The Commissary is about to get a lot busier on Saturdays. Starting in January 2020, veterans with service-connected disability ratings, Purple Heart recipients, and former POWs will be able to access Exchange and Commissary services both in-person and online. Designated caregivers of eligible vets will have access too. The benefit goes into effect for all Exchange services, including NEX, AAFES, CGX, and MCX. But that’s not all.
Veterans will get access to on-base Morale, Welfare, and Recreation services too.
This could be you.
To get access to the AAFES Exchanges, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Exchanges, Commissary, and MWR facilities, including the American Forces Travel site, all you need is a Veterans Health Identification Card, the one issued to you by the VA when you enroll in VA Healthcare. This will give you access to on-base facilities. For veterans who aren’t enrolled in the VA system, they will not be able to access U.S. military installations, but will still have access to the Exchange websites.
What’s especially great about the new rules is expanding access to veteran caregivers. Designated primary caregivers for eligible veterans will be able to get on base to these facilities without their veteran being present as long as they have the eligibility letter they will receive from the VA’s Office of Community Care.
These are just the new recipients of these benefits. Medal of Honor recipients and 100 percent service-connected disabled veterans have always had access to Exchange and Commissary services, and they still will.
.00 haircuts for everyone!
The move comes from the passage of the Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act of 2018 that funds the improvement of physical access control on military installations to give expanded access to these facilities to disabled veterans and their caretakers. It’s a smart move for the Exchange services and the Defense Commissary Agency, both of which have struggled to expand their customer base over the past decade. After the success of allowing vets to use online Exchange services in 2017, the new bill expanded access to physical locations as well.
With the MWR facilities included in the new benefit, this means veterans and caretakers will also have access to RV campgrounds, recreational lodging, bowling alleys, movie theaters, and more.
Three days before her grandfather passed away, Ashley Valentine, 19, made a promise to carry on his legacy in the United States armed services. After deciding to join the Marine Corps, her sister Amber, 22, made the decision to enlist as well.
“After talking with the recruiter about how it would impact my life, I was committed,” Amber said. “I was ready to go no matter what.”
Amber waited for her sister to be approved medically before she went to recruit training. The Manassas, Virginia natives, both agreed that having each other to rely on through recruit training helped during some of their highest highs and lowest lows.
“I went through a moment during first phase where I received some bad news in a letter, and she was there to be a shoulder for me to lean on,” Amber said.
The two will not be attending Marine Combat Training together however – Ashley suffered a hip fracture prior to graduation and will be remaining on the island while she heals.
The two sisters both have faith and confidence in each other on the next step of their lives, despite being physically distant. After they complete Combat Training, Amber will continue on in the Communications field and Ashley will be certified as a Motor Transportation Operator.
“I know she’s going to be ok,” Ashley said of her sister. “She’s always been independent and I know she’s going to succeed in her career.”
When Maria, Vanessa and Melissa Placido Jaramillo were young children, they made a pact to join the military together; yet it was their unbreakable bond that got them through the trials of recruit training.
“When one of us is lacking and the other is strong in that area, we always push each other to become the best we can be.”
Melissa Placido, a U.S. Marine
The three sisters were born in Panama and moved to Las Vegas at a young age. Maria, 21, said she loved war movies growing up; When she saw “Tears of the Sun” for the first time, she said she was truly inspired the join the military. After learning about the ROTC program, she found her true motivation to become a Marine; to honor her family and give back the country who gave her so much.
Her other two sisters, identical twins Melissa and Vanessa, 22, were also in the ROTC program exploring their options of different branches, but it was their younger sister who first spoke with a Marine Corps recruiter.
During recruit training, it was friendly competition and daily positive affirmation that keep their relationship with each other strong, Melissa said.
“When one of us is lacking and the other is strong in that area, we always push each other to become the best we can be,” Melissa said.
“We have an unbreakable bond,” Maria said. “We are always together, but we know how to live separately. I know that my sisters will always be there for me, even when they are not physically with me.”
