Early in the morning of Nov. 19, 2017. an Okinawa-based Marine drove his truck while impaired – at three times Japan’s legal limit. The Marine ran a red light, driving into oncoming traffic and hitting another truck driven by 61-year old, Jun Tamanaha. Tamanaha was killed in the incident.
The Marine is identified as Pvt. First Class Nicholas James-McLean.
“I would like to convey my deepest regret and sincere condolences to the family and friends of the Okinawan man who died as a result of this accident. We are still gathering facts and working with the Japanese authorities who are investigating the accident and its causes,” Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, commander of Marine Forces Japan and III Marine Expeditionary Force said in an official statement.
In response, U.S. Forces Japan commander Lt. Gen. Jerry Martinez ordered all Japan-based troops banned from buying or consuming alcohol until further notice.
“Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen must return to quarters and cease consuming alcohol effective immediately,” says the order from III Marine Expeditionary Force. “Off base liberty is NOT permitted in Okinawa. Authorized leave is to be conducted outside Okinawa.”
This was not a knee jerk reaction. Over the years, there have been many incidents involving U.S. troops stationed in Okinawa under the influence of alcohol. This sparked many local Japanese protests against the troops stationed there.
In July 2017, some 25,000 protested after a Marine drunkenly broke into a house and molested a young girl. In June 2016, 65,000 protesters assembled after an American contractor raped and murdered another local woman. One of the largest to date was in 1995, after three service members abducted and raped a 12-year-old girl, causing 85,000 protesters to rally.
These are strange times. Life as we know it has constantly been in flux as hourly updates roll in, new laws are enacted, and we draw farther and farther into isolation. It’s been harder than usual to find the light in a dark moment, but there are actually a few good things we can hold onto.
A new appreciation for the older generations
The young appear to be spared from the worst of the virus waging war on the world today. Before coronavirus, it’s hard to recall a time where American culture took a long hard look at its aging generations with such love and appreciation. Knowing our last remaining Holocaust survivors, WWII Veterans, Korean and Vietnam soldiers all fall within the “high risk” category has caused many of us to rethink how we care for our elders.
Will we reimagine elderly care from distant centers to family-centered care? It’s certainly something to consider.
We get to take a hard look at consumption
There’s a long list of things we can’t do right now that’s affecting many of our lives and schedules. Yet, when we really think about it…does any of it actually matter? Coming off the high-speed rat race of life, we have all seen just how materialistic our lives are. What truly matters when it’s all on the line? The ones around you, the people you love.
Let us all take this reset to reconfigure life to slow down a few paces. To become centered, perhaps for the first time, around those who we couldn’t live without and to let go of the things that we realized we didn’t need.
Living life in the fast lane, it becomes easy to look past or completely miss the gaps in our parenting or marital relationships. We’re all pulled in so many directions that we literally do not have the time to do the work. Like it or not, you’re likely taking a long hard look at the product of that life and lucky for you, you have the time to course-correct.
Now is the time to go back to basics, ensuring you have your bases covered. It’s time to address what we can to be on a better and stronger path when life resumes.
Relationships will be stronger for this
With so much uncertainty, and so much free time, it’s likely you’ve thought about who you’re giving your time to, and who in your life you may have neglected a bit. It’s easy in life, especially the military life, to focus solely on life in your current town. Long-distance calls to your former bestie have become less frequent.
Thanks to isolation, there’s absolutely zero reasons for this. It’s time to renew, reconnect and review your friend list.
Push the reset button
Self-care is now daily care with all the time life has granted you. With literally nothing else better to do, why not start that next chapter you’ve been waiting for? Do the virtual Yoga retreat. Bake until you become amazing. Try and fail and try again because, after all, who is watching?
Whatever you do during your quarantine time, do it well and come out stronger for it.
If there ever was a Marine that took the motto “adapt, improvise, overcome,” to heart it’s Rob Jones — a retired Marine Corps combat engineer who lost both legs when he stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
It’s not enough that he won a Bronze Medal in the Paralympics. Or that he was the first and only double above-the-knee amputee to ride a normal bicycle 5,180 miles across America. Now, he is on a journey to run 31 marathons in 31 days in 31 major cities.
Jones will run 26.2 miles in the selected city on his own, travel to the next city, and repeat, ending appropriately on Veterans Day in our Nation’s Capital.
