Secretary of Defense James Mattis can only raise troop numbers in Afghanistan by approximately 3,900 before having to further consult the the White House, a memo obtained July 6 by The Wall Street Journal revealed.
The memo casts further light on President Donald Trump’s June 2017 decision to allow Mattis to set troop levels in Afghanistan. The decision follows months of deliberations by the White House on the Trump administration’s path forward in Afghanistan.
Mattis is reportedly mulling sending his maximum allotted number of 4,000 more troops, but has publicly insisted that any troop increases will be paired with a broader political strategy to force reconciliation with the Taliban movement, saying “we’re not looking at a purely military strategy.” Reconciliation would entail the Taliban dropping their armed insurrection against the Afghan government and joining the political process.
“We’re talking now about putting what we call NATO air support, down at the brigade level, so when they are in contact, the high ground is now going to be owned by the Afghans. It’s a fundamental change to how we bring our … real superiority in terms of air support to help them. In other words, we’re not talking about putting our troops on the front line,” Mattis explained in mid-June regarding forthcoming changes to the Afghan review.
Both CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel and US Forces Afghanistan commander Gen. John Nicholson have said that they need a few thousand more troops to more effectively train, advise, and assist the Afghan forces. Nicholson indicated before Congress that more troops would allow him to deploy troops closer to the front lines, and embed advisors at lower levels of the chain of command within the Afghan forces.
Mattis is expected to bring his final proposal for the way forward in Afghanistan in mid-July. In the meantime, the US effort in Afghanistan is not going well. The Afghan National Security Forces are beset by corruption and suffering devastating losses, and it is unclear what additional advisors can realistically do to turn the army into an autonomous fighting force.
The US Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction noted in late April that the security force’s casualties continue to be “shockingly high.” The report highlighted that 807 Afghan troops were killed in just the first six weeks of 2017, and that nearly 35 percent of the force chooses not to re-enlist each year.
President Donald Trump on Oct. 1, 2018, awarded the Medal of Honor to former Army Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II, a Secret Service agent who is now fighting a battle with cancer.
“Today is a truly proud and special day for those of us here in the White House because Ron works right here alongside of us on the Secret Service counter-assault team; these are incredible people,” Trump told a crowded room filled with Shurer’s family, fellow soldiers and Army senior leaders.
Trump then told the story of Shurer’s bravery as a Green Beret on a daring April 6, 2008, mission in the Shok Valley of Afghanistan to “hunt down a deadly terrorist, a leader in that world … [who] was in a remote mountain village.”
“Ron was among two dozen Special Forces soldiers and 100 Afghan commandos who dropped off by helicopter into Shok Valley, a rocky barren valley, far away from reinforcements,” Trump said.
The assault force encountered no enemy activity during the 1,000-foot climb to their objective, but as the lead element approached the target village, “roughly 200 well-trained and well-armed terrorists ambushed the American and Afghan forces,” he said.
Shurer, the mission’s only medic, immediately began treating wounded. He then sprinted and climbed through enemy fire to reach several of his teammates who were pinned down on a cliff above.
“There was blood all over the place,” Trump said. “It was a tough, tough situation to be in. Immediately, Ron climbed the rocky mountain, all the while fighting back against the enemy and dodging gun fire left and right. Rockets were shot at him, everything was shot at him.”
After treating and stabilizing two more soldiers, Shurer was struck in the helmet by a bullet that had passed through another soldier’s arm. He was stunned by the blow but quickly bandaged the soldier’s arm.
“He continued to brave withering enemy fire to get to [another] soldier’s location to treat his lower leg, which had been almost completely severed by a high-caliber sniper round,” according to the award citation.
Shurer then helped evacuate the wounded down the mountainside so they could be loaded aboard helicopters.
He rejoined his commando squad and “continued to lead his troops and emplace security elements” until it was time to leave the area, the citation states.
“For more than six hours, Ron bravely faced down the enemy; not a single American died in that brutal battle thanks in great measure to Ron’s heroic actions,” Trump said.
A decade later, Shurer is fighting another battle — this time with stage 4 lung cancer. More than 500 people have joined his cause and are attempting to raise 0,000 for his family through a GoFundMe account.
Shurer with his family, President Trump, and Vice President Mike Pence.
