mail terminals assigned to the USAFE-AFAFRICA AIRPS.


In a nutshell, the squadron ensures all mail travelling to and from the major command is transported by the fastest and most reliable means possible, while also ensuring delivery to the proper destination. These Airmen use their skills to bridge the distance between service members stationed in Europe and their loved ones.

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops
In 2016, the USAFE AFAFRICA AIRPS Frankfurt detachment transported approximately 45,000 pounds of inbound mail and 30,000 pounds of outbound mail for service members stationed in Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

“Our mission is essentially to get your mail to you,” said Staff Sgt. Dereth Worrell, USAFE AFAFRICA AIRPS noncommissioned officer in charge of command postal transportation. “What my flight does, as we like to put it, if the post offices in the [U.S.] and Army Post Offices here are A and Z, we cover everything from B to Y. We set up things like how your mail moves, what it takes to move, or should a new APO open.”

The AIRPS postal transportation flight validated a total volume of approximately 40 million pounds of inbound and outbound mail moved from Sept. 1, 2016 to Sept. 1, 2017.

The journey a package undergoes to reach its final destination is a long process requiring many moving parts. Once a package is dropped off at a local post office in the states, it is shipped to a U.S. Postal Service sorting facility in Chicago, within the O’Hare International Airport, that is two football fields long. This facility processes Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express Military Service going overseas, whether it’s civilian, military, or Department of State. Joint Military Postal Activity military personnel are assigned as liaisons to the USPS at the Chicago mail sorting facility.

At the sorting plant, mail is sorted and loaded onto commercial aircraft flying to one of three main hubs for military mail in Frankfurt, Germany, London, and Istanbul. However, for military post offices in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, mail can also be shipped to a USPS sorting facility in Jersey City, New Jersey, to a facility that processes retail ground and space available mail destined for APOs in those three countries.

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops
Packages of mail move on a conveyer belt after being offloaded from an aircraft in Frankfurt, Germany, Oct. 5, 2017. The U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Air Postal Squadron ensures all mail traveling to and from Europe is transported by the fastest and most reliable means possible, while also ensuring delivery to the proper destination. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

“No one really thinks about the transportation aspect,” Worrell said. “They think, ‘Oh, I ordered this or my friends or family sent me this, and two weeks later it shows up in my box.’ It takes a lot of work. You’re dealing with so many entities and factors that can change everything, such as weather or civil disturbances. Waiting two and half weeks to get something isn’t that bad considering everything that box has to go through in order to get to you.”

The squadron has detachments at the hubs, for which the air postal squadron provides the tools, resources, policy, and oversight while adhering to postal policies outlined by USPS, the Air Force, Military Postal Service Agency, and the Air Force and Army major commands in Europe. They also manage mail movement to include the monitoring of Department of Defense official and personal mail in military and commercial transportation channels.While most mail handling is done by contractors, the Airmen in the detachments oversee the offloading, inspecting, sorting, and loading onto trucks the mail undergoes.

Read Now: 9 struggles infantrymen know all too well about mail drops

“My favorite part was when I was working at the air mail terminal in Turkey and actually seeing everything move, getting to load up the trucks, make sure everything was there and sending it off,” Worrell said. “It was very physical, and yes you were pretty much doing the same thing every day – I pick up box, I move box – but it was eye-opening.”

The Air Force works hand-in-hand with the Army to deliver mail throughout Europe. The Air Force is in charge of air transportation, but once all the packages and letters have been loaded into their respective trucks, the Army takes over the ground transportation.

Receiving mail can seem like such a small thing, but it can have a positive effect on Airmen.

“Mail is a very significant component of morale and greater morale has proven to be a major contributor to Airmen productivity,” said Master Sgt. Gregory Sartain, USAFE AFAFRICA AIRPS functional area manager. “Happy folks are better working folks. We are directly contributing to the delivery of Grandma’s cookies to the Airman who’s never been overseas.”

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops
U.S. Army trucks wait to be loaded with mail for service members stationed within the European theater in Frankfurt, Germany, Oct. 5, 2017. The U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Air Postal Squadron works alongside the Army to provide air and ground transportation for mail delivered throughout Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

USAFE AFRICA AIRPS not only handles the transportation of personal mail, they are also responsible for the transportation of official mail throughout the theater.

“Not only do we have a big piece of the personal mail side for every Airman, civilian, and Department of Defense contractor, but we also directly contribute to the mission by ensuring the units have the parts, equipment and supplies needed to execute their missions,” Sartain said. “We’re talking about aircraft parts, communications pieces, things that are very important.”

The air postal squadron Airmen not only provide mail services to those stationed overseas, but when deployed they provide the same services to the military members downrange.

“Mail is appreciated in garrison, however, when you’re in a deployed environment, it’s different,” Sartain said. “When the Airman, Soldier, Marine, or Sailor gets that letter from home that smells like their girlfriend’s perfume, or they get cookies from mom while in a hostile and austere condition, it means more. There’s nothing more gratifying then handing a package to a service member and see their face light up. I really enjoy the deployments, being able to provide that morale support, which at times is crucial in a wartime situation.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

What this Navy vet turned PI discovered at Area 51

With the upcoming ‘Area 51 raid’ this month, the question on everyone’s mind is whether we’re all gonna see them aliens.

I’m too lazy to head out to Alienchella or whatever, so I caught up with Navy vet turned Private Investigator Jennifer Marshall who, in addition to being an exceptionally talented actor (Stranger Things, Hawaii Five-0) and a huge supporter of the veteran community, is also the host of the CW’s new summer show Mysteries Decoded.

This week’s episode dives into the conspiracies and rumors surrounding Area 51. Here’s what Marshall had to say about it:


Mysteries Decoded | Area 51 Scene | CW Seed

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Mysteries Decoded | Area 51 Scene | CW Seed

Tell us a little about your background, from your service in the Navy to your career as a Private Investigator and finally to hosting Mysteries Decoded.

I graduated from high school in a town with one stoplight and really wanted to get out and see the world! The Navy recruiter was the first to call me and try to pitch the military. I told him he was wasting his breath and that I wanted to enlist…I might have been the easiest recruit he ever enlisted! I served in the Navy for five years and deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and then separated honorably to attend college.

In 2014, after working in the entertainment industry for a few years, I went to Private Investigation school and opened my own company this year. The show came about because they were looking for a Private Investigator who ideally understood the world of television…and bam! Here we are. It’s a rare opportunity to be able to combine my two careers.