“I came up with the idea for 31/31/31 because I learned that I had a talent for running when I was training for triathlons,” says Jones. “I hope that by completing this challenge, my fellow veterans will be able to see what I accomplished, and can have an easier time envisioning themselves doing so.”
While in Afghanistan, Jones was tasked with clearing a path through an area thought to have a buried explosive device. “The IED found me, before I found it,” Jones described.
During his rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Jones was fitted with prosthetics and learned how to walk again with two bionic knees.
Jones is a true hardcharger and credits the Marine Corps for “forging” him into the man he has become. He hopes that other veterans will be inspired and wants them to know they are not alone.
“Seek out your brothers for advice,” says Jones. “No one will think less of you for struggling to cope with hell on earth. It is our duty to each other to support one another in war and at home.”
Many veterans leave the military and lose that sense of mission and purpose that drives them to be the best they can be. Rob Jones is a stellar example that the mission can go on and that veterans can find a renewed sense of purpose for their lives.
Jones’ suggestion? Find purpose in challenging yourself to do something that seems impossible. Harness the power of the veteran community, get up, and make it happen.
Fifty years after the Battle of Hue City, retired Marine John L. Canley has moved a step closer to receiving the Medal of Honor for his “above and beyond” actions in the house-to-house fighting.
On Jan. 29, President Donald Trump signed a bill passed by Congress to waive the five-year limit on recommendations for the nation’s highest award for valor and authorized the upgrade of Canley’s Navy Cross to the Medal of Honor.
The bill (H.R.4641), sponsored by Rep. Julia Brownley, D-California, “authorizes the President to award the Medal of Honor to Gunnery Sergeant John L. Canley for acts of valor during the Vietnam War while serving in the Marine Corps.”
In a letter to Brownley last month, Mattis said, “After giving careful consideration to the nomination, I agree that then-Gunnery Sergeant Canley’s actions merit the award of the Medal of Honor.”
The 80-year-old Canley, of Oxnard, California, who retired as a sergeant major after 28 years of service, was Brownley’s guest of honor Jan. 31 at Trump’s State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.
Canley “is a true American hero and a shining example of the kind of gallantry and humility that makes our armed forces the best military in the world,” Brownley said in a statement Jan. 30.
“It is my great honor that he will be attending the State of the Union with me tomorrow — 50 years to the day of the start of the Tet Offensive, where his bravery and courage saved many lives,” she said.
In a statement to Brownley after Trump signed the bill, Canley said, “This honor is for all of the Marines with whom I served. They are an inspiration to me to this day.”
He earlier told Military.com that in the grueling 1968 fight to retake Hue from the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet-Cong: “The only thing I was doing was taking care of troops, best I could. Do that, and everything else takes care of itself.”
Canley also thanked Brownley and a member of her staff, Laura Sether, “for their effort and work to make this happen.”
They worked closely with the survivors from Alpha Co., 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, who fought with Canley at Hue and mounted a 13-year effort to get past the red tape to upgrade his Navy Cross to the Medal of Honor.
The distinguished Medal of Honor — Navy version. (Image from U.S. Navy)
John Ligato, a private first class in Alpha 1/1 and a retired FBI agent who was part of the effort to upgrade the medal, said of Canley: “This man is the epitome of a Marine warrior.”
At Hue, Canley took command of Alpha 1/1 when Capt. Gordon Batcheller, the company commander, was wounded and evacuated.
He fought alongside Sgt. Alfredo Cantu “Freddy” Gonzalez, who had taken command of Third Platoon, Alpha 1/1, and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Canley’s Navy Cross cites his actions from Jan. 31 to Feb. 6, 1968, when he had command of Alpha 1/1 before being relieved by then-Lt. Ray Smith, a Marine legend who earned the Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts during his tours in Vietnam and retired as a major general.
“On 31 January, when his company came under a heavy volume of enemy fire near the city of Hue, Gunnery Sergeant Canley rushed across the fire-swept terrain and carried several wounded Marines to safety,” the citation states.
Canley then “assumed command and immediately reorganized his scattered Marines, moving from one group to another to advise and encourage his men. Although sustaining shrapnel wounds during this period, he nonetheless established a base of fire which subsequently allowed the company to break through the enemy strongpoint,” it continues.
