US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota

Tony Sutter was at work when he noticed photos of a vandalized sign pop up on his neighborhood watch group on Facebook Sunday afternoon. Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is a Purple Heart City, which falls under the Purple Heart Trail program. One of their signs marking Highway 11 had been spray painted black.

According to the Military Order of the Purple Heart, “The purpose of the Purple Heart Trail is to create a symbolic and honorary system of roads, highways, bridges, and other monuments that give tribute to the men and women who have been awarded the Purple Heart medal.” The signs serve as visual reminders of the sacrifices US men and women have made on behalf of their country.


Sutter served in the US Army for six years and was injured during his last deployment to Afghanistan. His grandfather, who recently died, was a Vietnam War veteran. He has seen the rigors of war through the psychological toll it takes as well as seeing brothers and sisters wounded or killed overseas. So seeing the vandalized sign hit a nerve.

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota

The sign in Sioux Falls that was partially vandalized. Tony Sutter believes whoever was responsible didn’t spray paint the upper portion because the sign stands approximately 10 feet tall. Photos courtesy of Tony Sutter.

Sutter explained that regardless of what the vandal’s intentions were, “make your own sign and do whatever you want with it, but something that the city of Sioux Falls thought was appropriate to show some respect for our wounded veterans [should be left alone] — I couldn’t tolerate it, I gotta clean that up.”

“If I could prevent somebody from having that heartache or that feeling of disrespect [from seeing that sign vandalized] — if I could prevent that from at least one veteran or one person in general, maybe a family member of a veteran who’s been wounded, I’d say that’s a job well done,” Sutter said.

Sutter has an extensive background with mechanics and painting, so removing paint from the sign was not a problem. He grabbed a ladder and the proper chemicals to remove the paint and set out to Highway 11 and 57th Street, where the sign is located. Sutter was shaking in anger and shock over the disrespect someone had for the wounded veteran community. He thought about all of his friends and family who had been wounded while serving in the military as he scrubbed the paint away.

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota

Though Tony Sutter specialized in radios and radio repair, he used his background before the military to assist his fellow troops with generators while deployed to Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of Tony Sutter.

The connection with his grandfather was most present in his mind. Sutter’s grandfather was a US Marine who served during the Vietnam War. They used to share quiet moments together — just being around each other was comforting due to their separate but similar experiences in war.

Sutter went through a dark period in his life that included a divorce and the weight of his past experiences weighing him down. He broke down while talking with his grandfather and, with his grandfather’s support, decided to seek help. Within about a year, his grandfather sought help with his own experiences from Vietnam.

Sutter is aware of the hard times Vietnam veterans endured upon their return to the US after deployments. They were spit on and labeled as dysfunctional. When Sutter saw the Purple Heart City sign vandalized, he immediately thought of the Vietnam veterans, especially his late grandfather.

“You don’t mess with my family, and we’re all family,” Sutter said of the military and veteran communities. “Whether we know each other or not, […] we’re there for each other. I know for a fact my grandpa [was] looking down yesterday, and he had a big smile on his face. And I know that I made him proud because that’s who he helped raise — was that person that I became, to look out for other people and not just myself.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

A new terror supergroup is filling the void left by ISIS in Syria

With up to 90% of its territory lost, ISIS appears effectively defeated as a conventional foe. But while the black flag of ISIS is being lowered, another may soon take its place — the white flag of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham.

A new report in the Wall Street Journal details HTS’ rise as it consolidates power in northwest Syria. Led by a former Al-Qaeda militant, HTS is mostly based in Syria’s Idlib Governorate and has taken advantage of the US-led coalition’s focus on ISIS in the East, as well as the Syrian government and Russia’s focus on other parts of the country.


HTS came into existence when Jabhat Fath al Sham, previously known as the Al Nusrah Front and Al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria until its re-branding in July of 2016, announced a merger with four other islamist groups operating in Syria.

Combined with the other groups, HTS — or the Assembly for Liberation of the Levant — was created.

The reason for its existence, according to its propaganda, is “to unite our banners and to preserve the fruits and the jihad” of the revolution against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, so that it can “be the seed of unifying the capacities and strength of this revolution.”

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota
Bashar al-Assad

The group’s leader, Abu Mohammad al-Julani, has said that he wants his followers to engage in “a war of ideas, a war of minds, a war of wills, a war of perseverance,” according to the Wall Street Journal, and that he will conquer Damascus — Syria’s capital — and implement Sharia law.