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops

How did you feel about looking into a military establishment (Area 51)? Where is the boundary between military secrets and the people’s right to know? Or maybe even in this case, military secrets and Planet Earth’s right to know?

Area 51 was admittedly a difficult episode for me. My co-host on the show, Ryan, is a UFOlogist and a journalist without a military background (although very appreciative of veterans and their service). He heavily advocates for transparency. I understand the importance of keeping certain things under wraps for national security purposes.

There were also a few issues brought up in the context of the show that I was quiet about. I came across a few things during my service that are not common knowledge and it’s not my place to put them out for everyone to know. With that being said, if it is something outside of what I experienced while in the service, it’s fair game.

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops

Area 51 is getting a lot of attention right now with the upcoming “raid” — what do you think people will learn if/when they show up to Groom Lake?

Honestly, I think most people will just chalk it up as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Most people are not planning to raid. I fear for those who do intend on crossing that gate because it’s undeniable the military is prepared. Tear gas, rubber bullets, and unfortunately, if necessary, lethal methods as well.

To be fair, people have been warned to not cross into the base. I hope everything stays calm and people abide by the law, but my feeling is you’ll always have a few people who either don’t understand the consequences or don’t care.

Related: The Air Force is ready to kill you if you storm Area 51

What is something you learned when shooting this episode?

I learned a lot more about Bob Lazar, the whistleblower who claims to have worked at S-4. When I first read his claims and his background, I was inclined to dismiss him. The more I learned and the deeper I dug, I realized there was much more going on than most people knew. He is perplexing and his story is one of a kind.

Mysteries Decoded | Cases And Cover-Ups Trailer | CW Seed

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Mysteries Decoded | Cases And Cover-Ups Trailer | CW Seed

You’ve been investigating a lot of mysteries for this show. Have any of them given you second thoughts? What are some of the biggest insights you’ve gleaned?

I went into Lizzie Borden based off the research I conducted believing she did kill her parents and through the investigation, came to the conclusion it absolutely was her. In my opinion, it is the oldest documented case of affluenza. She killed her parents and moved to an estate in a more upscale part of town. The only thing that did surprise me was the paranormal things we experienced while in the house. I was not a huge believer in that, but there were too many things that happened for me to look the other way or explain it away — as much as I wanted to.

An upcoming episode, The Bermuda Triangle, was fascinating for me. I loved the scientific aspect of it. We spoke to physicists, Navy officials, historians, pilots, you name it. What we uncovered made me understand why certain things may have happened there. Other things, however, still remain a mystery. It was fascinating delving into the science behind the disappearance of ships and aircraft.

Also read: 11 scary ghost stories, legends, and haunted military bases

Anything else you want us to know?

Often times with a few of these cases, someone coming forward could have led to an earlier resolution. I see this in day-to-day life as well and especially in my practice. It takes courage to be transparent and do the right thing, but too many people don’t want to get involved. Definitely come forward, whether it’s something that would shed more light on a subject, or in other scenarios — help right a wrong.

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops
Area 51

One last questions: are there aliens at Area 51?

I don’t believe there are aliens walking around at the base, no. But have they ever been here? Not sure. Are their bodies at Area 51? Can’t say that either. But I think it’s pretty odd to believe we are the only intelligent beings that exist in the universe…there are a septillion planets. Statistically, the odds are not that we are alone… 🙂

THEATRICAL REEL – JENNIFER MARSHALL

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Check out Mysteries Decoded Tuesdays at 9:00PM (10:00PM Central) or streaming on CW Seed.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army wants robot attack tanks and ground war drones

The Army is engineering high-tech autonomy kits designed to give “robot” tanks and other armored combat vehicles an ability to operate with little or no human intervention, bringing new tactical and operational dimensions to the future of ground combat.

Unmanned systems, utilized in a fast-evolving, high-threat ground combat operation, could enable robot vehicles to carry supplies, test enemy defenses and even fire weapons — all while manned vehicles operate at a safer distance.

“A kit of hardware and software can be installed into different ground platforms to increase the level of autonomy,” Osie David, Chief Engineer for Mission Command, Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

The technology kits, which can integrate on a small unmanned ground vehicle or a wide range of larger combat vehicles, use emerging computer algorithms, on-board processing and artificial intelligence to gather and organize sensor information.


Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops
Soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division explain the capabilities of the multipurpose unmanned tactical transport.

“Ground combat autonomy is the hardest level of autonomy possible. You are talking about shifting terrain and changing enemy movements,” Maj. Gen. John Ferrari, Director, Program Analysis and Evaluation, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

Robot vehicles, often referred to by Army weapons developers in the context of “manned-unmanned” teaming, are a fast-growing element of the developmental calculus when it comes to future combat platforms.

Having unmanned assets operating in tandem with manned assets in combat introduces a range of new tactics available to commanders. If robot “scout” vehicles could operate in a forward position to identify enemy threats or test defenses, manned tanks might be able to operate at lighter weights, making them faster and more maneuverable in combat.

In fact, senior Army weapons developers have told Warrior Maven that virtually all future combat vehicles now in development will likely be engineered with various new levels of autonomy.

Using things like embedded infrared optical payloads, unmanned vehicles can use machine-learning technology to process key combat details, independently organize them and then send information to a human in the role of command and control, David explained.

AI enables computers to instantly draw upon vast data-bases with millions of pieces of information to perform real-time data analytics before sending useful information to combat commanders.


The advantage is that combatant commanders can quickly receive integrated intelligence or sensor information from a range of sources, analyzed and condensed to enable faster decision-making.

“Instead of sending bits of information back up to a command post, the autonomy kits can enable sensors to perform detection and object identification in real time…and then push that information up to a human,” David said.

Also, advanced integrated sensors, fortified by AI and greater levels of autonomy, can connect aerial and ground assets to one another — to ID and hand off-targets, send real-time video of nearby enemy activity or pass other intelligence data to vehicle crews.

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops
Electronics Technician 2nd Class Peter Romines launches the unmanned aircraft system drone.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Melissa K. Russell)

It is certainly within the realm of the technically feasible for a future tank to simultaneously control a small fleet of unmanned robotic “wing man” vehicles designed to penetrate enemy lines while minimizing risk to soldiers, transport ammunition or perform long-range reconnaissance and scout missions.

In fact, Army modernization strategy documents specifically cite autonomy enabled platforms, speed and maneuverability as fundamental to future armored warfare.