On Feb. 4, “despite fierce enemy resistance,” Canley managed to get into the top floor of a building held by the enemy. He then “dropped a large satchel charge into the position, personally accounting for numerous enemy killed, and forcing the others to vacate the building,” the citation says.
The battle raged on. Canley went into action again on Feb. 6 as the company took more casualties in an assault on another enemy-held building.
“Gunnery Sergeant Canley lent words of encouragement to his men and exhorted them to greater efforts as they drove the enemy from its fortified emplacement,” the citation states.
In speaking of Canley, Ligato, retired Maj. Gen. Smith, former Lance Cpl. Eddie Neas and others who served with him, both in battle and stateside, told of his indefinable command presence that made them want to follow and emulate his example.
“The most impressive combat Marine I ever knew,” Smith told Military.com.
Smith recalled that at his own retirement ceremony at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, he said, “All through my career, whenever I had to make a decision that would affect Marines, I’d always think — ‘What would Canley tell me to do?’ ”
Canley’s command presence was such that others who served with him to this day recall him in awe as a 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-5 tower of strength who would calmly pick up wounded Marines, put them on his shoulder, and run through fire to safety.
“They worshipped the ground the guy walked on,” Smith said of Canley, but “he was actually about six feet” tall.
Football is back! That means it’s time for me to remind everyone about the best organization around, one that provides homes for America’s wounded warriors, Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors. Allen has long been one of the U.S. military’s biggest fans. In his 12 years in the NFL, Allen was one of the hardest-hitting defensive players around. His foundation builds houses for wounded vets that are specifically adapted for their wounds, at no cost.
Now the Jared Allen Homes for Wounded Warriors is teaming up with Maxim, allowing readers to vote for their favorite cover model, with all proceeds going to building more homes for wounded vets.
Allen has been working with veterans for ten years now, ever since returning from a USO trip to visit troops in the field. He saw what U.S. military veterans experience in combat zones and wanted to give thanks to those who sacrificed themselves for service. The goal is simple: raise money to build or adapt homes suited to the needs of wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans – and do it at no cost to them – even if they can only help one warrior at a time. That’s where Maxim – and you – come in.
Readers can vote for their favorite potential Maxim cover model once per day for free, or they can make a “Warrior Vote” where they pay one dollar for every vote, with a minimum donation of . After voting for their free daily vote, all subsequent votes cost a dollar, with again, a minimum of . In order to generate votes, models are able to offer voting rewards, similar to rewards offered on Kickstarter. The winner receives ,000 and a Maxim cover photo shoot while other proceeds go toward Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors.
Robin Takizawa is a Los Angeles-based model and makeup artist, currently in second place in her group. Her father is a Vietnam vet and Purple Heart recipient.
“I was extremely excited to find that the competition was also a fundraiser for Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors,” says 2019 entrant Robin Takizawa. “Sadly, there isn’t enough support for veterans once they return. Sometimes home no longer feels like it. This is a cause close to home because my father is a Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient. His combat wounds healed without physically altering his life, however many he knew and served with did not meet the same fate.”
“Ever since I was a little girl, I always dreamt about being in Maxim. I loved the glamor and over-the-top sexiness that comes from being self-confident,” she continues. “It’s an honor to know my bid in this contest is also a chance to fundraise for such an amazing cause.”
Allen with Navy Corpsman Thomas Henderson and family after giving Henderson the keys to his new home. Henderson lost his leg in an IED attack in Afghanistan.
For Allen, the ten-year journey is one of the best things he’s ever accomplished. Even though his grandfather and younger brother were Marines, the experience changed Allen, inspiring him to create Homes for Wounded Warriors.
“I knew I had to do something to serve our country,” Allen once said of the Jared Allen Homes for Wounded Warriors. “I feel the best way to do that is serve those who serve us.”
According to the VA, there are 40,056 homeless veterans — and 453,000 unemployed veterans — with 22 veterans a day committing suicide.
Navy SEAL veteran Eli Crane believes it doesn’t have to be this way.
Crane, the founder of Bottle Breacher, is a strong advocate for veterans and believes they lack a unifying community, something he hopes to change with a new movement called Long Live the Veteran Brotherhood.
