Lawyers for a naval officer who broadcasts taps nightly from speakers outside his home in tribute to the military told a Pennsylvania borough council president to expect legal action if officials don’t stop trying to restrict the practice.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania said in a letter on July 5 that a cease-and-desist order against Lt. Cmdr. Josh Corney is unconstitutional.
Corney is complying with a demand from the borough last month that he play taps on Sundays and certain holidays only, but he wants that rule overturned.
“When the borough singles out Lt. Cmdr. Corney’s ‘Taps’ performances on private property for censorship as a ‘nuisance,’ while allowing other similarly loud or louder, longer-lasting religious or commercial musical performances on private property to continue, it is engaging in content-based discrimination,” his lawyers wrote.
The lawyers said they will seek a federal injunction if the borough doesn’t reverse itself by July 7. Messages seeking comment weren’t returned by the council president, Doug Young, or by the borough’s solicitor.
Corney, 38, on active duty and stationed in Maryland, has been deployed overseas eight times, including to Iraq and Afghanistan. He said it was seeing Americans killed while serving their country that inspired his musical gesture.
“I thought to myself and prayed to God that if he brought me home, I would do something to remember the sacrifices that our men and women made for myself, my family, and my country,” he said.
After moving into a home on 5 acres in Glen Rock, a town of about 2,000 residents where he lived as a boy, he made the taps broadcast his first priority in April 2015, setting up three amplified speakers in the front of the house. He picked a slower, hymn-like 57-second version of the tune, which is traditionally played at the end of the day.
At first, he had to put on a CD every night, but eventually established a fully automated system that was timed for 7:57 p.m., coinciding with bedtime for his six young children and ending just before a nearby church’s bells chimed.
He says it’s sometimes possible to hear the recording in the middle of town, about a quarter-mile away, but not always.
“A nearby church is permitted to play amplified recordings of hymns twice a day, church bells are allowed to peal at regular intervals, and a local restaurant has been granted permission to amplify its live outdoor musical performances,” Corney’s lawyers wrote to Young.
They said other common noises louder than Corney’s taps include lawnmowers, hedge trimmers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, and “the exuberant cries of children playing a raucous game.”
Early in 2016, Corney was told the borough had received a complaint, which he tried to work out with the neighbor who had lodged it.
Others rallied behind Corney’s efforts after a second complaint was made in November.
He said he made more adjustments by lowering the volume and redirecting the speakers, but that didn’t satisfy a neighboring family’s complaints.
Then, on June 23, the borough wrote him to say his broadcast of taps violated its nuisance ordinance, and told him to limit it to Sundays and a limited number of “flag” holidays.
The Marine Corps is on the defensive for a second time in February 2018 over changes to its famous Infantry Officer Course (IOC).
Military communities were abuzz in early February 2018 when officials confirmed that successfully completing the Combat Endurance Test (CET) — the rigorous first stage of IOC — would no longer be a requirement for passing the 13-week course.
The Corps answered criticism on Feb. 7, 2018 but found itself in the same position this week as new standards for IOC’s training hikes were revealed.
The course previously required a Marine to complete nine hikes, of which six would be evaluated more carefully and passage was required on five of the six. The new standard evaluates just three of the Marine’s hikes, though he must pass all three, Marine Corps Times reported Feb. 21 2018.
Brig. Gen. Jason Q. Bohm, the commanding officer of Marine Corps Training Command, told the newspaper that changes were made to better reflect operational reality.
“Technically, what we have done is we have modified graduation requirements, but we actually tie our requirements now more to the TR [Marine infantry training and readiness manual] standards,” he said. “The course is as hard as it’s ever been. We did not do away with any training events.”
Marine Corps Times noted that only one unnamed female Marine has successfully completed the course, although officials have countered that most IOC failures are men.
“Only 35 women have attempted the course, and only five of those have attended the IOC after the job field was opened to women,” the newspaper reported.
Air Force leaders met with scientists and industry members May 17, 2018, at the Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Science Summit to chart how the service will utilize emerging technologies in the future.