The group announced in February 2018, that it had defeated the remnants of ISIS militants in Idlib, and a month later said that they had taken control of up to 25 villages in Aleppo and Idlib provinces.

It has created a religious police force in its territory, similar to ISIS’ Hisbah. They enforce Sharia law, control services like electricity and water, and collect taxes from citizens.

The group has also been fighting forces from the Syrian government in Homs, Hama, and Aleppo. But while the terror group continues to grow and solidify its control, the Syrian government and US-led coalition have their attention elsewhere.

“The area seems to be out of focus for Western powers,” Hassan Hassan, an analyst with the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, told the Wall Street Journal. “The jihadis are having a honeymoon there.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This radio show is one trigger for a British nuclear attack

Deep underwater, on submarines equipped with nuclear missiles, British crews are constantly prepared to fire their weapons, and potentially play a part in bringing about the end of the world.

Sailors on the four Vanguard-class submarines which patrol the waters and hold the UK’s nuclear deterrent operate under strict protocol for working out when to act and what to do — part of which is said to include listening to BBC radio.

According to a prominent British historian, the broadcast of BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme is one of the official measures the Royal Navy uses to prove that the United Kingdom still exists. “Today” has been broadcast at around breakfast time since 1958 and is the highest-profile news programme in British media.


Lord Peter Hennessy, a history professor who joined the UK’s House of Lords in 2010, said that if it can’t be heard for three days in a row, then it could signify Britain’s demise, and trigger their doomsday protocol.

According to Politico, Hennessy says: “The failure to pick up the BBC Today program for a few days is regarded as the ultimate test.”

If no sign comes through, the commander and deputy will open letters that contain instructions from the prime minister and execute their final wishes.

These letters, each known as a “Letter of Last Resort’ are secret instructions, written when a prime minister enters the office and sealed until an apocalypse. They tell the UK’s submarine commanders what to do with the country’s nuclear weapons if the country has been destroyed.

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota

HMS Victorious photographed in the Clyde estuary

(LA(phot) Mez Merrill/MOD photo)

Writing these letters is one of the first tasks undertaken by any new prime minister. They are locked inside a safe inside another safe, and placed in the control rooms of the nation’s four nuclear submarines, Politico reports. The safes will only be accessible to the sub’s commander and deputy.

Matthew Seligman, Professor of Naval History at Brunel University,told BBC Newsbeat that there are “only so many options available.”

“Do nothing, launch a retaliatory strike, offer yourself to an ally like the USA, or use your own judgment.

“Essentially, are you going to use the missiles or not?”

The UK has four submarines that are capable of carrying the country’s Trident nuclear missiles. At least one of these has been on patrol at all times since 1969, the government says.

There are 40 nuclear warheads and a maximum of eight missiles on each submarine.

Only the prime minister can authorize the launch of the country’s nuclear weapons.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what it was like to train right next to North Korea

With things starting to look up on the peninsula, it’s hard to believe that, in 2014, we were sitting around waiting to see what, exactly, was going to be the straw to break the Korean camel’s back reignite the (technically still-ongoing) Korean War. Thankfully, the North was wise enough to know not to f*ck with a Marine Corps infantry battalion. Regardless, we kept training for the worst.

We don’t have to tell you it’s cold on the Korean peninsula; you can read about that elsewhere. No, what you’re here for is to know what it was like for a Marine to be sitting three miles from the Korean Demilitarized Zone for a month and a half.


US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota
We took the training more seriously at the time.
(U.S. Marine Corps)

Scary at first…

Yeah, it was. At the time, of course, we continuously called NK’s bluff because they did bark a lot for decades following the Armistice, but they’re enough of a loose cannon that some of us didn’t want to get complacent. It was better to assume that they were going to do something and we would be the first on the scene.

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota
We went on a DMZ tour and found out just how close it actually was.
(Photo courtesy of the author)

Of course, we didn’t realize how close we were to the DMZ until North Korea launched a few missiles. My company had been out on a range, police calling in the middle of the night when we noticed a couple of shooting stars streak across the sky. It was a beautiful site. That is, until we went back to base and saw that they were definitely missiles…

It didn’t help that the base didn’t have any ammunition for the first couple of weeks. We were basically sitting ducks, and if North Korea had known any better, it could have been huntin’ season.