“A year and a half ago, Ron was diagnosed with cancer — tough cancer, rough cancer,” Trump said. “But he’s braved, battled, worked; he’s done everything he can … he’s been fighting it every single day with courage and with strength. And he is a warrior.”
Shurer was initially awarded a Silver Star for performing heroic feats in 2008. Trump described how he upgraded that award to the Medal of Honor after hearing his story.
“Several weeks ago, my staff invited Ron and his wife Miranda to a meeting in the West Wing,” the president recounted, as Shurer sat in his Army dress blue uniform. “They didn’t know what it was about. They walked into the Oval Office, and I told Ron that he was going to receive our nation’s highest military honor.”
It was a moment Trump said he will never forget.
“Ron, our hearts are filled with gratitude as we prepare to engrave your name alongside of America’s greatest heroes,” he said. “Ron is an inspiration to everyone in this room and to every citizen all across our great land.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Boeing recently unveiled a conceptual model for a new hypersonic jet that would replace the SR-71 Blackbird, according to Aviation Week Aerospace Daily.
The conceptual model was displayed at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SciTech forum in Orlando.
The “airplane concept and associated technology are targeted for a hypersonic ISR (reconnaissance)/strike aircraft that would have the same type of mission as the SR-71,” Boeing spokeswoman Sandra Angers told Business Insider in an emailed statement. “In that sense, it could be a future replacement for the SR-71.”
“It’s a conceptual model for an eventual demonstrator, but no one has committed to building a reusable hypersonic demonstrator yet,” Angers added. “We’re constantly looking to advance concept in technology areas that could someday be asked for by the customer.”
Boeing is one of the largest defense contractors and political donors in the U.S.
Angers also told Business Insider over the phone that the future generation concept would be able to hit speeds of more than Mach 5.
Boeing’s chief scientist for hypersonics, Kevin Bowcutt, told Aviation Week that the twin-tailed, waverider configuration is an evolving yet feasible hypersonic design.
Aviation Week also reported that Boeing “envisions a two-step process beginning with flight tests of an F-16-sized, single-engine proof-of-concept precursor vehicle leading to a twin-engine, full-scale operational vehicle with about the same dimensions as the 107-ft.-long SR-71.”
Boeing has already experimented with two unmanned hypersonic planes, the X-43 and X-51, according to Popular Mechanics.
In 2013, Boeing tested the small X-51, which hit speeds of Mach 5.1 for more than three minutes before crashing into the ocean, Popular Mechanics reported. The X-51, however, was dropped from a B-52 and used a jettisoned booster to reach Mach 5.1.
Boeing’s conceptual design will have to take off and land on its own, which is much harder, Popular Mechanics reported.
On Sept. 3, two Soldiers were working as volunteers and representatives for the “No DUI Program” coordinated by Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers (BOSS) and received a call asking for a ride home.
Spc. Basar Bozdogan, an automated logistical specialist, and Pfc. Jacob Kranjnik, an infantryman, both assigned to the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, immediately jumped into action and drove their government vehicle to pick up a Soldier to ensure he made it home safely.
“After approximately 15 minutes into the drive, we called the Soldier saying that we were close by,” said Kranjnik. “He told us he found another ride.”
A little disappointed, they turned around and headed home. As they were driving southbound on Highway 24 on Fountain Boulevard, they saw a wreck.
“We noticed a three-vehicle collision,” said Kranjnik. “There was no one else around or on the road. I believed that the wreck happened maybe 30 seconds before we got there.”
Bozdogan and Kranjnik quickly pulled over to see what had happened.
“We noticed one person who was helping people get out of their vehicle,” said Kranjnik. “We assisted as well. Once everyone was out of their vehicles, I looked back and noticed someone was still stuck inside. At first, I didn’t want to move him because he looked like he was injured pretty badly. Then, I noticed there were flames under the vehicle. It started to get bigger really fast. I screamed to Bozdogan and yelled that the vehicle is catching on fire.”
Bozdogan immediately recognized that there was a person in the vehicle as well.
“We didn’t want to pull the guy out of the vehicle unless we had to,” said Bozdogan.
Bozdogan and Kranjnik jumped into action, flung open the door, took the injured man’s seatbelt off, and carried him to safety.
“As we were carrying him away, the whole car caught on fire,” said Kranjnik. “If we would’ve waited longer, it would’ve been a devastating situation. He could’ve also suffered burn injuries, or even died.”