The three sisters have yet to find out what Military Occupational Specialty they will be assigned, but are looking forward to what the Marine Corps has in store for them. Maria says she is excited to expand her knowledge of a new occupation while completing her education.
Melissa and Vanessa also both intend to complete their education, Melissa as a double major in Political Science and Medical Science, and Vanessa in Political Science and Legal Science. They all will become nationalized as American citizens.
These five success stories of triumph and resilience may have come to Parris Island with different mindsets and from different background, but they will forever share the bond of becoming Marines side-by-side.
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
In Afghanistan’s Farah province, Reza Ghul watched her son’s murder before her eyes, then reportedly picked up arms and helped wax 25 Taliban militants in response to the attack on the local police checkpoint.
Now, we write reportedly because at the moment, the story is sourced only to Khaama Press and Tolo News, which are both local newspapers in Afghanistan. No western sources have picked up on it yet, so a healthy dose of skepticism should apply here.
Still, this is definitely a “whoa if true” story. Seema, Gul’s daughter-in-law, told Tolo News: “We were committed to fight until the last bullet.”
She was supported by her daughter and daughter-in-law during the gun battle which lasted for almost 7 hours that left at least 25 Taliban militants dead and five others injured.
Sediq Sediq, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior (MoI) said the armed campaign by women against the Taliban militants is a symbol of a major revolution and public uprising against the group.
“It was around 5 a.m. when my son’s check post came under the attack of Taliban,” Reza Gul told Tolo News. “When the fighting intensified, I couldn’t stop myself and picked up a weapon, went to the check post and began shooting back.”
If other Afghans fight back against the Taliban with just half the apparent ferocity of this family, things may be alright.
The US Army in Europe has made a number of changes in recent months as part of a broader effort by the Pentagon to prepare for a potential fight against an adversary with advanced military capabilities, like Russia or China.
The latest move came on November 28, when the Army activated the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, in a ceremony at Shipton Barracks in Ansbach, near the city of Nuremberg in southern Germany.
The battalion has a long history, serving in artillery and antiaircraft artillery roles in the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War II, and the Vietnam War. It was deactivated in the late 1990s, after the US military withdrew from the Cold War.
Lt. Col. Todd Daniels, commander of the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, uncovers the battalion colors during the activation and assumption of command ceremony at Shipton Kaserne, Germany, on November 28, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Epperson)
Its return brings new and important short-range-air-defense, or SHORAD, capabilities, according to Col. David Shank, the head of 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, of which the new unit is part.”Not only is this a great day for United States Army Europe and the growth of lethal capability here. It is a tremendous step forward for the Air Defense Enterprise,” Shank said at the ceremony.
The battalion will be composed of five battery-level units equipped with FIM-92 Stinger missiles, according to Stars and Stripes.
Three of those batteries will be certified before the end of the summer, Shank said, adding that battalion personnel would also “build and sustain a strong Army family-support program, and become the subject-matter experts in Europe for short-range-air-defense to not just the Army, but our allies.”
Those troops “will have a hard road in from of them,” Shank said.
Stinger missiles are fired from the Avenger Air Defense System.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
Air Defense Artillery units were for a long time embedded in Army divisions, but the service started divesting itself of those units in the early 2000s, as military planners believed the Air Force could maintain air superiority and mitigate threats posed by enemy aircraft.
But in 2016, after finding a gap in its SHORAD capabilities, the Army started trying to address the shortfall.
In January, for the first time in 15 years, the US Army in Europe began training with Stinger missiles, a light antiaircraft weapon that can be fired from shoulder- and vehicle-mounted launchers.
Lightweight, short-range antiaircraft missiles are mainly meant to defend against ground-attack aircraft, especially helicopters, that target infantry and armored vehicles. Unmanned aerial vehicles — used by both sides in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine — are also a source concern.
A 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade member loads a Stinger onto an Avenger Air Defense System.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat)
US Army Europe has been relying on Avengers defense systems and Stinger missiles from Army National Guard units rotating through the continent as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, which began in 2014 as a way to reassure allies in Europe of the US commitment to their defense.