The summit, hosted by Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Stephen Wilson, focused on how to operationalize AI and quantum information science with briefings from experts from headquarters Air Force Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance directorate, Air Force Research Labs, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, and technology industry leaders.
“The world is changing,” Wilson said. “We will change at scale. As noted in the National Defense Strategy, we must continue to learn and adapt faster. We’re here to ensure we have that architecture and infrastructure to empower our Airmen.”
The implications of AI and quantum information science are wide-ranging. From harnessing, processing, protecting and using massive quantities of data to improve decision making, to changing business practices with predictive, conditions based aircraft maintenance, AI and quantum science can revolutionize how the Air Force flies, fights and wins.
(Photo by Anders)
But widely utilizing these technologies requires more than building upon current Air Force science and technology investments, according to leaders. It will require embracing the technology as a culture.
As well, pursuing game changing capabilities with industry will drive further change, especially in how the service works with industry and academic partners according to Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics.
“Acknowledging the paradigm shift that commercial industry now leads in many areas of technology development is important,” Roper said.
Experts from multiple leading technology industries shared their own insights from the AI and quantum science realms at the summit.
Wilson said continued partnership with industry is essential to posture the service with capabilities for dominance in the digital age.
“Digital speed, not industrial speed, will win the next war. There are things we need to do now to be the Air Force of the future,” he said.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff is the body of the most senior uniformed leaders within the Department of Defense. These eight men advise the president of the United States, the Secretary of Defense and the Homeland and National Security Councils on military matters. The chair, General Mark Milley, was appointed by President Trump in 2018.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff, in keeping with their creed of service, is not a political entity, and today, they issued a rare joint memo to remind the force of exactly that. The memo, signed by all eight members of the body, condemned last week’s riot at the Capitol building and affirmed President-elect Joe Biden as the next Commander in Chief. The memo was addressed to the joint force, which is comprised of approximately 1.3 million active-duty service members and more than 811,000 National Guardsman and reservists.
The text of the memo says:
MEMORANDUM FOR THE JOINT FORCE SUBJECT: MESSAGE TO THE JOINT FORCE
The American people have trusted the Armed Forces of the United States to protect them and our Constitution for almost 250 years. As we have done throughout our history, the U.S. military will obey lawful orders from civilian leadership, support civil authorities to protect lives and property, ensure public safety in accordance with the law, and remain fully committed to protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
The violent riot in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021 was a direct assault on the U.S. Congress, the Capitol building, and our Constitutional process. We mourn the deaths of the two Capitol policemen and others connected to these unprecedented events.
We witnessed actions inside the Capitol building that were inconsistent with the rule of law. The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection.
As Service Members, we must embody the values and ideals of the Nation. We support and defend the Constitution. Any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values, and oath; it is against the law.
On January 20, 2021, in accordance with the Constitution, confirmed by the states and the courts, and certified by Congress, President-elect Biden will be inaugurated and will become our 46th Commander in Chief.
To our men and women deployed and at home, safeguarding our country-stay ready, keep your eyes on the horizon, and remain focused on the mission. We honor your continued service in defense of every American.
Mark A. Milley General, U.S. Army Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
John E. Hyten General, U.S. Air Force Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
James C. McConville General, U.S. Army Chief of Staff of the Army
David H. Berger General, U.S. Marine Corps Commandant of the Marine Corps
Michael M. Gilday Admiral, U.S. Navy Chief of Naval Operations
Charles Q. Brown, Jr. General, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff of the Air Force
John W. Raymond General, U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations
Daniel R. Hokanson General, U.S. Army Chief of the National Guard Bureau
The US Air Force has presented several plans for replacing the beloved A-10 Warthog close air support attack plane over the years, but their latest plan takes the cake as the most absurd.
As it stands, the Air Force wants to purchase or develop not one, but two new airframes to eventually phase out the A-10.
First, they’d pick out a plane, likely an existing one, called the OA-X, (Observation, Attack, Experimental), which would likely be an existing plane with a low operating cost. Propeller-driven planes like the Beechcraft AT-6, already in use as a training plane for the Air Force, or Embraer A-29 Super Tucano, which the US recently gave to Afghanistan for counter-insurgency missions, are possible options.