Bozdogan said everything happened for a reason.
“That man would not have had a chance if it weren’t for us. In my heart, I knew right away that I was not going to watch him burn alive. We were meant to be on that road. We were trying to prevent an accident with a Soldier and ended up saving someone else’s life that night. What are the odds?”
Bozdogan and Kranjnik did not feel like heroes. They felt like they did the humane thing to help people who were in need.
“I joined the Army to save lives here and abroad,” said Bozdogan. “It doesn’t matter where I’m at, I just have that instinct to react when I see someone who needs help. It’s not all about being a hero, it’s about making a split second decision at the right moment to ensure the safety of others.”
Bozdogan and Kranjnik, two Iron Soldiers, have been nominated for the Soldier’s Medal.
The Soldier’s Medal is the Army’s highest peacetime award for valor. According to Army Regulation 600-8-22, the directive that outlines military awards and decorations, the performance must have involved personal hazard or danger and the voluntary risk of life under conditions not involving conflict with an armed enemy.
Today, the Bell Aircraft Corporation is best known for making helicopters like the legendary UH-1 Iroquois. Aviation enthusiasts will recall that the company also made the X-1, the rocket-powered aircraft that took Chuck Yeager past the sound barrier. However, Bell also made one of the deadliest American fighter planes of WWII. It just wasn’t flown very much by Americans.
In the early years of WWII, after Hitler’s betrayal, the Nazis had the Soviet Union on the back foot. The German Operation Barbarossa opened up the Eastern Front and resulted in the deaths of millions of Soviets. Still officially neutral in the war, the United States sent massive amounts of its own war material to the Soviet Union through the Lend-Lease program. One fighter that proved very popular with Soviet pilots was the Bell P-39 Airacobra.
In 1937, the Airacobra was conceptualized as a high-altitude interceptor. It featured an unconventional design with its engine behind the cockpit. While this allowed for better balance and maneuverability, the P-39’s high altitude performance was handicapped by its lack of a turbo-supercharger. As a result, it was rejected by the RAF and saw limited service with the U.S. Army Air Forces. The Airacobra was outclassed by the Japanese Zero and earned a poor reputation amongst American pilots. Redesignated as the P-400 in American hands, pilots in the Pacific theater joked that the plane was simply a P-40 with a Zero on its tail.
Where the P-39 shined was on the Eastern Front. The battlefield environment there did not call for high-altitude performance like the Pacific Theater or the Western Front. Rather, air combat on the Eastern Front was predominantly low-speed and low-altitude. Luckily for the Soviets, the P-39 excelled at this type of flying.
Equipped with .50 caliber machine guns and a nose-mounted 20mm or 37mm cannon (depending on the model), the P-39 had the teeth necessary to take on the Luftwaffe. In fact, Soviet pilots would remove the two wing-mounted machine guns and keep the nose-mounted guns and cannon to improve the aircraft’s roll rate. “I liked the Cobra, especially the Q-5 version,” recalled Soviet P-39 pilot Nikolai Golodnikov. “It was the lightest version of all Cobras and was the best fighter I ever flew.”
The Soviet mission of the P-39 was prikrytiye sukhoputnykh voysk, meaning “coverage of ground forces.” However, Soviet doctrine did not interpret this task the same as Western militaries. Although the P-39 did perform strafing runs against infantry and soft targets, this was not its primary task. Despite carrying a cannon, the P-39s provided by the U.S. were only sent with high-explosive cannon rounds. Without armor-piercing rounds, Soviet P-39s were unable to effectively engage German armor. However, the HE rounds were extremely effective at tearing apart German bombers. It even outperformed early and mid-war Messerschmitt Bf 109s. During the Battle of Kuban River, the P-39 was the predominant Soviet fighter asset.
Five of the ten highest-scoring Soviet aces logged the majority of their kills in the P-39. Aleksandr Pokyrshkin scored 47 of his 59 kills in a P-39, making him the highest-scoring P-39 pilot of WWII. Moreover, he is the highest-scoring Allied pilot to fly an American aircraft. Comparatively, only one American pilot became an ace in the Airacobra. Ironically, the last plane shot down by the Luftwaffe and the last Soviet plane to score a kill during WWII was also a P-39.