Guard units rotating through Europe have been training with the Stinger for months, but the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, will be the only one stationed in Europe that fields the Avenger, a short-range-air-defense system that can be mounted on a Humvee and fires Stinger missiles.
The Army has also been pulling Avenger systems that had been mothballed in order to supply active units until a new weapon system is available, according to Defense News, which said earlier this year that Army Materiel Command was overhauling Avengers that had been sitting in a Pennsylvania field waiting to be scrapped.
A U.S. Army Avenger team during qualification in South Korea, October 24, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Marion Jo Nederhoed)
The Army has also fast-tracked its Interim Short Range Air Defense (IM-SHORAD) program to provide air- and missile-defense for Stryker and Armored Brigade Combat Teams in Europe.
The Army plans to develop IM-SHORAD systems around the Stryker, equipping the vehicle with an unmanned turret developed by defense firm Leonardo DRS. The system includes Stinger and Hellfire missiles and an automatic 30 mm cannon, as well as the M230 chain gun and a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun. It will also be equipped with electronic-warfare and radar systems.
Final prototypes of that package are expected in the last quarter of 2019, according to Defense News, with the Army aiming to have the first battery by the fourth quarter of 2020.
The activation of the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, is part of a broader troop increase the Army announced earlier this year, saying that the increase in forces stationed in Europe permanently would come from activating new units rather than relocating them from elsewhere.
The new units would bring 1,500 soldiers and their families back to Europe. (Some 300,000 US troops were stationed on the continent during the Cold War, but that number has dwindled to about 30,000 now.)
A member of the Florida National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 265 Air Defense Artillery Regiment, uses a touchscreen from the driver’s seat of an Army Avenger.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
In addition to the short-range-air-defense battalion and supporting units at Ansbach, the new units will include a field-artillery brigade headquarters and two multiple-launch-rocket-system battalions and supporting units in Grafenwoehr Training Area, and other supporting units at Hohenfels Training Area and the garrison in Baumholder.
The activations were scheduled to begin this year and should be finished by September 2020, the Army said in a statement.
“The addition of these forces increases US Army readiness in Europe and ensures we are better able to respond to any crisis,” the Army said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Despite the lifting of a federal hiring freeze, the Department of Veterans Affairs is leaving thousands of positions unfilled, citing the need for a leaner VA as it develops a longer-term plan to allow more veterans to seek medical care in the private sector.
The order by VA Secretary David Shulkin is described in an internal April 14 memorandum obtained by The Associated Press. The VA indicated it would proceed with filling open positions previously exempted under the hiring freeze. Noting that the White House had ordered all departments to be leaner and “more accountable,” the VA indicated that more than 4,000 jobs would still be left vacant unless they were specially approved “position by position” by top VA leadership as addressing an “absolute critical need.”
These positions include roughly 4,000 in the VA’s health arm and 200 in benefits, plus more than 400 information technology positions and over 100 human resource positions, according to VA data provided to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee earlier in April. Government auditors have previously faulted the department for recent shortages in IT and HR, which it said it had hurt its ability to recruit and hire key staff department-wide.
Major veterans organizations also worry this could be a sign of future tightening at the VA, coming after the department had previously warned it would need “hiring surges” to address a rapidly growing disability backlog. The groups have cautioned against any “privatization” efforts at the VA that could expand private care for veterans while reducing investment in the VA itself.
“It seems to be a reversal of what they have been saying, and it’s disappointing,” said Garry Augustine, executive director of Disabled American Veterans’ Washington headquarters.
Carlos Fuentes, legislative director of Veterans of Foreign Wars, said his group was concerned the VA would overlook positions that didn’t directly affect health care, such as staffing of its suicide prevention hotline.
In a statement April 26, the VA said the hiring restrictions were needed to “streamline VA’s corporate structure and administrative positions.”