The OA-X would fly with A-10s in low-threat air spaces to support the tank-buster, however this option appears to make little sense.
A sub-sonic, propeller-driven plane can perform essential close air support duties in much the same way a World War II era platform could, but it’s a sitting duck for the kind of man-portable, shoulder-launched air defense systemsbecoming increasingly prominent in today’s battle spaces.
Next, the Air Force would look to field an A-X2 to finally replace the Warthog. The idea behind this jet would be to preserve the A-10’s CAS capabilities while increasing survivability in medium-threat level environments.
So while an update on the 40-year-old A-10 seems to make sense, the funding for it doesn’t.
The Air Force expects a “bow-wave” of costs in the mid-2020s, when modernization costs are looming and can’t be put off any further. This includes procuring F-35s, developing the B-21, procuring KC-46 tankers, and even possibly embarking on the quest to build a sixth-generation air dominance platform.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James seemed puzzled by the proposed plan to replace the A-10, saying in an interview with Defense News, “everything has a price tag … If something goes in, something else has to fall out.”
Air Combat Command chief Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, noted to Defense News his doubts that the proposed replacements would be a good use of limited public funds.
“If you look at the things within the combat Air Force portfolio that I’m responsible for in modernization and taking care of those systems, I don’t know where the money would come from,” Carlisle said. “And if we got extra money, in my opinion, there’s other things that I would do first to increase our combat capability before we go to that platform.”
Also, Carlisle doubted the need for a plane to operate in low-threat or “permissive” airspaces, as they are fast disappearing.
“Given the evolving threat environment, I sometimes wonder what permissive in the future is going to look like and if there’s going to be any such thing, with the proliferation of potential adversaries out there,” he said.
“The idea of a low-end CAS platform, I’m working my way through whether that’s a viable plan or not given what I think the threat is going to continue to evolve to, to include terrorists and their ability to get their hands on, potentially, weapons from a variety of sources.”
Furthermore, the Air Force’s proposal seems to run contrary to other proposals to replace the A-10 in the past. For a while, Air Force officials said that the F-35 would take over for the A-10, and though the F-35 just reached operational capability, it was not mentioned as part of the newest proposal.
Air Force General Mark Welsh told the Senate Armed Services Committee that other legacy fighters, the F-16 and F-15 could fly the A-10’s missions in Iraq and Syria until the F-35 was available, but that idea was also mysteriously absent from the Air Force’s two-new-plane proposal.
The Jordanian government released a video on July 24 depicting an insider attack that killed three US Special Forces in Jordan.
The video shows the soldiers pulling up to the King Faisal Air Base to participate in a training exercise in November. Upon reaching the entrance, Jordanian guard Cpl. M’aarek Abu Tayeh opened fire on the trucks carrying the soldiers. Staff Sgt. Kevin McEnroe was killed instantly and Sgt. First Class Matthew Lewellen was wounded, later dying from his injuries.
Staff Sgt. James Moriarty was in the truck behind the first, and was able to exit the vehicle, along with another soldier from a different truck. The soldiers attempted to speak with Tayeh in Arabic, but were ignored. Tayeh kept firing, eventually killing Moriarty before the fourth soldier was finally able to shoot the assailant.
None of the Jordanian soldiers nearby appeared to aid the Americans. The video clearly shows one man who opened the gate running away as soon as shots were fired.
Jordan, a US ally in the ongoing war on terrorism, initially denied responsibility for Tayeh’s attack, placing blame on the US for failing to follow proper protocols when entering the base. US Special Operations Command found “no evidence that US forces failed to fully comply with Jordanian base procedures.”
In fact, SOCOM reported that the troops “demonstrated valorous conduct and extraordinary heroism” in taking down Tayeh, who was armed with an M-16 rifle and body armor. The Special Forces soldiers had only sidearms.
The families of the dead soldiers vocally condemned the Jordanian government in March for its failure to properly look into the incident.
The government eventually charged Tayeh with murder in June. He was found guilty and received life in prison with hard labor, though some relatives of the deceased were hoping for a death sentence.