Long Live the Veteran Brotherhood is Crane’s movement to unite all veterans in a sense of brotherhood and accountability to each other. Crane says that most veterans underestimate how important it is to associate with other veterans, especially when it comes to the individual’s welfare.
His company, a lifestyle accessories brand that gained fame for their unique bottle openers made from recycled bullet casings—and a successful appearance on the Shark Tank TV show—hires a large number of veteran workers and supports both veteran and military non-profits.
In addition to his commitment to hiring veterans, Crane is also working to solve what he believes is a major issue facing the community.
“One of the worst and most disappointing things that I have seen since I have left the military,” Crane says, “is the trash-talking and infighting within the veteran community.”
Warriors without a war
According to the Disabled American Veterans, one of the chief contributing factors to veteran suicide is the loss of mission, purpose and community. Crane also succumbed to this when he transitioned out of the Navy. He wanted to leave all the stress and feelings of burnout behind, and was ready to focus on his family—but the idea that he had abandoned something, rather selfishly, kept biting at him.
When Crane connected with other veterans, he found what he had left behind and rediscovered his love of helping others.
“You see, most of us are hard-wired for service,” Crane says. “Most of us become hard-wired, while we are active duty, to try to take the load off the back of our brothers and put their needs before our own.
Continue the mission
Veterans are mission-driven and when they are connected to a community of fellow veterans, research shows that it helps with depression, grief, and other psychological conditions. Peer support and motivation is also key to helping people succeed, and has been proven to reduce costs for mental and physical health services—for veterans as well as civilians.
By identifying and acknowledging veterans, Crane hopes that these efforts will build the community that they need to thrive mentally, emotionally, and economically.
He says, “If the majority of us spent more of their time building each other up and helping each other out, you wouldn’t see half of the problems you see our veterans struggling with.”
The division between service branches, theater or decade served, rank or lack thereof — these are just some of the things that are used to create animosity among veterans. Things that really don’t matter, according to Crane.
“Are we being our brother’s keeper? Are we reaching out to those that are struggling to acclimate and transition?” Crane asked.
The common experiences of veterans far outweigh the differences, and it’s those commonalities that the community should be focusing on.
To bring these things to light, Crane is asking veterans to share what it means to be a part of the Veteran Brotherhood on social media (see below on how to participate in Long Live the Veteran Brotherhood).
Crane hopes that these efforts will raise awareness of the different ways that the veteran community at large can be proactively involved in supporting the community.
The name of his organization, Long Live the Veteran Brotherhood, comes from a Navy SEAL saying, Long Live the Brotherhood. When he would hear that phrase, Crane felt a deep connection to his team and the greater community that the SEALS represent.
He felt that the veteran community would benefit from a similar message, reminding them that they are also connected to a much larger and just as powerful group.
“At the end of the day, the brotherhood shouldn’t end when we take off the uniform,” Crane said.
Crane’s top transition tips for veterans:
Build a team. It is most likely that like the rest of us you have many weaknesses and are not capable of building anything amazing by yourself. Surround yourself with loyal and talented people who share your values and your mission.
Don’t count on anything from anyone. If you’re willing to work as hard in the private sector as you did in the military you will crush it.
If you are intending to become an entrepreneur, I highly recommend the side-hustle. That means that you have a full-time gig that pays the bills and you run your start-up on nights and weekends.
Resilience is the most important thing when exiting the service. Like most of us, you will encounter plenty of adversity and hear countless “No’s”. If you are diligent and give yourself the freedom to fail while applying the lessons learned you will eventually become successful.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will the next chapter of your life. Enjoy the process.
Jacob Warwick is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications for LifeFlip Media—a full-service PR agency that helps veteran brands tell their business and military transition stories in a way that attracts customers and helps grow their business.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Two Army soldiers were killed in close firefight in Afghanistan on June 25, 2019, the Pentagon said. The soldiers were fighting Taliban militants, according to The New York Times.
The Pentagon identified the two soldiers as Master Sgt. Micheal B. Riley, 32, of the 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), at Fort Carson, Colorado and Sgt. James G. Johnston, 24, of the 79th Ordnance Battalion (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), 71st Ordnance Group, in Fort Hood, Texas.
The two soldiers died in southern Uruzgan province, the Pentagon said in an emailed statement. The New York Times reported that Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, reported the location as eastern Wardak province.