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota
The biggest training challenge was the temperature.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Caleb T. Maher)

…then it was boring…

After the edge wore off, we became super bored. It didn’t help that we were on a base that was small enough for you to be able to throw a rock from one end and hit some POG working on a Humvee on the other. The training itself wasn’t bad. It was all easy stuff. But it was the heavy amount of downtime that really threw us for a loop.

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota
Seriously, so much Friends.

External hard drives containing anything from games to movies to adult entertainment were passed around the platoon. Cigarettes, smoked all the way to the butt, were deposited into the butt can at least five times per day (more when the temperature was above 50 degrees). In fact, we probably broke the record for how many times you can watch Friends from beginning to end in a single week.

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota
The ROK Marines were honestly pretty cool.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ryan Mains)

…until the ROK Marines showed up.

It was a major snoozefest up until the Republic of Korea Marine Corps showed up. Then it quickly turned into a dog-and-pony show on top of the snooze fest. Then, training became much more frequent, so it quelled our boredom. We ended up forgetting that North Korea existed during that time, you know, except when our Battalion Commander reminded us during every formation.

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota
My platoon before a major training op that was called off because the range was set on fire.

All in all, training next to North Korea was hyped up beyond what it actually was. There was a lot of anxious excitement at first and then it was just, “what show are we watching today?” For a first deployment, I definitely expected a lot more, but, thankfully, it wasn’t any more exciting than it was because, you know, fighting in the cold would suck.

So, that’s what it’s like to train next to North Korea.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump and Mattis go ‘good cop, bad cop’ on Putin

President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis offered strikingly different perspectives on Russian President Vladimir Putin in the course of just a few hours on June 15, 2018.

Speaking with reporters outside of the White House, Trump blamed former President Barack Obama, not Putin, for the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014.

“President Obama lost Crimea because president Putin didn’t respect President Obama, didn’t respect our country and didn’t respect Ukraine,” Trump said.


Trump also said it’s “possible” he could meet with Putin summer 2018.

This followed comments Trump made at the recent G7 summit in Canada in which he called for Russia to be readmitted to the group. Moscow was booted from the group (then the G8) due to its annexation of Crimea.

“Whether you like it or not, and it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run,” Trump said at the time. “And in the G7, which used to be the G8 — they threw Russia out — they should let Russia come back in because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.”

Comparatively, as Trump called for America’s allies to rekindle relations with Russia despite its aggression in Ukraine, Mattis ripped into Putin at a graduation ceremony at the US Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

“Putin seeks to shatter NATO. He aims to diminish the appeal of the western democratic model and attempts to undermine America’s moral authority, his actions are designed not to challenge our arms at this point but to undercut and compromise our belief in our ideals,” Mattis said.

Trump and his top advisers have often spoken of Russia and Putin in decidedly different terms, and he has been widely criticized for praising the Russian leader at various times in the past.

Moreover, the president has repeatedly downplayed Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election, even as his senior advisers have continuously warned that Moscow will meddle in future US elections.

At a conference in Normandy, France June 15, 2018, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said, “We continue to see Russian targeting of American society in ways that could affect our midterm elections.”

Coats also said Russia had launched an “unprecedented influence campaign to interfere in the U.S. electoral and political process” in 2016.

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

Articles

Beijing tests the waters by reinforcing missile sites in South China Sea

New satellite photography from the South China Sea confirms a nightmare for the U.S. and champions of free navigation everywhere — Beijing has reinforced surface-to-air missiles sites in the Spratly Islands.


For years now, China has been building artificial islands in the South China Sea and militarizing them with radar outposts and missiles.

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota
Soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army 1st Amphibious Mechanized Infantry Division.. (Dept. of Defense photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released)

The latest move seems to have been months in the making, so it’s not in response to any particular U.S. provocation, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies‘ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

China previously deployed close-in weapons systems, which often serve on ships as a last line of defense against incoming missiles, and have toggled on and off between positioning surface-to-air missiles on Woody island in the Paracel Islands chain. But this time it’s different, according to CSIS’ Bonnie Glasser, director of the China Power Project.

Related: China says it will fine U.S. ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

China has not yet deployed the actual launchers, but Satellite imagery shows the new surface-to-air missile sites are buildings with retractable roofs, meaning Beijing can hide launchers, and that they’ll be protected from small arms fire.

“This will provide them with more capability to defend the island itself and the installations on them,” said Glaser.

Nations in the region have taken notice. Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay told reporters that foreign ministers of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) unanimously expressed concern over China’s land grab in a resource-rich shipping lane that sees $5 trillion in commerce annually.