“As the armored BCT fields new systems, it will replace main battle tanks, howitzers, and mortar indirect fire platforms. Far-term initiatives aim to solve the absence of the armored BCT’s ability to deploy rapidly. The Army assesses the feasibility and application of autonomous or semi-autonomous sub-systems, manned and unmanned teaming, and autonomy enabled combat platforms,” the Army documents read.

CERDEC and other Army entities are working on these projects with the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center to prototype, test and advance these technologies. The current effort is an extension, or next-generation iteration, of a previous TARDEC effort described as “leader-follower” algorithms. This technology, evolved and successfully tested in recent years, enables an unmanned tactical truck or vehicle to precisely follow a manned vehicle in front of it.

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates learns how to operate an unmanned ground vehicle.
(DoD photo by Cherie Cullen)

The concept with “leader-follower” algorithms is to free up vehicle crew members such that they can focus on other pressing, threat-conscious tasks without needing to expend all their energy navigating the vehicle. These newer kits, however, bring the concept of autonomy to an entirely new level, enabling unmanned systems to maneuver quickly in response to fast-changing ground combat circumstances — without needing human intervention.

The current “autonomy kits” effort is a new Army program, slated to gain traction and begin testing this year, Army developers said.

“TARDEC will decide which platforms are used. Some sort of tank is being evaluated, as well as smaller platforms,” David explained.

David explained that the autonomy kits are now being worked on for the Army’s Next-Generation Combat Vehicle program — a future combat vehicle effort planning to engineer new platforms for the 2030s and beyond.

“We are closely tied with them (NGCV program) and we are looking to see how we can insert this kit onto these future platforms,” he explained.

The kits are also being engineered to help ensure that combat vehicles can continue to function in the event that GPS communications are jammed or destroyed by enemy forces. Gyroscopes and accelerometers, for instance, can help ground forces navigate in the absence of GPS, David explained.

“These technologies are focused on how you actually navigate and detect your position in a GPS denied environment where there is challenging terrain or an enemy is jamming you,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

South Korea’s plan to convince President Trump to visit North Korea

South Korea is reportedly preparing a lavish reception for Ivanka Trump’s visit late February 2018, the kind that would usually be reserved for a first lady or head of state.


Officials are said to be planning to roll out the red carpet ahead of the Winter Olympics — with the ultimate goal of lobbying her father, President Donald Trump, to visit North Korea on a diplomatic trip.

Seoul plans to host Ivanka Trump as if she were First Lady, South Korean newspaper The Chosun Ilbo reported on Feb. 19, 2018. She is visiting Pyeongchang on Feb. 25, 2018 for the closing ceremony of the Olympics.

Also read: These are the 3 soldiers going to the 2018 Winter Olympics

According to the newspaper, officials plan to flatter Ivanka by having South Korean President Moon Jae In accompany her to watch a skiing competition, and by getting First Lady Kim Jung Sook to show her round the country. Ivanka is a keen skier herself, and has hit the slopes at least twice since her father took office.

 

Officials reportedly also want to “lavish” her three children with presents.

Although Seoul has no diplomatic obligation to host the president’s child on such a grand level, officials are “considering exceptional measures” because of Ivanka’s influence in the White House, an unnamed South Korean government official told The Chosun Ilbo.

By comparison, Vice President Mike Pence wasn’t given such a warm welcome when he arrived in South Korea to open the Winter Olympics.

The Chosun Ilbo said: “The government apparently wants to soften her up so [Donald] Trump agrees to a mooted visit to Pyongyang by President Moon Jae In.”

Related: North and South Korea to train together at the Winter Olympics

Seoul is rolling out the red carpet for Trump “on the assumption that she is to all intents and purposes the first lady of the US rather than Trump’s reluctant wife Melania,” The Chosun Ilbo added.

South Korea has been actively pushing for peace on the Korean peninsula. Early February 2018, President Moon met with Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, and pledged to “creating the necessary conditions in the future” for him to visit the North.

The US has also expressed willingness to negotiate with Kim Jong Un, but pledged to maintain a “maximum pressure” approach until Pyongyang reached out.

It’s unclear whether Trump will meet Kim Yo Jong — who has been dubbed “the Ivanka Trump of North Korea” — during her visit. Pence skipped a dinner in order to avoid her.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea warns that it’s ready for both war and diplomacy

North Korea is ready for both dialogue and war, state-run news agency KCNA said Feb. 19, 2018.


In an op-ed, KCNA said the US is trying to derail inter-Korean relations by keeping military options on the table.

“It is obviously an expression of a hideous attempt to block the improvement of inter-Korean relations and again coil up the military tension on the Korean peninsula,” KCNA said.

Using the country’s official name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the article also said, “the DPRK is fully ready for both dialogue and war,” and that it would be “naive and foolhardy” for the US to “hurt” North Korea.

The statement came shortly after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told 60 Minutes he would continue diplomatic efforts with North Korea “until that first bomb drops.”

Also read: Why North Korea suddenly stopped its aggression

“We don’t know precisely how much time is left on the clock,” Tillerson said on Feb. 18, adding that the US will keep up its policy of maximum pressure until Pyongyang tells him they are ready to talk.

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops
An image from the North Korean military parade that immediately preceded the opening ceremonies for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. (Image by Stefan Krasowski)

Tillerson’s messaging reiterated that of Vice President Mike Pence, who told The Washington Post the US approach is one of “maximum pressure and engagement at the same time.”

North Korea’s latest statement seemed to be directly responding to these two interviews, saying the vice president and secretary of state are “vying with each other to build a world of public opinion.”

Related: The world’s minute-by-minute response to the latest North Korean missile test

Pyongyang also seemed particularly aggrieved by the US State Department’s change to its travel advisory January 2018. Travelers to North Korea are now warned to draft a will, designate a power of attorney and discuss funeral plans with loved ones before their visit.

“The Trump group spouted jargons that tourists should write a will before making a trip to the DPRK. If the U.S. dares to ignite a war against the DPRK, there will be left no one to keep a written will and bury a coffin,” KCNA said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Minneapolis increases funding by $6.4M to hire more police officers

On Friday, the Minneapolis City Council voted for $6.4 million in funding to increase the size of the city police department. Police officials requested the extra funding eight days earlier, explaining the force had effectively lost more than 200 officers in the months since the death of George Floyd caused protests across the city. 

Former officer Derek Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death and is scheduled for trial March 8. Three other former officers will face trial in August for aiding and abetting Chauvin.

Currently 638 officers are available to work in the city of Minneapolis, despite the department’s having 817 officers on payroll. Sixty officers have retired or resigned since the beginning of 2020, and more than 150 are on extended leave for a variety of reasons, including post-traumatic stress following the unrest last summer.