While President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint calls for a 6 percent increase in VA funding, the memo indicated that the government’s second largest agency with nearly 370,000 employees was no different from other departments that needed to improve “efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability” and left open the possibility of “near-term” and “long-term workforce reductions.” Shulkin is also putting together a broader proposal by fall to expand the VA’s Choice program of private-sector care.
“This memo lifts the federal hiring freeze. However, this does not mean business as usual for hiring,” stated VA chief of staff Vivieca Wright Simpson. She said VA leadership aimed to proceed in the coming months with “deliberative hiring strategies” as it seeks to build “a future VA of Choice.”
The memo comes as the Trump administration seeks to highlight accomplishment and accountability at the VA. During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly criticized the VA as “the most corrupt” and pledged to expand private care.
Trump planned to sign an executive order April 27 to create a VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, according to a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the matter on the record.
Shulkin has acknowledged that the VA was hurt initially by the hiring freeze because it could not hire claims processors. Shulkin later exempted those positions, including 242 the VA earmarked for this year to specifically address an appeals backlog, a 36 percent increase. But the VA has said it would need an additional hiring “surge” of at least 1,458 full-time staff to stem a growing appeals backlog. The backlog was expected to exceed 1 million within a decade, with average wait times of 8.5 years. The current wait time is as many as five years.
Shulkin also has signaled, without naming specific locations, that underutilized VA facilities will have to close. “There are some parts of the country where facilities are sitting empty, and there is no sense in keeping them empty,” he has said.
The executive order being signed by Trump would create a VA office to “discipline or terminate VA managers or employees who fail to carry out their duties in helping our veterans.”
Recent audits by the VA inspector general and a report by The Associated Press in February found a pattern of poor VA compliance involving equipment and drug inventory checks, putting patients at risk at the Washington, D.C. medical center and leading to a sharp rise in opioid thefts across the VA system since 2009.
In March, the Republican-led House approved legislation to make it easier for the VA to fire, suspend, or demote employees for poor performance or bad conduct. But the measure has been slow to move in the Senate after Democrats and unions cast it as an attack on workers’ rights.
AP writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.
Counter-terrorism operations outside of active war zones under President Donald Trump are outpacing the Obama administration by nearly five times, Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Micah Zenko said July 31.
The US has launched at least 100 counter-terrorism operations since Trump took office. Zenko compared this number to the mere 21 operations launched under former President Barack Obama in his last six months in office. These operations include raids by US special operators, drone strikes, and other lethal actions.
The majority of the operations listed in Zenko’s analysis occurred in Yemen where the US is actively battling an al-Qaeda insurgency. Trump declared Yemen an “area of active hostilities” after taking office, which allows the military to carry out counter-terrorism strikes without going through a White House-led approval process.
Zenko’s previous April analysis revealed that the US averaged approximately one counter-terrorism strike per day in the first 74 days of Trump’s presidency. “There is a sense among these commanders that they are able to do a bit more — and so they are,” a senior US defense official said of the Trump administration in April.
Trump has also considered changing the way the US targets terrorists in drone strikes. The new rules would instead target terrorists under military protocols which allow for some civilian casualties, as long as they weighed proportionally by the commander responsible for approving the operation. The loosening of drone strike protocol couples with broader counter-terrorism policy changes by the administration, including a change in rules of engagement in the fight against ISIS, more leeway for Pentagon commanders considering ground raids, and increased willingness to use military force.
When troops are deployed, they soon find themselves missing the comforts – or tastes — of home. MREs can get old, and even when fresh food is available, it just doesn’t compare to what troops are used to.
A Texas National Guard unit deployed to the MidEast realized that very quickly.
According to a report by Todd Starnes, those troops were facing a serious letdown every Sunday night, which for them was “Chicken Tender Night.” The chicken at the undisclosed military base was just not up to the troops’ specs.
“Every Sunday is chicken tender night – which is one of the highlights of every week,” a National Guard first lieutenant identified as Jessie, wrote to Starnes. “With this being said, the chicken is okay at best,” he added.