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota
The HQ-9 is a Chinese medium- to long-range, active radar homing surface-to-air missile.

The move is “very unsettlingly, that China has installed weapons ­systems in these facilities that they have established, and they have expressed strong concern about this,” Yasay said, according to the South China Morning Post.

But Chinese media and officials disputed the consensus at ASEAN that their militarization had raised alarm, and according to Glaser, without a clear policy position from the Trump administration, nobody will stand up to China.

Currently, the U.S. has an aircraft carrier strike group patrolling the South China Sea, but that clearly hasn’t stopped or slowed Beijing’s militarization of the region, nor has it meaningfully emboldened US allies to speak out against China.

“Most countries do not want to be confrontational towards China … they don’t want an adversarial relationship,” said Glaser, citing the economic benefits countries like Laos and Cambodia get from cooperating with Beijing, the world’s third largest economy and a growing regional power.

Instead, U.S. allies in the Pacific are taking a “wait and see” approach to dealing with the South China Sea as Beijing continues to cement its dominance in the region and establish “facts in the water” that even the U.S.’s most advanced ships and planes would struggle to overcome.

The HQ-9 missile systems placed in the South China Sea resemble Russia’s S-300 missile defense system, which can heavily contest airspace for about 100 miles.

According to Glaser, China has everything it needs to declare an air defense and identification zone — essentially dictate who gets to fly and sail in the South China Sea — except for the Scarborough Shoal.

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota
Territorial claims in the South China Sea. (Public Domain | Voice of America)

“I think from a military perspective, now because they have radars in the Paracels and the Spartlys,” China has radar coverage “so they can see what’s going on in the South China Sea with the exception of the northeastern quarter,” said Glaser. “The reason many have posited that the Chinese would dredge” the Scarborough Shoal “is because they need radar coverage there.”

The Scarborough Shoal remains untouched by Chinese dredging vessels, but developing it would put them a mere 160 miles from a major U.S. Navy base at the Subic Bay in the Phillippines.

Also read: China’s second aircraft carrier may be custom made to counter the U.S. in the South China Sea

Installing similar air defenses there, or even radar sites, could effectively lock out the U.S. or anyone else pursuing free navigation in open seas and skies.

While U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly floated the idea of being tougher on China, a lack of clear policy has allowed Beijing to continue on its path of militarizing the region where six nations claim territory.

“For the most part, we are improving our relationships. All but one,” Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the commander of U.S. 7th Fleet, said at a military conference on Tuesday.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Chronically ill Gulf War vets still fighting for VA recognition 25 years on

On October 24, 2014, Glenn Stewart, an Army Desert Storm veteran, went to the emergency room at his local VA hospital to treat his third episode of temporary blindness.


“It was like a smear,” he said. “It was like a smear on a microscope slide, and eventually occupied a fourth of my field of vision. After fifteen minutes, it went away.”

Stewart had had another episode of temporary blindness just ten days earlier. He went into a Gulf War Illness chat group, looking for someone who might have experienced the same thing before, worried he might be facing a stroke.

 

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota
Glenn Stewart on his YouTube channel, Gulf War Syndrome

 

The VA medical center did blood tests and an FMRI, all of which came back inconclusive.

“The doctor told me there was no such thing as Gulf War Illness,” Glenn said. He instead offered Glenn a psychological evaluation.

“Making a statement like that is ignorance,” Glenn said. “There is a lot of research and lots of studies done on it.

“I wanted to slap him.”

Stewart is right; there is a lot of research supporting the existence of what he and many other Gulf war vets experience on a daily basis, 25 years after their war ended. They suffer without any acknowledgement from the government agency meant to take care of them.

 

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota
Oil well fires rage outside Kuwait City in the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm. The wells were set on fire by Iraqi forces before they were ousted from the region by coalition force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David McLeod)

 

The illness is described as a multi-symptom, chronic condition experienced by 250,000 of the 700,000 U.S. troops deployed to the Persian Gulf region during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. They experience symptoms ranging from chronic fatigue to various cancers. Fibromyalgia and bowel disorders are two big indicators of the disorder. Stewart suffers from both, but the Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t recognize the illness by that name.

The VA calls their condition “chronic multisymptom illness” or “undiagnosed illness.” According to the VA’s Public Health page, the VA prefers “not to use the term ‘Gulf War Syndrome’ when referring to medically unexplained symptoms reported by Gulf War veterans because symptoms vary widely.”