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma hosted the 2019 Okinawa Futenma Bike Race for the local and military community July 14, 2019, on MCAS Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.
The starting line was crowded with cyclists on edge and eager to hear the crack of a starting pistol. The blank round was fired, the timer started, and the cyclists took off. Friends and families cheered on their loved ones as they departed from the start line to negotiate their way through Futenma’s runways.
175 participants; a mix of Status of Forces Agreement personnel and Okinawan community members participated in the 2019 Futenma bike race.
Participants competing on road bikes took a 44 kilometer route, whereas participants on mountain bikes took on a 22 kilometer route.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Madero)
The airfield was closed for a 24-hour period to allow competitors to test the runways surface. Marine Corps aviation technologies were displayed for all participants to enjoy as they continued throughout the race’s route.
Every rider that made their way past the finish line was greeted with applause and cheers from the audience that awaited their finish.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Madero)
I think this a great opportunity to host people aboard the air station to get people out and exercise. — Col. David Steele, dedicated tri-athlete, commanding officer of MCAS Futenma, and competitor in the race
“Friendship through sport is a big part of what Marine Corps Community Services and Futenma wants to do”
The event was hosted by Marine Corps Community Services, a comprehensive set of programs that support and enhance the operational readiness, war fighting capabilities, and life quality of Marines, their families, retirees and civilians.
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
The Pentagon’s top leaders said Thursday they can see a “light at the end of the tunnel” of the COVID-19 pandemic and stressed that the U.S. military remains a force in readiness, with fewer than 2,000 cases out of more than two million troops available to support contingency operations.
During an internet broadcast Thursday morning, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley warned adversaries that it would be a “terrible, tragic mistake if they thought that … [they] can take advantage of any opportunities … at a time of crisis.”
“The U.S. military is very, very capable to conduct whatever operations are necessary to defend the American people,” Milley said. “We will adapt ourselves to operating in a COVID-19 environment. We are already doing that.”
As of Thursday, 1,898 service members had confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 389 soldiers, 367 airmen, 164 Marines, 597 sailors and 381 National Guard members.
Given that the Defense Department has 2.3 million troops, including the National Guard and reserve components, the services are “ready today and will be ready tomorrow,” Milley said.
“I’m absolutely confident that we are very ready to handle any mission that comes our way,” added Defense Secretary Mark Esper during the broadcast. “Why is that? It’s because our commanders and NCOs have taken measures to protect our members.”
Less than .09 percent of U.S. forces have confirmed COVID-19 infections, and nearly all are “mild or moderate” cases, according to Esper. Sixty-four service members have been hospitalized for the coronavirus.
By contrast, .13 percent of the U.S. population have confirmed cases of the illness.
“We also have far, far, far smaller numbers of hospitalizations. …. I attribute that to the measures we took very early on, going all the way back to 3 February when we issued our first guidance to the field in regard to health protection,” Esper said.
According to Esper and Milley, the DoD has more than 50,000 service members responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes 29,400 National Guard members, as well as 17,000 members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and thousands of military medical personnel.
Air Force Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said Thursday that many of the military medical personnel are now serving in civilian hospitals, filling in for staff members who have become ill or need rest — especially in hard-hit areas like New York City.
The strategy is a switch from the initial intent for military health professionals to treat patients transported to field hospitals such as the Javits Center in New York, he said.
“We have thousands of reservists — medical professionals — deployed all over the country from their normal lives at home to the middle of New York City, in hours or days, leaving their families, leaving their homes, running toward the trouble,” Hyten said.
According to Lt. Gen. Steven R. Rudder, deputy commandant for aviation, the U.S. Marine Corps have achieved a milestone when a target was destroyed by connecting an F-35B Lightning II aircraft with a HiMARS rocket shot for the first time.
“We were able to connect the F-35 to a HIMARS, to a rocket shot … and we were able to target a particular conex box,” Rudder told audience members on Oct. 8, 2018, at an aviation readiness discussion at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, or CSIS, Marine Corps Times reported.