During the war, 4,719 P-39s were sent to the Soviet Union. They accounted for over a third of all U.S. and UK-supplied aircraft sent to the Soviets and nearly half of all P-39s produced. Along with its derivative, the P-63 Kingcobra, the P-39 is one of the most successful aircraft ever produced by Bell.
On April 21, 1918, the Red Baron was killed in action.
Manfred von Richthofen, known to allies and enemies as the Red Baron, was a dog-fighting legend in a time when planes were made of wood, fabric, and aluminum.
After joining the German army as a cavalryman, the Barron quickly switched to the Imperial Air Service in 1915, and took to the skies over the western front by 1916.
Between 1916 and 1918, the Red Baron downed 80 enemy aircraft, easily surpassing all flying-ace records of the time.
While many Ace pilots of the era were known for risky and aggressive aerial acrobatics, the Baron was a patient tactician and expert marksman. He preferred to dive upon his enemies from above, often with the sun at his back. His two most famous aircraft, the Albatros D.III and Fokker Dr. I, were painted bright red to honor his old cavalry regiment.
On April 21st, while hunting British observation aircraft, the Red Baron and his squadron ventured deep into Allied French territory. They quickly got into a tussle with an Allied squadron, and the Baron began to stalk a Canadian Air Force plane.
In the heat of the chase, the Baron flew too low to the ground, and was fired upon from below. Sources differ on who fired the shot, but the kill is often credited to an Australian machine gunner using a Vickers gun.
The Baron was struck in the chest by a single .303 bullet. Even as he died, he still managed to make a rough landing. By most accounts, his plane was barely even damaged.
He was buried by Allied forces with full military honors.
Military photographers in all the branches of the armed forces are constantly taking awesome shots of training, combat, and stateside events. We looked among the military’s official channels, Flickr, Facebook, and elsewhere and picked our favorites over the past week. Here’s what we found:
A B-52H Stratofortress flies during Cope North 15, Feb. 17, 2015, off the coast of Guam. During the exercise, the U.S., Japan and Australia air forces worked on developing combat capabilities enhancing air superiority, electronic warfare, air interdiction, tactical airlift and aerial refueling. The B-52H is assigned to the 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron.
Exercise Cope North 15 participants and aircraft from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, Japan Air Self-Defense Force, Royal Australian Air Force, Republic of Korea Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force and Philippine Air Force take a group photo Feb. 13, 2015, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.
SASEBO, Japan (Feb. 26, 2015) Lt. j.g. Weston Floyd, ballistic missile defense officer, Cmdr. Chad Graham, executive officer, and Chief Operations Specialist Chris Ford prepare to participate in a fleet synthetic training joint exercise aboard the Arleigh-burke class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56).
PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 26, 2015) Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Carl E. Mundy III, commander of Task Force (CTF) 51, addresses Sailors and Marines during an all-hands call on the flight deck of Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2).
Soldiers train with multinational soldiers at the International Special Training Center Advanced Medical First Responder Course (ISTC), conducted by the ISTC Medical Branch, in Pfullendorf, Germany, Feb. 17-19, 2015.
Soldiers participate in the chin up portion of the Ranger Physical Fitness Assessment (RPFA) on Fort Benning, Ga., Feb. 7, 2015, as part of the Ranger Training Assessment Course. In order to pass the RPFA, Soldiers must successfully do 49 push ups, 59 sit ups, a 2.5-mile run within 20 minutes, and six chin ups.
An AV-8B Harrier with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161 (Reinforced), 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, prepares to take off aboard the USS Essex (LHD 2) during Amphibious Squadron/Marine Expeditionary Unit Integration Training (PMINT) off the coast of San Diego, Feb. 24, 2015.
Marines extinguish a fuel fire at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma during live-burn training Feb. 21, 2015. The Marines worked together to contain and extinguish the fire.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Bill Glenn and Petty Officer 1st Class Brian Korte, members of the military dive team aboard Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, are hoisted out of icy water after completing an underwater inspection of the ship while moored at the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station, Antarctica, Jan. 23, 2015.
The crew sees alit of amazing wildlife in Antarctica. We’re going to show you some of our favorite shots today. A seal lay on the ice in front of the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star while the ship is hove-to in the Ross Sea near Antarctica, Jan. 30, 2015.