Thus far in 2019, there have been nine service member fatalities in Afghanistan, according to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count. The deaths of Riley and Johnston occurred just before a round of peace talks between the US and the Taliban is scheduled to take place in Doha, Qatar starting June 29, 2019.
Riley was from Heilbronn, Germany and joined the Army in 2006. The Green Beret veteran earned several awards during his service was on his sixth deployment, according to a release from the US Army Special Operations Command, including the Bronze Star, NATO Medal, and National Defense Service Medal.
Bronze Star medal.
“Mike was an experienced Special Forces noncommissioned officer and the veteran of five previous deployments to Afghanistan. We will honor his service and sacrifice as we remain steadfast in our commitment to our mission,” Col. Lawrence G. Ferguson, commander of the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), said in a statement provided to INSIDER.
Johnston was “the epitome of what we as Soldiers all aspire to be: intelligent, trained, always ready,” according to Lt. Col. Stacy M. Enyeart, commander of 79th Ordnance Battalion (Explosive Ordnance Disposal). He joined the Army in 2013 and earned a Bronze Star Medal, a Purple Heart, and an Army Commendation Medal, among awards.
Purple Heart medal.
The two soldiers were deployed with Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, part of NATO’s Operation Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan. There are currently about 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan focused primarily on supporting Afghan forces, according to the New York Times.
NATO’s Resolute Support mission did not respond to a request for more information regarding the circumstances of their deaths on June 27, 2019.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Austrian authorities have questioned a recently retired military officer under suspicion of spying for Russia for almost 20 years, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has said.
Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl has summoned the Russian charge d’affaires over the matter and canceled an upcoming trip to Russia scheduled for Dec. 2-3, 2018, Kurz added.
“We demand transparent information from Russia,” Kurz said on Nov. 9, 2018, adding that the Russian diplomat currently in charge at the embassy in Vienna was summoned to the Austrian Foreign Ministry.
“If the suspicion is confirmed, such cases, regardless of whether they take place in the Netherlands or in Austria, do not improve relations between Russia and the European Union,” he said.
Kurz was referring to the expulsion of four Russian agents by the Netherlands in April 2018 for allegedly planning a cyberattack on the world’s chemical-weapons watchdog in The Hague.
“Russian spying in Europe is unacceptable and to be condemned,” Kurz added.
Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl.
In response, Russia’s Foreign Ministry summoned Austria’s ambassador on Nov. 9, 2018, to demand an explanation about the accusations, Russian news agencies reported.
Austrian Defense Minister Mario Kunasek told the news conference that the case came to light “a few weeks ago” as a result of information from another European intelligence agency.
Kurz said Austria was not going to withdraw its envoy from Moscow yet or expel Russian diplomats.
“We will discuss our further steps with European partners as soon as we receive more accurate information. In such a situation it is necessary to make gradual steps,” Kurz said.
Austria is one of the few European countries that maintains close diplomatic contacts with Moscow despite Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and even after the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain, which London has blamed on Russia.
Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl said she canceled her visit to Russia scheduled for Dec. 2-3, 2018, due to the espionage case.
Vienna, home to multiple international organizations such as the IAEA, OSCE and a branch of the United Nations, is known as a European espionage hub.
The city also used to be a gateway to communist countries during the Cold War because of its proximity to Eastern Europe.
US Navy Adm. Harry Harris, the commander of the US military in the Pacific, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 15, 2018, that the US isn’t planning a one-off, “bloody nose” strike on North Korea, but rather it’s planning to go all out in war or not at all.
Senior administration officials are reportedly exploring the “bloody nose” strategy, which entails a limited strike to humiliate and intimidate North Korea. When asked about this during the Senate hearing, Harris said no such plan existed.
“We have no bloody nose strategy. I don’t know what that is,” Harris said in response to a question from Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, USNI reported.
“I am charged by the national command authority of developing a range of options through the spectrum of violence, and I’m ready to execute whatever the President and the national command authority directs me to do, but a bloody nose strategy is not being contemplated,” Harris continued.
Experts uniformly reacted in horror at the news that President Donald Trump’s administration was reportedly planning a limited strike on North Korea, as they allege it would likely result in an all-out, possibly nuclear retaliation from Pyongyang.