The troops hit on the idea of using BBQ sauce to help address what Jessie would describe in a Facebook post as “overcooked and bland chicken tenders.” However, when forward deployed, refrigeration became an issue, as most bottles of BBQ sauce instruct people to “refrigerate after opening.”
Two weeks later, on Chicken Tender night, the deployed Texas National Guard unit got a delivery: two cases of sauces, one of the requested BBQ sauce, the other of Chick-Fil-A’s signature “Chick-Fil-A” sauce.
“Who would have ever thought you would see Chick-fil-A sauces in Iraq. It was our pleasure and honor to send you the BBQ and CFA sauces, and what a miracle that they actually arrived on Chicken Tender night!” Jason Driscoll of Chick-Fil-A posted on the local restaurant’s Facebook page after Jessie shared the story of the sauces arriving.
Bravo Zulu to Chick-Fil-A for rescuing our troops’ taste buds!
It’s finally here, the weapon we’ve been told was in testing and would soon be the undoing of Iran’s regional foes, wherever they might be found: the Dezful ballistic missile. The Islamic Republic’s state-run news agency, Sepah News, unveiled the new weapon on Feb. 7, 2019.
The new 2,000-kilometer missile comes just one week after Iran successfully tested another surface-to-surface weapon, the 1,350-kilometer Hoveizeh cruise missile. The new missile is able to strike U.S. military bases in the region.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps has been working on the new weapons in preparation for the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Revolution that ousted the imperial Shah Reza Pahlavi and installed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as the Supreme Leader of the new Islamic Republic of Iran.
The the Hoveizeh cruise missile. Kassif.
(Mehr News Agency)
Iran’s newest weapons are said to be twice as destructive as the most powerful weapons in its current arsenal, the Zolfaghar missile. Iran has used this weapon to strike ISIS targets in Syria. The United States and United Nations have been urging international partners to keep arms embargoes and economic sanctions on Iran in place to stop these weapons from being developed.
“Displaying this missile production facility deep underground is an answer to Westerners … who think they can stop us from reaching our goals through sanctions and threats,” Revolutionary Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said from an underground bunker.
The Islamic Republic has continued to abide by the terms of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – also known as “the Iran Nuclear Deal” – which did not cover the development of missile technology. These new missiles were partly responsible for the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA. The state’s European partners have not withdrawn.
Iran says the missiles are in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which calls on the country to refrain from “any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” Iran says the Hoveizeh and the Dezful missiles comply with both the JCPOA and Resolution 2231.
The McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom acquired many nicknames over its storied career: Snoopy, Old Smokey, St. Louis Slugger, the Flying Anvil, and many more. The best, by far, came from the sheer number of Soviet-built MiGs taken down by the plane.
The F-4 was truly an amazing aircraft. Even at the end of its service life, it was winning simulated air battles against the United States’ latest and greatest airframes, including the F-15 Eagle, which is still in service today. Even though it was considered an ugly aircraft by pilots of the time, it’s hard to argue with 280 enemy MiG kills — which is how it acquired its best nickname, “The World’s Leading Distributor of MiG Parts.”
After being introduced in 1960, it was acquired by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Navy as an interceptor and fighter-bomber. In Vietnam, the Phantom was used as a close-air support aircraft and also fulfilled roles as aerial reconnaissance and as an air superiority fighter.
All of the last American pilots, weapon systems officers, and radar intercept officers to attain ace status did so in F-4 Phantom II fighters over Vietnam — against MiGs.
And the MiG fighters flown by the North Vietnamese were no joke, either. The Navy’s Top Gun school was founded because of the loss rate attributed to VPAF pilots — and that’s only the opposition in the air. North Vietnam’s air defenses were incredibly tight, using precise, effective doctrine to thwart American air power whenever possible. Air Force Col. Robin Olds used this doctrine against them in Operation Bolo, the first offensive fighter sweep of the war and a brilliant air victory.