When the USS Wahoo sailed into Pear Harbor on Feb. 7, 1943, she had an odd ornament on her periscope: a common broom. But that broom was one of the most impressive symbols a crew could aspire to earn because it symbolized that the boat had destroyed an entire enemy convoy, sweeping it from the seas.
Flush with torpedoes and no other threats in sight, the Wahoo decided to engage. It fired a spread of three torpedoes but had underestimated the destroyer’s speed. The Wahoo fired another torpedo with the speed taken into account, but the destroyer turned out of the weapon’s path.
And then it bore down on the Wahoo, seeking to destroy the American sub. The crew played a high-stakes game of chicken by holding the sub in position. When the destroyer reached 1,200 yards, the crew fired the fifth torpedo, which the destroyer again avoided.
At 800 yards they fired their sixth and last forward torpedo, barely enough range for the torpedo to arm. The risk of failure was so great that Lt. Cmdr. Dudley Morton ordered a crash dive immediately after firing, putting as much water in the way of enemy depth charges as possible.
But the last torpedo swam true and hit the Japanese ship in the middle, breaking its keel and causing its boilers to burst.
The next day, Jan. 25, was relatively uneventful, but Jan. 26 would be the Wahoo’s date with destiny. Just over an hour after sunrise, the third officer spotted smoke over the horizon and Morton ordered an intercept course.
They found a four-ship convoy consisting of a tanker, a troop transport, and two freighters. All four were valuable targets, but sinking the troop transport could save thousands of lives and sinking tankers would slow the Japanese war machine by starving ships of fuel.
There was no escort, but the Wahoo still had to watch for enemy deck guns and ramming maneuvers. The sub fired a four-torpedo spread at the two freighters, scoring three hits. The first target sank and the second was wounded. Wahoo then turned its attention to the tanker and the troop transport.
The troop transport attempted a ram, sailing straight at the Wahoo. Morton ordered a risky gambit, firing a torpedo at the transport after it drew close rather than taking evasive actions.
After the torpedo was launched, the transport took its own evasive action and abandoned its ramming maneuver. In doing so, the transport presented the sub with its broad sides, a prime target.
The Wahoo fired two more torpedoes and dove to avoid another attack. It was still diving when both torpedoes struck home. Eight minutes later, the Wahoo surfaced and saw that the transport was dead in the water. It fired a torpedo that failed to detonate and then a carefully aimed final shot that triggered a massive explosion and doomed the Japanese vessel.
A few hours later, the Wahoo was able to find and re-engage the two survivors of her earlier action. The tanker and the wounded freighter had steamed north but couldn’t move fast enough to escape the American sub.
The Wahoo waited for nightfall and then fired two torpedoes at the undamaged tanker. One hit, but the ship was still able to sail quickly. With only four torpedoes left and the Japanese ships taking evasive action, Wahoo waited and studied their movements.
When certain they could predict the Japanese ships, the crew attacked again. The first pair of torpedoes were fired at the tanker just after it turned. One of them slammed into its middle, breaking the keel and quickly sending it to the depths.
The crippled freighter was firing what weapons it had at the sub and almost hit it with a shell, forcing it to dive. Then, a searchlight appeared from over the horizon, possibly signaling a Japanese warship that could save the freighter.
The Wahoo carefully lined up its final shot at 2,900 and fired both torpedoes at once with no spread, a sort of final Hail-Mary to try and sink the freighter before it could find safety with the warship.
The final pair of torpedoes both hit, their warheads tearing open the freighter and quickly sinking it before the Japanese ship, which turned out to be a destroyer, cleared the horizon.
The American crew escaped and continued their patrol, attempting to attack another convoy with just their deck guns on Jan. 27 and mapping a Japanese explosives facility on Jan. 28 before returning to Pearl Harbor with the triumphant broom flying high on Feb. 7.
Nearly 4 million veterans and caregivers who were granted privileges to shop at commissaries and exchanges Jan. 1 can finally enjoy access to online features, a Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) news release said Friday.
However, the new patrons’ access to American Forces Travel (AFT), the official Morale, Welfare and Recreation travel site, is still spotty, according to the latest AFT Facebook post.
Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war, veterans with any service-connected disability, and caregivers registered with the VA’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program became eligible to shop at commissaries, exchanges and MWR facilities beginning Jan. 1.
Since then, these new shoppers have experienced issues, including not being able to bring guests on base and trouble accessing MyCommissary and AFT online portals.