The plan was approved unanimously, despite some members of the City Council previously pushing for large-scale structural changes in the police department. 

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops
Minneapolis Police Department officers protect a fire truck near the 3rd Precinct from rioters after the death of George Floyd in May 2020. Photo by Joshua Skovlund/Coffee or Die Magazine.

In late January, three City Council members — Phillipe Cunningham, Steve Fletcher, and Jeremy Schroeder — introduced the Transforming Public Safety Charter Amendment. This would create a Department of Public Safety and eliminate the police department, replacing it with a Division of Law Enforcement made up of “licensed peace officers” within the new department.

In response to these public safety concerns, the police department will update its hiring application with questions about city residency, advanced degrees in fields such as criminology and social work, and volunteer activities. The city will post these newly funded openings this week and hopes to have new officers starting this summer.

On Saturday, a demonstration took place near the former location of the police department’s 3rd Precinct, which was burned by violent protesters in May 2020. Organized by Yes 4 Minneapolis, a coalition of local groups who support replacing the police department entirely with a Department of Public Safety, the activists were collecting petition signatures for the plan in hopes of getting it on the election ballot this fall.

“We’re hoping to change the culture, we’re hoping to change the structure,” demonstrator Julia Johnson told KTSP Eyewitness News.

According to Yes 4 Minneapolis spokesperson Corenia Smith, the organization has received a $500,000 grant from George Soros’ Open Society Foundation.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s how veterans can get free flu shots

VA and Walgreens are national partners, providing no-cost quadrivalent flu shots to enrolled veterans of the VA health care system. Now through March 31, 2020, enrolled veteran patients nationwide have the option of getting their flu shot at any of Walgreens’ 9,600 locations, in addition to their local VA health care facilities.


How do I get my flu shot for free at Walgreens?

No appointment is required. Simply go to any Walgreens, tell the pharmacist you receive care at a VA facility, and show your Veterans Health Identification Card and another form of photo ID. (Patients will also be asked to complete a vaccine consent form at the time of service.)

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops

Walgreens has the capability to electronically send vaccination information to the VA and your immunization record will be updated in your VA electronic health record.

The VA-Walgreens national partnership is part of VA’s eHealth Exchange project. This national program ensures that many veterans get their no-cost flu shot at their local Walgreens, satisfying their wellness reminder because they either found it more convenient or did not have a scheduled appointment at a local VA health care facility.

Can I get my flu shot at no cost at the VA?

Yes! If you are enrolled with VA you may receive a no-cost flu shot during any scheduled VA appointment or at one of the convenient walk-in flu stations. For more information on locations and hours contact your local VA health care facility.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Palliative and hospice care staff lift Veterans’ spirits with “Silver Lining Stories”

Everyone can use a little good news. VA employees are no exception. One program office within VHA recently created an opportunity for employees and staff members to share uplifting stories with one another.

Employees within Palliative and Hospice Care at VHA hosted a “Silver Lining Stories” discussion during their national call in May. Staff members from VA medical centers and facilities across the country lifted each other’s spirits with stories about all the good that is happening for Veterans at their facilities as well as in their own lives.


Mary Jo Hughes is the hospice and palliative care program manager at the Grand Junction, Colorado, medical center. She and her team have been using the VA Video Connect (VVC) program to help patients stay in touch with their loved ones. One patient undergoing treatment for cancer was able to speak with their spouse and children by way of VVC.

Family sang for the patient

“It was the most moving experience. I was in tears, along with our chaplain, when the family sang ‘You Are My Sunshine’ to the patient. There is nothing like the power of seeing your family members and feeling nurtured and cared for by them.”

Carisa Sullivan is a hospice nurse practitioner within the Amarillo VA Health Care System Community Living Center (CLC) in Texas. She recently was “part of one of the most memorable things I’ve ever experienced as a hospice nurse practitioner.” Her colleagues organized a drive-by parade for Veterans at that facility.

180 cars in parade for Veterans

“There were supposed to be 55 cars. Somehow it got out into the community and we had 180 vehicles come by. It was just a phenomenal experience for these Veterans to enjoy safely.” Sullivan encouraged other CLCs to explore if something similar could be arranged at their facilities.

Focus on social connectedness

These stories focused on people’s sense of social connectedness, an important social determinant of health (SDOH). SDOH are conditions in the environment in which Veterans live, learn, work, play, worship and age.

SDOH are the theme of the VHA Office of Community Engagement (OCE) 2020 Community Partnership Challenge. OCE supports many partnerships throughout VHA and VA that bring Veterans greater access to SDOH.

“VHA and VA colleagues are collaborating to help Veterans, and each other, by sharing good news,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “It’s critical that Veterans and staff members uplift positive events and find social connection right now, through initiatives such as this one.”

Here’s more information on OCE’s partnership work.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

9 hilarious memes that actually teach military history

Look, we get it, military history is one of the more exciting histories to learn, but it’s still a bunch of history lessons. All the descriptions of amazing heroics and bold battle plans are watered down by the years of failed diplomacy, post-war reconstructions, and industrial build ups.

Luckily, we found these nine awesome military memes that hit a lot of the high notes:


At the start of World War I, people from all over the world were surprised to learn that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand had triggered a series of dominoes that resulted in them needing to cross oceans and fight people they never met for confusing reasons. Extensive treaty networks and colonial relationships dragged country after country into what was originally a single territory’s attempt at revolution.

Yes, troops from New Zealand, Australia, and India were sent to fight for the British Empire against Germany and the other Centrists powers. French colonial forces did the same thing. Some battles were actually fought in those far-flung colonies, resulting in locals in places like Africa and southern Asia being surprised by sudden battles erupting around them.

Napoleon was one of the most capable and revolutionary military leaders in history, so much so that he was able to rise from commoner to first consul to Emperor of France. But then he forgot to win some battles and was exiled from France to the Isle of Elba.

But then he decided to leave Elba and win some battles again. That plan was short-lived because just about every kingdom in Europe agreed that Napoleon should be either dead or somewhere else, so they sent their best forces, generals, and admirals to make him either pretty dead or at least get him off the continent.

Napoleon was defeated again in 1815 and exiled some more, this time to the island of Saint Helena. He died there, partially thanks to arsenic-based home decor.

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops
(Piximus.net)

In case you don’t remember dates well, June 5, 1944, was the original date for D-Day, but it got postponed to June 6 due to weather, which is what this particular meme is referring to.