The VA presumes that specific disabilities diagnosed in certain veterans were caused by their military service. If a veteran is diagnosed with a presumptive condition, the VA is forced assume the condition service-connected, then veteran is then entitled to medical or disability benefits associated with that diagnosis. Because the VA doesn’t use an umbrella term for Gulf War Illness, many veterans find themselves without compensation or connection for related illnesses that don’t have presumptive status.

Former VA epidemiologist Steven Coughlin resigned from the VA in 2012, citing serious ethical issues around the dissemination of false information about veteran health and withholding research about the link between nerve gas and Gulf War Illness.

 

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota
Dr. Steven Coughlin

“What I saw [at VA] was both embarrassing and astonishing. I couldn’t stay any longer,” Coughlin told the Daily Beast.

By 2014, the situation still hadn’t changed. Gulf War veterans already have presumptive status for a number of conditions, but the VA denied 80 percent of Gulf War Illness compensation claims, citing “inadequate and insufficient evidence” to indicate that the cancers and migraines they suffer from are service-related.

“There is no consistent evidence of a higher overall incidence of cancer in veterans who were deployed to the Gulf War than in non-deployed veterans,” Robert Jesse, then the VA’s acting undersecretary for health, wrote in a letter Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman, who requested information on adding the increased incidence of brain cancer, lung cancer, and migraines in Gulf War veterans to the VA’s list of presumptive conditions.

Ron Brown, president of the National Gulf War Resource Center, told USA Today that the VA’s research contradicts the Institute of Medicine’s findings.

“What they’ve done is used the overall population of deployed veterans during Desert Storm,” he said. “If you use the whole population, it does not show an increase of cancers, but if you look at Khamisiyah, there are significant increases of cancers.”

Khamisiyah is the site of a munitions industrial center in Iraq, where demolition of conventional and chemical munitions just after the end of the 1991 Gulf War exposed as many as 100,000 service members to Sarin nerve gas. For those near Khamisiyah, the rate of brain cancer was was more than twice as high as unexposed veterans.

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota
Demolition of Iraqi munitions at Khamisiyah munitions depot, March 1991. (photo by Jack Morgan)

Burning oil wells are believed to be the cause of increased lung cancer deaths, a rate 15% higher than those who did not serve in the 1991 Gulf War, is considered by the VA to be “inconclusive” because the VA did not know how many of the those afflicted were smokers.

The VA’s research not only contradicts the Institute of Medicine’s findings, it contradicts the VA’s own research on brain cancer. That study was backed by a similar one in the American Journal of Public Health. Furthermore, migraines and chronic fatigue were found in Gulf War veterans in a National Institute of Health study just one year before the 2014 ruling.

That same year, Georgetown University found the first physical traces of Gulf War Illness, evidence showing atrophy in the brainstem, which regulates heart rate. Another group showed atrophy in cortical regions adjacent to pain perception. This shows Gulf War veterans’ have abnormalities in the bundle of nerve fibers connecting the brain areas involved in the processing and perception of pain and fatigue.

“Our findings help explain and validate what these veterans have long said about their illness,” Rakib Rayhan, a Georgetown University researcher, said. The study’ lead researcher, Dr. James Baraniuk, added “Now investigators can move from subjective criteria to objective MRI and other criteria for diagnosis and to understand the brain pathology.”

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota
Smoke plumes from the Kuwaiti Oil Fires in 1991 as seen from space. (NASA photo)

While Georgetown’s findings are the latest evidence, studies as far back as 2003 found Khamisiyah veterans are at increased risk for hospitalization from circulatory diseases, specifically cardiac dysrhythmias.

In the face of what should be considered overwhelming evidence from multiple, separate studies and institutions, the VA still doesn’t recognize Gulf War Illness, so veterans with symptoms that don’t fall in the presumptive category are still denied treatment and compensation for their issues. That includes Glenn Stewart, who says his illness “robbed him of his life.” Stewart now runs a YouTube channel about his struggles with his condition and his fighting with the VA.

“You got a a whole bunch of veterans sick, in pain, and dying due to Gulf War Illness,” he said. “They feel that no one is going to help them and are losing hope. Some of these people will take their own lives. It is not that I will commit suicide or want to die, but I look forward to dying because it will end my daily pain and torture.”