DeCA officials said they had to work with Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC), which is used to confirm shopping privileges, to let new patrons register their Commissary Rewards cards online to access coupons and to use, as available, the Click2Go curbside service.
“In the event a new shopper is still receiving an error message when trying to create an account, they should check with the [Department of Veterans Affairs] to ensure their information and privileges are correctly entered into the system,” DeCA system engineer Clayton Nobles said in a statement. “For those receiving a new Veterans Health Identification Card (VHIC), there may be a delay between when the veteran receives the card and when the system allows them access. This delay can take up to 30 days.”
Eligible veterans must have a VHIC to access bases for shopping or MWR use.
Customers who had access before Jan. 1, such as retired service members, Medal of Honor recipients and veterans with a service-related disability rating of 100%, are not affected.
Meanwhile, AFT is still updating its customer database of “millions of records.”
“We have sent examples to DMDC and they were able to see why some patrons are having issues,” AFT said on Facebook, the only place it is providing updates on the issue. “We will let you know when that resolve has been made and then ask you to try logging on again. Records are being updated every hour.”
But some veterans are getting tired of waiting.
“No luck today. Last week they said it would be fixed this week,” one Facebook user wrote. “The week before, it was going to be fixed last week. I sent a private message this afternoon and got an automated response to call the DMDC help desk at 1-800-727-3677. That number is for the Commissary. After 35 minutes, someone answered the phone and said they could not help me to get verified.”
For me, Memorial Day has always been about more than just picnics and barbecues. I have five members of my family buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The earliest served in the Spanish American War, and all the way to World War II. It’s important that their service be honored and remembered — especially on Memorial Day.
In early May 2011, I was looking for some way to give back to my country. I worked as a flower grower in Ecuador and I had an idea. Memorial Day used to be called Decoration Day. After the Civil War, people would go to cemeteries and decorate gravesites with flowers.
I met with two other Ecuador-based American flower growers, and together we were able to coordinate a massive donation of fresh flowers. I called up the administration at Arlington National Cemetery and said, ‘We’ve got 10,000 roses for you, for Memorial Day.'” And they happily accepted the offer.
Memorial Day Flowers Foundation at Fort Logan National Cemetery.
And that was how the Memorial Day Flowers Foundation had its start. Scouts and other volunteers place a flower in front of each headstone. Volunteers quietly read every headstone and note the dates and circumstances. This moment of reflection and remembrance is important. It’s a very personal tribute.
What began at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day in 2011 with 10,000 roses, has expanded to dozens of cemeteries around the country. Last year, the foundation distributed 400,000 flowers at 41 cemeteries and other Memorial Day observances around the country.
That expansion would not have been possible without volunteers and broad-based partnerships and support. These days, the foundation sources flowers from 80 to 90 farms, including farms in California, Colombia, Ecuador, and Ethiopia.
Since 2013, we have worked with local groups to organize floral tributes for Memorial Day at National Cemeteries and Veterans Cemeteries across the U.S.
Our growth would not have been possible without the guidance and involvement of the National Cemetery Administration. Cemetery directors find our efforts provide a way for the general public to connect with their mission to honor our late veterans and instill an appreciation for the sacrifices they make.
Memorial Day Flowers Foundation volunteers prepare roses at the Houston National Cemetery.
We also distribute bouquets of flowers to gold star families attending the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar over Memorial Day Weekend, organized by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.
In 2019, more than 100 cemeteries are participating in the Memorial Day Flowers Foundation’s efforts around the country.
The numbers amaze me every time I look at them. Now we talk about tens of thousands of flowers. We still have a long way to go, before every veteran’s gravesite is recognized on Memorial Day, but we are well on our way to reaching that goal.
I also know the difference just one flower can make. One year, as we gave out flowers on Memorial Day, I handed a rose to an older woman. She thanked me and said, “His father brought me roses the day he was born.” Then she invited me to walk with her to visit her son’s gravesite. And as we stood there together in the hot sun and she told me her son’s story, I knew one flower could mean everything to one person
Placing a flower for Memorial Day to honor a fallen service member or veteran is a quiet tribute; a heartfelt reminder of just what flowers can mean to people — and what it means to honor the sacrifices of U.S. military members and their families. It brings together people from all walks of life to honor those who have served our country and it helps all of us learn more about our history.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Iran says it has informed the UN nuclear agency that it has launched the process of increasing its capacity to enrich uranium in case the 2015 agreement that curbed its nuclear program collapses.
Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, who heads the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, said on June 5, 2018, that a letter was handed to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna to inform it of the decision.
But he also said Iran will continue adhering to the 2015 nuclear deal and that the country’s nuclear activities will remain within the limits set by the accord.
In May 2018, President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal that set strict limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment in return for the lifting of international sanctions.
Photo by Gage Skidmore
The other signatories to the accord — Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany — said they remain committed to the deal. Iran for now also is honoring the agreement.
“If conditions allow, maybe tomorrow night at [the Natanz enrichment plant], we can announce the opening of the center for production of new centrifuges,” Salehi said, quoted by the semiofficial Fars news agency.
This “does not mean that we will start assembling the centrifuges,” he insisted.
Salehi said the move was in line with instructions from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ordered preparations for the resumption of unlimited uranium enrichment should the nuclear deal — known by the acronym JCPOA — fall apart.
“If the JCPOA collapses…and if we decide to assemble new centrifuges, we will assemble new-generation…centrifuges. However, for the time being, we move within the framework of the JCPOA,” Salehi said.
During a visit to Paris, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Iranian plan to increase its nuclear-enrichment capacity was aimed at producing nuclear weapons to be used against Israel, its archrival.
“We are not surprised [by Iran’s announcement],” he said in a video statement. “We will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.”
Tehran insists its nuclear program is for civilian use.
The nuclear agreement allows Iran to continue 3.67 percent uranium enrichment, far below the roughly 90 percent threshold of weapons-grade.
With each passing day, tensions flare anew on the Korean Peninsula. By now, we all know that North Korea’s been hard at work dong what they do best: Launching test missiles and fiery rhetoric.
On Dec. 4, the U.S. and South Korea kicked off their largest joint air exercise yet, dubbed Vigilant Ace 18, involving hundreds of aircraft and tends of thousands of troops on the ground. As you might expect, Pyongyang wasn’t too happy about the drills, going as far as saying Dec. 2 that Trump’s Administration is “begging for nuclear war.”
While we’re at a point now where North Korean threats are as routine as the sunrise, China has sent an aggressive message in passive support of the belligerent state that warrants more serious attention.
People’s Liberation Army Air Force Spokesman Shen Jinke announced Dec. 4 (the same day as Vigilant Ace 18 kicked off) that China would be running drills through “routes and areas it has never flown before.” These new routes are expected to cover airspace over the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan. The exercises will involve all variety of aircraft, from reconnaissance planes to fighter jets, in joint operation with surface-to-air missiles. Simultaneously, China launched drills Dec. 2 that involve sending new Shaanxi Y-9 transport aircraft over the South China Sea, simulating an airdrop over an island in contested waters.
Though Chinese military officials will likely claim that the new drills are not in direct response to U.S. and South Korean actions, military experts agree that this show of force warns against the continued provocation of North Korea.
The U.S. and China have a rocky history, but are far from going to blows. That being said, should conflict erupt on the Korea Peninsula, we’ll quickly see how the chips fall.
The DF-21D “Carrier Killer” missile batteries roll through China’s 2015 military parade. The DF-21D is one of the weapons that poses a serious threat to the U.S. Navy today. (Image from Wikimedia Commons user William Ide)
“The combination of high speed, maneuverability, and relatively low altitude makes them challenging targets for missile defense systems.”
According to The Diplomat’s source, the test was “the first HGV test in the world using a system intended to be fielded operationally,” meaning the Chinese are no longer in the developing stage, and now have an HGV ready for use.
The US and Russia are also trying to develop HGVs, but neither have flight tested an operational prototype.
The Chinese missile, dubbed the DF-17, was reportedly tested twice — once on Nov. 1 and again on Nov. 15. It flew 1,400 kilometers, according to The Diplomat, and the HGV flew at a depressed altitude of “around 60 kilometers.” It is heavily based on the DF-16B missile, which is in operational use within the Chinese military.
After approximately 11 minutes of flight time, the missile impacted “within meters” of its target.
The source said that the DF-17 was a medium-range missile system that had a range between 1,800 and 2,500 kilometers. It is capable of carrying nuclear and conventional payloads, and may be able to be configured to have a maneuverable reentry vehicle instead of an HGV.