Olds found the loss rate to VPAF MiG-21s to be unacceptable when taking command of the 8th TFW in Ubon. With the F-4’s success in Operation Bolo, Olds and the 8th TFW grounded the entire Vietnamese People’s Air Force for months.
The F-4 Phantom II was eventually replaced, but it took a number of different planes to compensate for the absence of this versatile airframe. It was replaced by the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, and F-14 Tomcat. The F-14 was also the most widely produced aircraft, with more than 5,000 built.
Today, the Phantom still out there with the air forces of Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and Iran, and was last seen blowing up ISIS fighters in a close-air support role.
Hyper-vigilant during his military stint in Iraq, always on the alert that he was in danger of being killed, Steve Kennedy found he could not turn it off.
An Army soldier who had led several teams during his time in Iraq, and won numerous awards, Kennedy uncharacteristically started using alcohol and putting himself in dangerous situations, hoping to get hurt.
Diagnosed with major depression they could not treat, the military gave Kennedy a less than honorable discharge blamed on an absence without leave to attend his wedding. Once out of the service he was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder.
According to RAND, 20-30% of veterans are diagnosed with PTSD. (Courtesy photo illustration)
Alicia Carson took part in more than 100 missions in less than 300 days with an Army Special Forces unit in Afghanistan, and served in combat on a regular basis. When she returned home, she was found to have PTSD and a traumatic brain injury.
After presenting a physician’s diagnosis, she asked to be excused from National Guard drills. The National Guard then discharged her with a less than honorable discharge because of her absenses.
The two Army veterans filed a federal class-action suit April 17 asking that the Army Discharge Review Board give “liberal consideration” to their PTSD diagnoses as former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hegel had instructed in 2014.
They are being represented by supervisors and student interns at the Jerone N. Frank Legal Services Organization at the Yale Law School.
Kennedy, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, members of the Yale Law School team and others held a press conference on the suit at the law school after it was filed with U.S. District Judge Warren W. Eginton in Bridgeport’ federal court.
Kennedy and Carson are filing on behalf of themselves and more than 50,000 similarly situated former military personnel.
In 2014, only 42% of veterans were enrolled in the VA. (Veterans Affairs photo)
Blumenthal had worked with the former secretary of defense to put in place the Hegel memo to correct discharges that were based on actions tied to brain trauma and PTSD.
“This cause is a matter or justice, plain and simple. …Steve Kennedy has been through hell. The special hell of a bad paper discharge resulting from post-traumatic stress, one of the invisible wounds of war,” the senator said.
He introduced Conley Monk, a Vietnam veteran, who was part of a different war but experienced the same bad papers due to actions committed while suffering from PTSD, something that was not even recognized medically in that era.
Monk, however, benefitted from the review board following Hegel’s memo after a lawsuit filed against the Department of Defense.
Blumenthal said the discharges resulted in a stigma for both of them and Carson, as well as a loss of benefits.
Kennedy has since put himself through school and is expected to get his doctorate this year in biophysical chemistry at New York University. With an honorable discharge, he would have been eligible for $75,000 in benefits he never received.
The senator said a lawsuit should not have been necessary to move the review board to do the right thing and follow the law.
“The Department of Defense has failed to provide the relief the law requires,” Blumenthal said.
The Army does not comment on pending lawsuits.
Blumenthal said he has spoken to Secretary of Defense James Mattis about this issue.
“He has been sympathetic, but these men and women are not seeking sympathy. They want real results. …They deserve consistent standards and fair treatment,” he said. Blumethal said they are not seeking any financial renumeration.
Kennedy lives in Fairfield, while Carson lives in Southington. She was not at the press conference.
Carson suffered from severe PTSD-related symptoms, such as nightmares, loss of consciousness, loss of memory, trouble sleeping, irritability, feelings of being dazed and confused, and photosensitivity, a vision problem recognized as a symptom of traumatic brain injury.
Jonathan Petkun, who is among the law students representing Kennedy and Carson, is also a former Marine and a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan.