Read our update on the progress researchers are making on Gulf War illness here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mormon colonies are fighting drug cartels in Mexico

Early one morning in Galeana, Mexico, a series of pickup trucks pulled up to a small, unassuming house. It was like many houses in the state of Chihuahua, except this one was occupied by the family of a man who decided to stand up to the drug cartels that had for so long terrorized his friends and neighbors. The man (along with a friend who had come by to check on the commotion) were dragged away at gunpoint. The narcos drove them down the street and shot them.


That was the last straw. Now there’s a new force standing up to the cartels terrorizing the people and government of Mexico, a resistance is coming from what you might think of as an unlikely source: The Mormon Church.

The war on drugs in Mexico has seen an uptick in violence in recent years. When the government switched its tactics to take down the higher-ranking members of the cartels, their successes left power vacuums in their wake, which sparked wars for dominance among individuals inside the cartels. As a result, the drug-related violence has only gotten more widespread and more intense as time wore on. The violence is ten times deadlier in Mexico than in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Vice reporter and founder Shane Smith drove down to Chihuahua to talk to the long-established Mormon colony run by the Lebaron family, descendants of the first Mormon settlers in the region. The Lebaron family, like most who stand up to bullies, were just pushed around once too often, as a result of kidnappings, extortion, and ultimately, murder.

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota

Vice founder Shane Smith with the Mexican Federal Police at a Chihuahua road block.

(Vice News)

Mormons first came to Mexico in 1875 to escape persecution from the U.S. government for their beliefs, specifically plural marriage – also known as polygamy. Those who refused to adhere to the United States’ demand to end the practice came to Mexico where they could continue what they saw as not only a divine right, but a commandment. Their descendants still live there to this day, just south of the border.

The murders in Galeana were the result of the Mormon colonies who put pressure on the cartels through their political partners in the Mexican government. After one of their own was kidnapped, they told the government to do something about it, or they would do it themselves. The kidnapped child was returned unharmed, but shortly after, the Mormons paid the price with the lives of Benjamin Lebaron and his friend Luis Widmar.

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota

Firearms smuggled from the United States into Mexico and captured by the Federales.

(Vice News)

That changed the game. The Mormons went through the process of getting gun ownership rights in the country, no small feat. Then they called in the Federales, who use their colony – a known safe haven from narcos – as a base of operations, intercepting drug smugglers on major highways in Chihuahua, conducting patrols and raids, and watching the traffickers as they work. The Mormons themselves have also joined the fight, they have adopted the tactics of U.S. troops fighting insurgents in the Iraq War, setting roadblocks and observation posts of their own.

Word got around to the narcos, eventually. Rumor has it the Mormons employ scouts and snipers to defend their colonies. The drug traffickers are all known to the Mormons now, their vehicles and faces easily identifiable to Church leaders, who work in close concert with the Mexican federal police. Their enduring vigilance has led to an uneasy stalemate in violence and kidnappings. They still occur, but with much less frequency.

For now.

Articles

The 1991 Gulf War ‘Highway of Death’ could still keep killing

Authorities say unexploded bombs from what was known as the “Highway of Death” in the 1991 Gulf War have been uncovered in Kuwait.


On July 5, Kuwait’s Public Authority of Housing Welfare said a military bomb squad would defuse the ordinance found along Kuwait’s Highway 80, which connects Kuwait City to the Iraqi border.

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota
DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Dean Wagner

Construction crews working on a $950 million housing project in the area found the bombs. The state-run Kuwait News Agency said “finding explosives on the site is not surprising” and contractors had been warned they could be there.

The “Highway of Death” got its name when U.S.-led coalition aircraft bombed a convoy of fleeing Iraqi forces, killing hundreds and leaving behind hundreds of burned-out vehicles.

Articles

This teen was accepted into all four US military academies

A Virginia teenager has received an appointment to all four major US military academies, a rare feat he’s been working on since he was a child.


Tim Park of Fairfax, Va. recently received appointment letters for the US Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., The Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., according to USA Today.

Also read: This SEAL Team 6 vet idolizes ‘Rough Rider’ Teddy Roosevelt

Getting into just one military academy is an achievement in itself, since it takes a bit more than having good grades and submitting an application. Applicants need to first receive an official nomination from their congressman (with the exception of the Coast Guard Academy), ace an interview with an officer at the school, and have exceptional grades and civic achievements to boot.

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota
Tim Park | Fox5/screenshot

Park told USA Today he was inspired by his own family’s service in and around the military, which began with his grandfather — who was a child during the Korean War. Park’s grandfather, who went on to become a doctor, offered free medical care to Korean War veterans in Pennsylvania.