Speaking of the weather, the Allies had better weather reports than the Axis, so their top weatherman called for a few good, clear hours of decent seas on the morning of June 6 thanks to a break in a storm. Rommel and the Axis did not know about this break, and so they figured they could screw off and go to birthday parties and stuff.

Yeah, for real, Rommel left the beaches to go celebrate his wife’s birthday. The beach defense didn’t go perfectly for the Germans, and Hitler was facing a two-front war.

(Three, if you count fighting in Italy, which no one does because a bunch of the best forces in Italy were diverted to Operation Dragoon soon after the D-Day landings, so there were insufficient forces around to press the attack north quickly. They did tie up German Army Group C and eventually win, though.)

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops
(@avalonnicholls95)

But that new front in France was sort of hard to win. While most history classes talk about D-Day and then yada-yada to the Battle of the Bulge, those yada-yadas cover a lot of horrible fighting. The first big troubles came in the hedgerows just past the beaches.

The fields and gardens of Normandy were crisscrossed with hedges that formed thousands of tiny little enclosures, and soldiers had to punch through one right after another. Each enclosure could be defended by snipers, machine gunners, and other forces. The infantrymen and tankers couldn’t know whether an RPG team was waiting for them at every breach.

So, yeah, they took heavy losses.

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops
(Reddit)

While we love to point out that the British Imperial Army was the largest on Earth during the Revolution, Britain couldn’t afford to actually send many to the colonies to put down the rebellion. But the troops they did send were some of the best trained in the world, and they did have thousands of high-grade mercenaries.

British forces, counting their American Loyalists, did typically outnumber their U.S. counterparts, but thanks to weapons and powder sent from France, America had a fighting chance. Gen. George Washington made plenty of mistakes, but he had a keen military mind and learned from each one.

As his men gained experience, he began to achieve some stunning victories while also avoiding defeat. And, for most insurgencies, avoiding defeats is enough to eventually win. Britain got tired of fighting in what it saw as a backwater and bailed on the conflict. (Something very embarrassing for the men who had to surrender to Washington.)

Yup, Germany sank our ships and killed our civilians. But, in their defense, the U.S. was providing all sorts of materials to Allied combatants in World War I (and later in World War II). So, while the American government and military were “neutral” for most of the war, its industry was very much not neutral.

Germany, understandably, found this objectionable. But their policy of unrestricted submarine warfare just galvanized the American public, especially after the Lusitania was sunk.

So, bit by bit, Germany attacked American industry and people until the government and military did join the war. And then America started pouring 10,000 troops or more a day into Europe to fight Germany.

It went badly for Germany.

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(Piximus.net)

In Britain’s defense, declaring independence didn’t make America independent either. It was mostly the “drunken libertarian farmers and fishermen” thing mentioned before.

We’re not going to go through the whole American Revolution thing again.

Fun fact: China was once the hands-down most powerful nation on Earth. Its population benefited from the simple economics of old-time agriculture. Rice produced more calories per acre than wheat and other grains, and China’s rice lands were super productive. This allowed Chinese people to specialize more and make technological advances.

They invented all sorts of nifty stuff, including gunpowder. But then they focused on arts and culture, and they stopped focusing on technology or military investment. That, compounded with Britain smuggling metric tons of opium into the country, eventually broke China’s back.

Sure, they had advanced past torch-fired rockets long before America built its first F-22, but you get the point.

If you don’t know about White Death, Simo “Simuna” Häyhä, boy are you missing out. The Finnish sniper fought in the Winter War from November 1939 to March 1940. The Soviet Union had hundreds of thousands more troops, better equipment, and the benefit of knowing that no other nations in the area would join the war against them

Thanks to all of this, Russia … Wait, lost? Yeah, Russia took approximately 350,000 losses to Finland’s 70,000. This was partially thanks to Häyhä’s efforts, as the sniper killed more than five Soviets per day for 100 days. He wore a white mask to help him blend in with the snowfields, and he would hold snow in his mouth to prevent his breath fogging where Russian soldiers would see it.

Häyhä took a shot to the face in 1940 that ended his frontline career, but he survived until 2002.

Of course, Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 and the Soviet Union re-invaded Finland, capturing more Finnish territory and forcing Finland to pay many of the monetary costs of the war.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Only 4% of the ocean floor has been mapped; here’s how to fix that

Whenever you look through a substance, whether it’s the water in a pool or a pane of old, rippled glass, the objects you see look distorted. For centuries, astronomers have been mapping the sky through the distortions caused by our atmosphere, however, in recent years, they’ve developed techniques to counter these effects, clearing our view of the stars. If we turn to look at the Earth instead of the skies, distorted visuals are a challenge too: Earth scientists who want to map the oceans or study underwater features struggle to see through the distortions caused by waves at the surface.

Researchers at NASA’s Ames Research Center, in California’s Silicon Valley, are focused on solving this problem with fluid lensing, a technique for imaging through the ocean’s surface. While we’ve mapped the surfaces of the Moon and Mars in great detail, only 4% of the ocean floor is currently mapped. Getting accurate depth measurements and clear images is difficult in part, due to how light is absorbed and intensified by the water and distorted by its surface. By running complex calculations, the algorithm at the heart of fluid lensing technology is largely able to correct for these troublesome effects.


You’ve probably noticed these distortions between light and water before. When you look down at your body in a swimming pool, it appears at odd angles and different sizes because you’re looking at it through the water’s surface. When light passes through that surface, it also creates bright bands of light, in an almost web-like structure that you see at the bottom of the pool called caustics. When caustics, are combined with the other distortions caused by water, they make imaging the ocean floor a difficult process. Caustics on the ocean floor are so bright that sometimes they are even brighter than sunlight at the surface!

Researchers at the Laboratory for Advanced Sensing at NASA Ames are developing two technologies to image through the ocean surface using fluid lensing: FluidCam and MiDAR, the Multispectral Imaging, Detection, and Active Reflectance instrument.

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A researcher testing the FluidCam instrument while on deployment in Puerto Rico.

(NASA)

A lens to the sea

The FluidCam instrument is essentially a high-performance digital camera. It’s small and sturdy enough to collect images while mounted on a drone flying above a body of water. Eventually, this technology will be mounted on a small satellite, or CubeSat, and sent into orbit around the Earth. Once images of the sea floor are captured, the fluid lensing software takes that imagery and undoes the distortion created by the ocean surface. This includes accounting for the way an object can look magnified or appear smaller than usual, depending on the shape of the wave passing over it, and for the increased brightness caused by caustics.