The integration occurred during Marines’ latest weapons and tactics course at Yuma, Arizona: the F-35 gathered the target location using its high-end onboard sensors and shared the coordinates of the target to the HIMARS system via datalink in a “sensor to shooter” scenario. The HIMARS unit then destroyed the target.
The HIMARS is a movable system that can be rapidly deployed by air, using a C-130 Hercules. It carries six rockets or one MGM-140 ATACMS missile on the U.S. Army’s new Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) five-ton truck, and can launch the entire Multiple Launch Rocket System Family of Munitions (MFOM). In a typical scenario, a command and control post, a ship or an aircraft (in the latest test, an F-35B – the type that has just had its baptism of fire in Afghanistan) transmits the target data via a secure datalink to the HIMARS on-board launch computer. The computer then aims the launcher and provides prompt signals to the crew to arm and fire a pre-selected number of rounds. The launcher can aim at a target in just 16 seconds.
The Corps has been testing new ways to use its HIMARS lately. For instance, in 2017, the Corps successfully fired and destroyed a target 70 km out on land from the deck of the amphibious transport dock Anchorage. Considered the threat posed to maritime traffic by cruise missiles fired by coastal batteries in the hands of terrorist groups and militias, the amphibious group’s ability suppress coastal defenses from long-range using artillery is important to allow Marines to come ashore.
Two U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II’s assigned to the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, fly a combat mission over Afghanistan, Sept. 27, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)
The aim is clearly to shorten what is known as the sensor-to-shooter cycle – the amount of time it takes from when an enemy target is detected by a sensor – either human or electronic – and when it is attacked. Shortening the time is paramount in highly dynamic battlefield.
In September 2016, a live test fire demonstration involved the integration of U.S. Marine Corps F-35B from the Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX 1), based in Edwards Air Force Base, with existing Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) architecture. The test was aimed at assessing the ability to shoot down incoming cruise missiles.
The F-35B acted as an elevated sensor (to detect an over-the-horizon threat as envisaged for the F-22) that sent data through its Multi-Function Advanced Data Link to a ground station connected to USS Desert Ship (LLS-1), a land-based launch facility designed to simulate a ship at sea. Using the latest Aegis Weapon System Baseline 9.C1 and a Standard Missile 6, the system successfully detected and engaged the target. Indeed, increasingly, 5th generation aircraft are seen as tools to provide forward target identification for both defensive and offensive systems (such as strike missiles launched from surface warships or submerged submarines). Back in 2013, PACAF commander Gen. Hawk Carlisle described the ability of advanced aircraft, at the time the F-22, to provide forward targeting through its sensors for submarine based TLAMs (Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles).
In the following years, the stealthy F-22s, considered “electronic warfare enabled sensor-rich multi-role aircraft”, saw their main role in the war on Daesh evolving into something called “kinetic situational awareness”: in Syria and Iraq, the Raptors escorted the strike packages into and out of the target area while gathering details about the enemy systems and spreading intelligence to other “networked” assets supporting the mission to improve the overall situational awareness. To make it simple, during Operation Inherent Resolve, the 5th generation aircraft’s pilot leverages advanced onboard sensors, as the AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar, to collect valuable details about the enemy Order of Battle, then shares the “picture” with attack planes, command and control assets, as well as Airborne Early Warning aircraft, while escorting other manned or unmanned aircraft towards the targets. Something the F-35 will also have to do in the near future.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
It was Nov. 10, 2010 — the Marine Corps birthday. I was sound asleep and having another nightmare. I’d been having them randomly for years; PTSD does that to a person. Lately, the nightmares seemed real and more consistent.
My husband had recently deployed for his 4th combat deployment. A Platoon Sergeant with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, Mike was in what was considered at the time to be the deadliest place in the world: Sangin, Afghanistan.
I was about to be diagnosed with some serious medical issues. While I waited for test results, I spent my days and nights in those early stages of deployment hiding that from everyone. I was alone with three children under 6-years old, and 50+ wives and mothers and families, all of whom depended on me to be strong and healthy.
Of the 50-something man platoon my husband was with, none but three had ever been in combat aside from him. Not even his lieutenant.