“What he said is he had a debt of honor he wanted to repay,” Park told USA Today.

Park’s father currently serves in the military in the US Army Reserve. That may explain why he’s leaning toward West Point, the academy in upstate New York that has been commissioning Army officers since 1802.

“I would say when I was about 8 years old, there was a documentary on the History Channel talking about these four service academies and I thought to myself that day, I want to do that,” Park told Fox5 DC.

Articles

Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

The families of seven dead US servicemen gathered August 7 to receive lost Purple Heart medals their loved ones had earned in four wars.


An eighth veteran was present for the ceremony at the historic Federal Hall on Wall Street on August 7, which was National Purple Heart Day.

The group Purple Hearts Reunited, based in Georgia, Vermont, has made it its mission to track down misplaced medals. Founder Zachariah Fike said as many as five are found each week across the country.

Seven of those medals returned August 7 went to men who served in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. The eighth was presented to Army Specialist Daniel Swift, a firefighter injured by a roadside bomb in 2004 in Iraq as a member of the National Guard. In his honor, the ceremony opened to the sound of the Fire Department of New York’s bagpipe band.

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota

Rebecca Crofts, 72, was 10 when her dad, WWII Staff Sgt. Bernard Eldon Snow, of Santa Barbara, California, misplaced his medal.

“‘Little Becky, have you seen my medal?'” Crofts, of Superior, Wisconsin, quoted him as saying. “I began hunting for it and never found it.”

Snow’s medal was eventually recovered in a California jewelry shop and returned to the Purple Heart Foundation.

A tearful Crofts was handed a folded American flag honoring her father.

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota
US Air National Guard Photo by Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot 185th ARW Wing PA

The Purple Hearts were presented framed, next to each recipient’s military rank.

Besides Snow and Swift, the Purple Hearts went to: Army Pvt. Frank Lyman Dunnell Jr., of Buffalo; Staff Sgt. George Wesley Roles, of Edna, Kansas; 1st Lt. Brian Woolley Flavelle, of North Caldwell, New Jersey; Pvt. Dan Lawrence Feragen, of Carlyle, Montana; Pvt. 1st Class Jack Carl Kightlinger, of Franklin, Pennsylvania; and Pvt. 1st Class Andrew Thomas Calhoun, of Great Bridge, Virginia.

The first Purple Heart was created by George Washington when he commanded the army serving the colonies that became the United States. Washington was sworn in as the first US president at Federal Hall, then the nation’s capital building.

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7 principles of parenting from a Marine Corps drill instructor

Master Sergeant Chris Lopez is a former Marine Corps drill instructor, combat vet, and father of 3. But if you think he gets in his kids’ face, Full Metal Jacket-style, every time their common sense goes AWOL, you have a major malfunction. Because, getting 90 recruits to do whatever he wants? Easy. Getting one 4-year-old to pick up his socks? Hard. You can’t treat a toddler the same way you treat a grunt because the toddler is going to beat you in a screaming match every time.


That said, Lopez has a core set of principles that are equally applicable on the parade ground as the playground. You bet your ass he has an opinion on modern day, “let them feel their feelings” philosophies on discipline — and it’s not what you think.

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota
Flickr

1. The goal is self discipline

“When we get a batch of new recruits, we don’t know what degree of structure they’ve had in their lives. We try to set a baseline. Your basic function is to bring the heat, to stress them out, and to be an enforcer,” says Lopez. Fortunately for your kid, you’re intimately familiar with exactly how much structure they’ve had in their lives, so you don’t need to bring any heat right off the bat (newborn infants are notoriously hard to train, anyway). The long-term goal, says Lopez, is to make sure that your kids are doing the right thing when there’s nobody there to supervise them — not doing the right thing just as you’re about to take away the iPad.

2. But sometimes you need “imposed discipline”

Speaking of iPads, Lopez has found the one that belongs to his son is a useful tool when he’s displaying a lack of self-discipline. He doesn’t make the kid drop and give him 20. Rather, “We do the timeout thing but it’s usually after some verbal warnings. We don’t do corporal punishment. We go with things my kids are more attached to; if he’s not listening and being polite and it gets to the point where we have to punish, he doesn’t get it back until tomorrow. That’s when it hits home. To me, it’s the same effect as when I was a child and it was like getting spanked.”