While FluidCam is passive, meaning it takes in light like a traditional camera and then processes those images, MiDAR will be active, collecting data by transmitting light that gets bounced back to the instrument, similar to how radar functions. It also operates in a wider spectrum of light, meaning it can detect features invisible to the human eye, and even collect data in darkness. It’s also able to see deeper into the ocean, using the magnification caused by the water’s surface to its advantage, leading to higher resolution images. MiDAR could even make it possible for a satellite in orbit to explore a coral reef on the centimeter scale.

Both technologies bring us closer to mapping the ocean floor with a level of detail previously only possible when teams of divers were sent under water to take photographs. By using fluid lensing on satellites in orbit, the oceans can be observed at the same level of detail across the globe.

Citizen science to help save coral

But why does mapping the ocean matter? Besides being the Earth’s largest ecosystem, it’s also home to one of the planet’s most unique organisms: coral. Coral is one of the oldest life forms on the planet, and one of the few that is visible from space. This irreplaceable member of the ocean world is dying at an unprecedented rate and, without proper tracking, it’s unclear exactly how fast or how best to stop its deterioration. With fluid lensing technology, the ability to track changes to coral reefs around the world is within reach.

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A screenshot from the NeMO-Net game.

(NASA)

A program called NeMO-Net aims to do just this, with some help from machine learning technologies and the general public. A citizen science game by the same name, soon to be released to the public, allows users to interact with real NASA data of the ocean floor, and highlight coral found in these images. This will train an algorithm to look through the rest of the data for more coral, creating a system that can accurately identify coral in any imagery that it processes.

Tracking coral allows scientists to better pinpoint the causes of its deterioration and come up with solutions to limit damaging human impact on this life form that hosts more biodiversity than the Amazon rainforest.

By using techniques originally designed to study the stars, fluid lensing will allow us to learn more about one of the greatest mysteries right here on our own planet: the ocean and all the multitudes of life within it. That alien world holds just as many mysteries as the cosmos, and with technologies like fluid lensing, discovering those enigmas is within our grasp.

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Researchers flying the FluidCam instrument during a field deployment in Puerto Rico.

(NASA)

Milestones:

  • March 2019: In collaboration with the University of Puerto Rico, a research crew from NASA Ames will be deploying FluidCam and MiDAR to study the shallow reefs of Puerto Rico. Field sites include the La Gata and Caracoles Reefs, Enrique Reef, San Cristobal Reef, and Media Luna Reef.
  • May 2019: Another deployment of the MiDAR instrument will take place in Guam, with the goal of testing while diving and in the air.
  • Fall 2019: Fluid Lensing instruments will be deployed to the Great Barrier Reef.

Partners:

The Laboratory for Advanced Sensing is supported by the NASA Biological Diversity Program, Advanced Information Systems Technology Program and Earth Science Technology Office.

Learn more:

For researchers:

For news media:

Members of the news media interested in covering this topic should get in touch with the science media contact at NASA’s Ames Research Center, listed here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force vet reunites with daughter for the first time in 36 years

Pamela Foley was 17 and pregnant in 1982 when her parents said she wasn’t welcome in their house, and wasn’t keeping her baby.

She searched and wondered for decades what happened to the child she gave up for adoption before the two reconnected in January 2019. They met again for the first time in 36 years at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

Foley, an Air Force veteran, who uses a wheelchair because of multiple sclerosis, pushed up from her chair July 9, 2019, as the two embraced and held each other tight.

“Let me look at your face!” Foley sobbed as she held her daughter’s face in her hands. “My baby!”


The two have since been inseparable at 2019’s Games, with her daughter, Carrie Knutsen, cheering on her birth mom, laughing and finishing each other’s sentences. While the two have filled each other in on the last 36 years, they cemented the reunion with matching tattoos of two hearts and a double helix DNA that Carrie designed.

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Pamela Foley competed in bowling, 9-ball and slalom at this year’s Wheelchair Games, but will most remember her reunion with the daughter she was forced to give up for adoption 36 years ago.

Foley never stopped hoping this day would come, always marking Carrie’s birthday on her calendar. Carrie, based on what little information she had, would sometimes see a face in the crowd and wonder if they were related.

When Pamela told her parents she was pregnant 36 years ago, she wasn’t surprised at their reaction.

“They said, ‘You’re going to live with your sister in Virginia.’ They’re the type they always have to impress people, and if anybody had found out their daughter was pregnant, they couldn’t have that.”

Pamela got to spend time with her baby after giving birth April 29, 1983, in Roanoke, which made it even harder.

“That was the emotional pain,” she said. “They let me have her while I was there, feeding and clothing her. I saw and held her and was a blithering idiot. I had 30 days after signing the paperwork to change my mind. So I called my mom, crying in the hospital.”

“What would happen if I kept her?” Pamela asked.

“Oh, don’t come home,” her mom replied.

“And I’m crying more as I’m thinking of changing my mind. Then I thought about it. I was 17. I didn’t have a job, I had no resources. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t have any skills.”

Carrie interjects with a laugh: “I mean, you gave birth, that’s a pretty good skill. Just saying.”

“It just happens,” Pamela deadpans. “You just do it. It was going to happen regardless.”

Catholic Charities told Pamela the adoption records would be sealed for 18 years, then she could find information about her baby.

Although she was named Lisa Marie on the birth certificate, her adoptive parents — Casey and Marie — took parts of their name and changed her name to Carrie.

“It was a huge blessing for them, and they are amazing people,” Carrie said. “They changed my name because they wanted to give me a piece of them. I never wanted for anything. I went to college, I finished grad school. I don’t have any memory of not knowing I was adopted. They told me when I was young.

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Mom and daughter got matching tattoos of two hearts and double helix DNA to commemorate the reunion. Carrie, who is a graphic artist, designed the artwork.

“I always wondered if she was a movie star and occasionally wondered why they gave me away. I knew I was born in Roanoke, so anytime we were there, I’d look at faces in the crowd and wondered if they resembled me or were family.”

Pamela moved back home after giving birth and graduated from high school. She joined the Air Force in 1985, married and had another daughter, Samantha, in 1986. She was diagnosed a year later with multiple sclerosis and separated from the military. She divorced her first husband, remarried and had a son, Sean, in 1991. Tragedy struck in 1993 when Samantha died after she fell through a glass table while playing.

“It was the worst thing in the world,” Pamela said. “It was worse than giving my baby away.”

Pamela and her husband, Michael, had another daughter, Megan, in 1994.

And in 2001 — 18 years after giving birth to Carrie — Pamela asked to see the adoption records.