“If we do anything along the kinetic spectrum of conflict, we have to be ready to do the whole thing,” Harris said, pouring cold water on the idea of a limited strike that would only have rhetorical ramifications.
Speculation over Trump’s willingness to strike North Korea peaked after he dismissed Victor Cha, a widely respected Korea expert, as US ambassador to South Korea after almost a year of consideration.
Cha’s dismissal owed to his disagreement Trump’s plan to attack North Korea, multiple outlets reported at the time.
Mainland China made a video of its fighter jets flying around Taiwan, so Taiwan returned fire with a video of its forces preparing to a repel a Chinese invasion.
The People’s Liberation Army Air Force released a music video titled “My War Eagles Are Flying Around The Treasured Island” on Feb. 3, 2019. The upbeat video released ahead of the Chinese New Year calls for reunification with Taiwan, a priority for the Chinese military.
Taiwan has formally protested. “This approach aims at reunifying Taiwan with force and will only have counterproductive results as Taiwanese will find it repulsive and distasteful,” Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council argued in a statement on the matter.
In addition to the sharp rebuke, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense released its own video, a 90-second video named “Freedom Isn’t Free” that features clips from 2018’s military exercises.
“Many men and women serving in the armed forces will miss New Year’s Eve dinners with their families, but they will not be absent from standing on guards to protect the country,” the ministry said in its statement on Facebook.
“Our resolve to protect every inch of the nation’s territory has never wavered, our constant efforts to strengthen the military’s combat ability has never changed.”
In an earlier address, Chinese President Xi Jinping refused to rule out the use of force to secure the reunification of Taiwan. Shortly thereafter, a Chinese general warned a top US admiral that “if anyone wants to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will safeguard the national unity at all costs so as to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The Chinese military regularly conducts so-called “encirclement drills” around Taiwan, a self-ruled democratic territory that Beijing perceives as a renegade province.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The question over whether or not Confederate soldiers were U.S. veterans is largely a symbolic one today. Only one Civil War pension is still being paid (that pensioner was a veteran of both sides of the conflict), and by the time Confederates received real benefits, they were all dead by the following year. No specific legislation exists that identifies Confederate veterans as having equal status to all other American veterans.
However, provisions exist that could add up to that protected status. Under the law, that is.
President Lincoln considered Confederate citizens and soldiers “Americans in rebellion,” and not citizen of a foreign country. His view dominated in the days following the end of the war. Lincoln even began the Reconstruction process early with the 1863 Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, which pardoned the average Joe Confederate troop still fighting for the South.
President Johnson continued the amnesty policy in 1868, granting a full pardon to most former Confederates, including men who fought the Union directly. They all regained their citizenship and voting rights, but were not granted veterans status by the federal government, which means they did not receive the same benefits promised to those who fought for the Union.
As the 19th century turned to the 20th, Americans began to care for Confederate graves the way they cared for Union ones. But this was not because any Federal act told them to, it was just the spirit of reconciliation in a nation fresh from a victory over Spain. Eventually it was codified into law.
U.S. Code 38 does require the government, when requested, to put up a headstone for soldiers of the Union and Confederate armies of the Civil War, which was confirmed again in 1958 under Public Law 85. That same law also extends veterans’ pensions “to widows of veterans who served in the military or naval forces of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.”
The closest Confederates come to U.S. veteran status is in a 2001 U.S. Court of Appeals ruling about whether or not the Confederate flag was able to be flown over a national cemetery, administered by the VA. The court upheld the VA’s treatment of the rebel graves as equally honored, and that it was not obligated to fly any flag except the American flag over the cemetery.
The CSA flag was not considered a legitimate symbol of the United States and the Confederates buried there were honored as citizens, not as veterans.
So when added up, a Confederate’s benefits amounted to much of what was received by a Union veteran, but they’ll never be called American veterans. The closest they ever came was “American citizens” …”who served in the military or naval forces of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.”
Bloomberg has reported that the Feb. 7, 2018 attack on U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters by forces aligned with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was actually conducted by Russian mercenaries, and that at least 100 of them died in the failed attack.
The attack happened just five miles east of the “de-confliction” line between the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Russian-supported Syrian government in the oil-rich Deir Ezzor region.