3. Where empathy meets strategy

Speaking of punishment, Lopez isn’t so hardass that he goes all R. Lee Ermey on toddlers. “All 3-year-olds want to do things that are dangerous. I try not to let it get to point where it becomes a tantrum with my son. I’ll change the channel. If I tell him to stop doing something, and he won’t do it, I’ll explain why again and I’ll divert his attention. You can punish them, but they’re not going to understand why. It’s a rough one to identify before you get unreasonably upset, So I’ll remove both of us from the situation.” Childhood Development And Empathy Queen Dr. Laura Markham would be impressed.

4. The difference between punishment and correction

Lopez isn’t trying to bounce a quarter off his kid’s Elmo sheets. “The way we do it in our household is as close to the way the Marine Corps does it,” he says, “We don’t believe in the zero defect mentality, where as soon as you make a mistake you’re punished. I’m a firm believer that there’s a difference between punishment and correction. If your child makes an honest mistake it’s not a big deal. It’s not as big a deal as they know the right answer and do something bad.”

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota
Giphy

5. Being afraid of mistakes is worse than making them

“I don’t believe in physically doing something to somebody, or making them go out and digging a fighting hole. I believe in education,” says Lopez. “Allow your children — or the guys that you’re leading — to make those mistakes. That’s where you’re going to get your best ideas. If you’re constantly critiquing [recruits] on how to do things, they’re never going to learn to solve the problems themselves.” That’s easy for him to say — he’s never seen your kid dig a fox hole.

6. “Because I said so” isn’t a reason

Kids are like soldiers, in that they only get the benefit from the how’s and why’s of rules once they can follow them. “As training progresses, the explanations start happening more,” says Lopez of his recruits. “The more you explain why you’re making them do what they’re doing, the more buy in, and the more efficient they are in doing the task. The goal is to be as patient as I can, and explain things as well as I can, without me saying ‘Because I said so.'”

7. How to go from major to dad

“Any drill instructor will tell you, it’s very intoxicating.” says Lopez. “You have 90 kids who want to be a Marine. They’re going to run over every other recruit to prove that to you. It’s very difficult to go from 90 recruits doing everything you want them to do, to home, where you have to wait a half hour for your toddler to pick up their socks and shoes.”

Some guys hit the gym, and some hit the bar, but for Lopez, he has one trick that takes him from Big Daddy on the base to Private Dad at home. “When I was an instructor, I’d use audiobooks like a reset button. It gave me something to focus on other than work, so I could go back and be the normal person I am. Being a drill instructor you’re not going to act the way at home that you do to the recruits.” What works best? James Patterson? Deepak Chopra? Being A Chill Father For Dummies? “Anything by Mark Twain. I’m actually listening to James Joyce right now. The Portrait of An Artist As A Young Man.” Pvt. Daedelus, reporting for duty.

MIGHTY TRENDING

South Korea and Japan are done with North Korea’s nonsense

South Korea’s President Moon Jae In and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed on Nov. 29 that the two nations could “no longer tolerate” the nuclear and missile provocations from North Korea.


“President Moon Jae-in and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to further intensify their countries’ cooperation to put stronger pressure and sanctions against North Korea, noting they can no longer tolerate North Korea’s threats to security,” Moon’s chief press secretary said, according to Yonhap News.

The leaders expressed “concerns over North Korea’s claim that its nuclear and missile development programs are in their final stages,” and agreed to take steps on cracking down on the regime.

US Army veteran cleans up vandalized Purple Heart sign in South Dakota
Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence the Kantei, in Tokyo, Aug. 18, 2017. (Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

Both leaders also agreed that China must play a bigger role in containing Pyongyang.

While Moon and Abe may be determined to hit back at North Korea, there’s little they can do.

South Korea fired missiles across North Korea’s maritime border in the immediate aftermath of the launch on Nov. 28, but the displays of force have no track record of stopping Pyongyang’s nuclear missile progress.

But Moon and Abe discussed a seemingly unrelated topic that may have an important implication for North Korea. Abe reportedly raised the possibility of attending South Korea’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February.

Read Also: F-35 fighters promise a powerful show of force for North Korea

Though Japan and South Korea are allied against North Korea, tensions remain strained among the countries due to lingering resentments from Japan’s invasion of mainland Asia during World War II.

Driving a wedge between the U.S., South Korea, and Japan remains key element of North Korea’s strategy.

A united South Korea and Japan could more effectively stand up to a nuclear North Korea, and a small step like Abe attending the Pyeongchang Olympics could go a long way.

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