“They were so rude. ‘Nooooo, these are sealed records. You have to get a lawyer and petition the court.’

“I let it drop,” she said. “We didn’t have that kind of money, and at that time, there was no internet like there is today. I did find an adoption registry and filled out all the information, what I knew. I never heard anything.”

Carrie filled out a similar registry around the same time.

“I thought, ‘What the hell? Maybe?’ I never heard and forgot all about it.”

She married in 2011, and tried to find more about her family’s health history, but hit the same road block with sealed records.

Another 17 years passed while Pamela watched a show about reuniting lost family members. There was a phone number for a private investigation company at the end of the program, and she gave them a call. For id=”listicle-2639220262″,000, she was told, they could probably find her daughter. Pamela reached out to the birth father and they split the cost.

In December 2018, the investigation firm sent Carrie a letter she almost didn’t open.

“I just stuck it in my purse, and when I opened it later, they said they had a client who was looking for me,” she said. “I thought it was probably my mother, but it might be a scam. I got in touch with them, and on January 2 told them they could use my e-mail. I’m sitting at work and 10 minutes later, I get an e-mail from Pam.”


Reunion at the Games . . .

www.facebook.com

This’ll get ya. Pamela Shears Foley was forced to give up her baby, Carrie Knutsen, at 17. They found each other in January and met for the first time in…

Pam wrote: “Hi my name is Pamela Foley … You might be the child I gave up 35 years ago. I would like get to know and possibly meet you sometime in the future … I know this a lot to take in, but I’m hopeful we can stay in contact.”

Carrie wrote back: “Hi, Pam! What a way to start a new year! You’re right, it is a lot to take in — but in an exciting way! For 30 years, since I first found out I was adopted at the ripe old age of 5, I have wondered everything about my birth family. I am thankful for my parents who have given me everything — the best life I could have ever imagined. But I’ve always had those thoughts in the back of my mind — who are they, where are they, what do they like, what do they look like, and so on. This is a fascinating new journey!”

The two e-mailed back and forth all day.

Does the rest of your family “know about me? If so, when did you tell them?” Carrie asked.

“Everybody in my life knows about you and has for many years,” Pam replied. “I don’t hide my past from my children, so they know about you and that we are in contact. They are also very excited!

Carrie said that made the difference in their new relationship.

“The biggest part for me was finding out I was nobody’s secret,” she said. “I was wanted.”

They are making plans to visit one another after the Games, and Carrie hopes to get to the 2020 event in Portland. She has since been in touch with her birth father and is finding other family members, too.

“We use social media a lot, and I’m getting all these friend requests from cousins, aunts, a grandma on my birth father’s side … my grandparents died in 2014 and now I get another grandma,” Carrie said as she dabbed a tear from her eye. “I’m finding out that I’ve had, like, 30,000 family members I never knew I had who had been praying for me my whole life. It’s wonderful.”

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

Articles

President ponders review of terrorist suspect interrogation and black sites

President Donald Trump is reportedly considering an executive order setting up a review of interrogation practices, including whether to re-open so-called “black sites” run by the CIA under the George W. Bush administration.


According to a report by CBSNews.com on a leaked draft of the order, the initiative would reverse executive orders issued by President Obama regarding Guantanamo Bay and interrogation techniques. Those orders were signed on Jan. 22, 2009.

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Photo provided by Crown Publishing

The draft order raises the specter of the return of enhanced interrogation techniques. One of those who developed the techniques, retired Air Force Lt. Col. James Mitchell, fiercely denied they were torture in a forum at the American Enterprise Institute this past December.

The order also would keep the detention facilities at the U.S. Navy’s base at Guantanamo Bay open, saying, “The detention facilities at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, are legal, safe, and humane, and are consistent with international conventions regarding the laws of war.”

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Detainees in orange jumpsuits sit in a holding area under the watchful eyes of Military Police at Camp X-Ray at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during in-processing to the temporary detention facility on Jan. 11, 2002. The detainees will be given a basic physical exam by a doctor, to include a chest x-ray and blood samples drawn to assess their health. (DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st class Shane T. McCoy, U.S. Navy)

“If it was torture, they wouldn’t have to pass a law in 2015 outlawing it because torture is already illegal, right?” Mitchell asked. “The highest Justice Department in the land wouldn’t have opined five times that it wasn’t torture — one time after I personally waterboarded an assistant attorney general before he made that decision three or four days later, right?”

When contacted for comments on the draft executive order, Mitchell said, “I would hope they just take a look at it.” He admitted he had not been contacted by the Trump administration or the Trump transition team, but pointed to an ACLU lawsuit that made him “damaged goods,” but did wish that they would “talk with someone who has interrogated a terrorist.”

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Senator John McCain campaigns for re-election to the senate in 2016. Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

In a statement released after the reports of the draft order emerged, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said, “The Army Field Manual does not include waterboarding or other forms of enhanced interrogation. The law requires the field manual to be updated to ensure it ‘complies with the legal obligations of the United States and reflects current, evidence-based, best practices for interrogation that are designed to elicit reliable and voluntary statements and do not involve the use or threat of force.’ Furthermore, the law requires any revisions to the field manual be made available to the public 30 days prior to the date the revisions take effect.”

Mitchell was very critical of McCain’s statement, noting that it essentially boils down to relying on terrorists to voluntarily give statements about their pending operations. “It’s nuts,” he said, after pointing out that counter-terrorist units don’t reveal their tactics. He also noted that “beer and cigarettes” or social influence tactics, like those Secretary of Defense James Mattis favored, are not included in the manual.

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Detainees at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay during prayer (DoD photo)

Retired Army Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis backed up Mitchell’s comments.

“I favor giving the interrogation decisions to those with the need to know.  Not all threats are the same and there are situations where tough techniques are justified,” Maginnis told WATM. “I’m not with the camp that says tough interrogation techniques seldom if ever deliver useful outcomes. That’s for the experienced operator to know.”

Maginnis also expressed support for the use of “black sites” to keep suspected terrorists out of the reach of the American judicial system. He also noted, “Some of our allies are pretty effective at getting useful information from deadbeats.”

Senator McCain’s office did not return multiple calls asking follow-up questions regarding the senator’s Jan. 25 statement on the draft executive order.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Global War on Terrorism Memorial: An unprecedented project for an unprecedented war

On Sept. 11, 2019, the Global War on Terrorism turned 18. The GWOT is by far the longest military conflict in U.S. history, eclipsing the previous contender (the Vietnam War) by at least eight years. In 2014, a group of like-minded individuals — veterans, spouses of veterans, and civilians — felt it was time to pay formal tribute to those who have served, and continue to serve, in the GWOT. These patriots formed the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation, which officially became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization on May 15, 2015.