“With this lawsuit, we are asking the Army to live up to its obligations and to fairly adjudicate the discharge upgrade applications of individuals with PTSD,” he said.
Petkun said since 2001, more than 2.5 million military personnel have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, with more than half deployed more than once. At the same time, some 20 percent are estimated to be suffering from PTSD or PTSD-related conditions.
“Instead of giving these wounded warriors the treatment they deserve, too often the military kicks them out with less than honorable discharges based on minor infractions, many of which are attributable to their untreated PTSD,” Petkun said.
Stokes said he chose to include Henline alongside amputee vets in response to Facebook comments he received about his earlier work, “Always Loyal.”
“One comment I got was ‘Hey, you’re hand-picking these gorgeous men [for the photos], why don’t you feature someone who’s burned?’ ” Stokes said. “Bobby and I had already been talking for six months at that point, so I thought it was a great opportunity to follow up and … do something a bit different.”
Check out Henline’s pose below:
“Bobby is very popular and is able to stand alongside any of these guys and pull off the photo shoot,” Stokes said. “He pulls off sexy. He looks great.”
Stokes said that the goal of projects like “Invictus” is to give veterans a platform that could jumpstart modeling careers and lead to mainstream campaigns.
This dream came true for double-amputee veteran and “Always Loyal” alum Chris Van Etten, who recently landed a Jockey underwear campaign after a Stokes photo shoot.
“When the Jockey campaign launched, I had all of these people tagging me on Facebook saying ‘You made this possible, you led the way on this, you broke the ice on this.,’ ” Stokes said. “And all of these people were giving me credit for making it not taboo for a corporation to do a campaign and photo shoots like this.”
“This is evidence that people are happy that these guys are getting exposure and getting mainstream gigs,” he added.
Despite enthusiasm from both within and outside of the military community, Stokes said there are still those who are uncomfortable with his “cheeky” shots of wounded vets.
“When you have a photo that goes viral, that’s when you hear negative comments,” Stokes said. “Some people have said things like ‘This is not respectful to the uniform; this is not dignified.’ … [But] they’re definitely the minority voice.”
Stokes said he doesn’t focus on his critics, but on the experience of his models in front of the camera.
The photo shoot “is different with each model,” Stokes said.
“One of the models is a double amputee — and way high up. And during the shoot he said ‘I didn’t know I looked like that from behind,’ ” Stokes explained. “He’s missing part of his hip … and he didn’t know he had such a nice butt.”
Stokes hopes “Invictus” will continue to change public perceptions and normalize glamour shots of amputee models.
FBI Director Chris Wray says the top U.S. law enforcement agency will never give up on “finding out what happened” to former agent Robert Levinson, who the U.S. government believes died while in Iranian custody.
In an e-mail to FBI staff seen by the Associated Press on March 26, Wray said he had met with the family of Robert Levinson and “we explained that the most credible evidence we have collected over the past 13 years points to the likelihood that Bob died in captivity.”
“It pained me to deliver that news, but I believe that we owed Bob’s family a thorough and candid presentation of the information that we’ve collected,” Wray wrote.
Wray did not provide details on the “credible evidence” he said the family had received.
“We’re going to keep working doggedly to determine the circumstances surrounding Bob’s abduction and his time in captivity, to find the answers we all want and that the Levinsons deserve,” Wray said.
Levinson, who was born in March 1948, disappeared when he traveled to the Iranian resort island of Kish in March 2007. He was working for the CIA as a contractor at the time.
The United States has repeatedly called on Iran to help locate Levinson and bring him home, but Iranian officials said they had no information about his fate.
However, when he disappeared, an Iranian government-linked media outlet broadcast a story saying he was “in the hands of Iranian security forces.”
Tehran on March 26 said in a statement that Levinson left Iran “long ago” and that Iranian authorities don’t know where he is, rejecting the claim that he died in Iranian custody.
“Based on credible evidence, [Levinson] left Iran years ago for an unknown destination,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mosavi said in the statement.