Some 500 “pro-Assad” fighters attempted to attack an SDF headquarters, but were repelled by American artillery and airstrikes that were called in by U.S. advisers on the ground. Russian nationals were suspected of being part of the attack, but no casualties were reported, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he did not think there were any Russian casualties.
Bloomberg, however, reported that three Russian sources told them the attack was conducted by Russian mercenaries, and that as many as 200 Russian “contract soldiers” died in the attack.
Russia has denied that any of its forces were killed or wounded in the attack, but evidence that Russians had died have slowly begun to surface on Russian social media.
It is unclear who was paying the mercenaries involved in last week’s attack, or what group they were a part of, but reports of a Russian private military company (PMC) by the name of Wagner have surfaced throughout the last few years.
Reports of Wagner mercenaries in Syria
This incident is not the first time Russian mercenaries have been reported to be operating in Syria. Stratfor, an American geopolitical intelligence firm, recently reported that Wagner mercenaries had served in Ukraine, Syria, and parts of Africa.
In September 2017, two Wagner operators were reportedly taken prisoner by the terrorist group ISIS in Syria’s Deir Ezzor region, and in August 2016, Sky News interviewed Russian men who claimed to be mercenaries who fought at the Battle of Palmyra.
The independent Russian media outlet Fontanka published an investigation from 2016 that claimed that as many as 2,500 men from Wagner were operating in Syria. They reported that they had a training base in Russia’s Krasnodar Krai region, and that many of the men in the group had fought in Ukraine’s Donbas war on the side of the separatists.
In early February 2018, Igor Girkin, the former defense minister for the self-declared Donetsk Peoples Republic, a separatist region backed by Russia in eastern Ukraine, said Russian mercenaries operating in Syria who died in combat were cremated on sight, so as to hide the true cost of Russia’s involvement.
“‘No body, no criminal case’ — this Russian investigative principle is being creatively used in the military campaign,” Girkin said on the Russian social media website VKontakte. “It is possible to dispose of a considerable number of bodies without anyone noticing. What can I say? There has never been such cynicism in our country.”
Russian mercenaries are reportedly being used for two purposes: to achieve objectives that the poorly trained and equipped Syrian Arab Army are not capable of achieving alone, and to hide the true cost of Russia’s involvement in Syria.
The tactic is not unheard of. The U.S. employed mercenaries during its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and their deaths were not reported in official counts. The U.S. continues to rely on PMCs in active warzones around the world.
If accurate, the losses sustained last week would make the number of Russian military deaths five times higher than the official count — and that does not even include previous losses sustained by Wagner.
The first 30 board-selected enlisted airmen will begin training to fly the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone, the Air Force announced Wednesday.
The service’s inaugural Enlisted Remotely Piloted Aircraft Pilot Selection Board picked two senior master sergeants, five master sergeants, nine technical sergeants, 14 staff sergeants and five alternates from about 200 active-duty applicants from various job assignments, according to a release.
“These 30 Airmen join the Enlisted RPA Pilot program along with the 12 other Airmen from the Enlisted Pilot Initial Class, four of whom started training in October 2016,” it states. “The Air Force plans for the number of enlisted RPA pilots to grow to 100 within four years.”
The selection board met in February to deliberate and choose from 185 active-duty enlisted airmen who made it past an initial qualifying phase of the program. Airmen holding rank from staff sergeant through senior master sergeant and having six years of retainability from course graduation date were considered for the board, the release said. Those considered also had to complete the Air Force’s initial flying class II physical examination, plus a pilot qualification test.
Two airmen from the board are expected to begin the Initial Flight Training program at Colorado’s Pueblo Memorial Airport by April, Air Force Personnel Center spokesman Mike Dickerson told Military.com last month. Subsequently, two enlisted airmen will be part of each class thereafter throughout this fiscal year and into early next fiscal year, Dickerson said.
The Air Force announced in 2015 it would begin training enlisted airmen to operate the unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft.
The AFPC said in November that 305 active-duty enlisted airmen had been identified to apply for the selection board. The center saw a surge of interest from potential RPA airmen during the application process that began last year, AFPC said at the time. It received more than 800 applicants, compared to a typical 200 applicants.
The Air Force said its next call for nominations for the 2018 enlisted RPA pilot selection board is scheduled for next month, the release said.