The foundation’s mission is to become the Congressionally designated entity authorized to build a permanent GWOT memorial in Washington. According to the GWOT Memorial Foundation website, the memorial will “… honor the members of the Armed Forces who served in support of our nation’s longest war, especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice … as well as their families and friends.”


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Signing of HR873.

(Photo courtesy of GWOT Memorial Foundation.)

Unfortunately, the effort encountered an obstacle right out of the chute. The Commemorative Works Act of 1986 imposed a 10-year waiting period after the end of a conflict before it could be memorialized in our nation’s capital. Therefore, one of the first tasks was to lobby Congress for an exemption. In early 2017, two GWOT veterans, U.S. Representative Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., and Seth Moulton, D-Mass., led the effort to do just that. They introduced HR 873, the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Act, which proposed the GWOT memorial as a commemorative work on federally owned land in the District of Columbia and exempted the project from the 10-year moratorium. Furthermore, the act authorized the GWOT Memorial Foundation as the organization with exclusive rights to commission the work.

In just six months’ time, despite a polarized political climate dominated by gridlock, the legislation swept through Congress with unanimous support — a testament to the project’s worthy goal. It was signed into law by President Donald Trump in August of the same year. GWOT Memorial Foundation president and CEO Michael “Rod” Rodriguez said he and his leadership were certainly pleased with HR 873’s speedy trip through Congress, but they weren’t surprised.

“[The fast turnaround] just speaks to the broad support that exists,” he said. “This really is a nonpartisan issue. We introduced the legislation shortly after President Trump’s inauguration — we weren’t really worried about it because there are no politics behind what we’re trying to do.”

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(Photo courtesy of the GWOT Memorial Foundation.)

Rodriguez, who took the reins in 2018, shortly after the bill was passed, refers to himself as the man who has the “undeserved honor” of leading the project. However, he is immensely qualified to do so. The 21-year U.S. Army veteran is a former Green Beret with multiple post-9/11 deployments under his belt. Rod retired in 2013 as a result of injuries sustained in combat.

In addition to being the longest war in U.S. history, the GWOT also represents the first multi-generational conflict — which means we are now seeing soldiers who are the children of veterans who deployed early in the conflict. Rodriguez’ wife is also a 21-year Army veteran, and their son is an infantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division and recently returned from a deployment in Afghanistan. The three have 16 deployments between them.

“My son patrolled the same areas of Afghanistan in the Helmand province that my wife and I did,” Rod said. “I was there in 2005, she was there in 2006, and our son was there in 2017.”

Looking ahead to the completion of the memorial project, the foundation has narrowed down the location to three pre-established sites in the “reserve” — an area of the National Mall that stretches north/south from the White House to the Jefferson Memorial and east/west from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol building. The construction of anything within the reserve requires Congressional approval.

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GWOT Memorial Foundation president and CEO Michael “Rod” Rodriguez with President George W. Bush, who is the honorary chairman of the project.

(Photo courtesy of the GWOT Memorial Foundation.)

The reserve is a logical choice for the GWOT Memorial because it’s home to many of the existing war memorials in Washington. However, the foundation still did a great deal of research before settling on that location.

“This memorial does not belong to any one individual,” Rodriguez explained. “It’s to all those who served. So, in 2018, along with our architectural firm, we began conducting discussion groups across the country … to determine what the American people wanted. We talked to hundreds of people, [including] Blue Star families — families of those who are actively serving — and Gold Star families, obviously families who lost a loved one to the Global War on Terrorism. We spoke with veterans from all our country’s wars since World War II. We spent three days on Fort Bragg, sponsored by FORSCOM, talking to peer groups. We spoke to faith leaders to get their thoughts. And we also spoke to the greater part of our population — those who never wore the uniform.”

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(Photo courtesy of the GWOT Memorial Foundation.)

Rod and his team took great care to educate the groups, explaining the GWOT Memorial project and showing the location and topography of the National Mall and its surrounding area. These groups were asked to complete surveys, not only to gather input on site selection but also ideas about the physical design of the memorial itself — hard structures, water features, shrubbery and other vegetation, etc. After synthesizing the qualitative and quantitative data collected in the surveys, the foundation confirmed that America overwhelmingly supported a plan to select a site within the reserve.

Rodriguez said that respondents were aware that Congressional approval would be required to build within the reserve. “I told them not to worry about the extra work,” he said. “It was the foundation’s responsibility to carry out the wishes of the American people.”

To obtain the required approval, the GWOT Memorial Foundation partnered with For Country Caucus, a bipartisan alliance of 19 veterans dedicated to finding areas of compromise to move the country forward. With a mantra of “policy over politics,” the caucus was an ideal group to champion the cause. On Nov. 12, 2019, the day after Veterans Day, House Representatives Jason Crow, D-Colo., and Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., introduced the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Location Act, seeking permission to commission the GWOT Memorial on one of three sites near the Korean, Vietnam, and World War II memorials.

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Proposed GWOT Memorial locations in the National Mall in Washington.

(Graphic by Tim Cooper/Coffee or Die.)

Fundraising is ongoing, with a present goal of million. This is a modest number considering that the World War II Memorial cost more than 0 million and the final tab for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was approximately 0 million. The actual design process for the GWOT Memorial has not yet begun, but Rodriguez and the foundation established the million goal as a starting point. Once the site is selected, he acknowledged that the price tag could potentially increase. Assuming Congress passes a GWOT Memorial Location Act bill quickly, the foundation hopes to dedicate the memorial by 2024.

Some critics might point out that the U.S. has never built a national memorial for an active war — so why start now?

“The Global War on Terrorism is old enough to vote, and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere anytime soon,” said Gallagher. “Honoring the service, as well as the sacrifices of all those who have served in the Global War on Terrorism, is overdue.”

“Just like this war has no precedence, this memorial has no precedence either,” Rodriguez added. “We really want to avoid what happened to the Greatest Generation. [Many of those veterans] never saw the World War II Memorial. They passed before it was completed. Furthermore, parents of fallen GWOT service members are in their 60s, 70s, and even older. If we don’t do this now, when is the right time? We share a sacred duty to honor all those who have selflessly served in our nation’s longest war. This is a charge [the foundation] does not take lightly — a charge we will remain loyal to and a charge we intend to keep.”

Embedded With Special Forces in Afghanistan | Part 2

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

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