The wives were having issues with the Family Readiness Officer, and so the saltier wives took over helping the less experienced ones. It was very much like the beginning of the Iraq war for us — unreliable contact, unreliable information, unreliable family readiness program, unreliable EVERYTHING.
In short, it was a sh*t show just shy of becoming a sh*t storm.
So, I was having another nightmare. Somewhere in the distance I could hear knocking. A phone ringing. Was someone saying my name?
In my dream, Mike was whispering “Katie, answer the phone. Katie, get the door.” He coughed, his face contorted in pain. “Katie… Katie… Katie…”
I pulled out of a groggy, medication-induced sleep, and picked up my phone.
“Uh huh,” I muttered into the phone.
“Katie!” the frantic screaming felt like a bucket of ice water being thrown over me. “Katie, they’re at the door and I don’t know what to do!”
I jumped out of bed. “Who’s at the door,” I asked the young wife on the phone, my mini-me. At barely 19 years old, Katie Stack was my overly dramatic, neediest Marine’s wife, and she was a GD headache. I loved her, but I really wanted to knife hand her most days.
“The- the men! In blues! A chaplain!” I could tell that Katie was on the verge of outright collapse. Her voice was near hysteria. I could hear her movements; she was practically rushing around in a circle halfway through the house, screaming mostly incoherently, trying not to look at the men standing, knocking on her door.
“Sweetheart,” I said softly, “Is Joanne home?” Joanne was Katie’s little sister, and I knew that Katie was home in Chicago visiting family. I’d had to update the FRO just days prior in case something happened. In case she needed to be notified of…
“She is, but she’s just a kid!”
“Sweetheart, put your sister on the phone and go answer the door, you have to.” I waited for Katie’s little sister’s voice to greet me.
“Hello?” came the tiny, terrified, barely-a-teen, voice. In the background I could hear a sob, a wailing. Men talking gently.
“Joanne, honey. Where’s your mom?” Katie and Joanne’s mom, a school administrator, would’ve already left for work, I assumed.
“She’s at work. Miss Foley, there’s men at the door named CACO and they’re saying scary stuff about James…”
“I need you to go hand the phone to the men at the door, go upstairs and get your phone, and call your mother right now.”
“What’s going on Miss Foley?”
“Hon, I need you to do this right now and then you have to come back down stairs and sit with Katie until your mother gets there. Tell your mom it’s an emergency, and that CACO are at the door. Run now.”
The next voice I heard was deep and somber.
“Mrs. Foley, are you near Chicago that you could get here within the next few hours? Mrs. Stack is going to need you.”
“I’m in California. I’ll take the next plane, but her mother is en route now. Do you guys stay with the widow? She has stress related seizures, she can’t be left alone like this. There’s a baby in the house…”
My mind was running a mile a minute-
Get to Chicago, get childcare for my three kids, reschedule my upcoming doctors appointments, shoot an email to Mike- God is Mike okay? No time for that. Someone will come to my door if he isn’t.
I hung up and went to my kitchen, rushing around, pushing dishes into the sink, starting a pot of coffee, pulling my V-neck tee all the way on as I’d run out of my room with just one arm in the sleeve. Suddenly, I stopped moving.
“Katie, something’s happened to James! I can feel it. Something terrible, I just know it.”
The conversation from just the day before replayed in my mind as if the two of us were standing in front of me in my kitchen.
“Katie!” I’d angrily snapped at her. “God! James is fine. You’re fine. Everyone is FINE! Sh*t! Calm down.”
The scene played over and over until I leaned against my wall and slowly slid to the cold kitchen tile.
She’d called me multiple times a day, every day, from the moment our husbands had left. She’d wailed and cried and complained. She’d tried to send a Red Cross message when he was in pre-deployment training because she’d gotten a headache one night.
I’d finally lost my freaking mind and hollered at her.
“James is fine.”
The words repeated over and over.
“Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.”
Over and over.
“James is fine.”
Every time the words played again, I could feel my heart tighten. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. My chest hurt. I couldn’t feel my arm. My vision was going out.
“Mama?” a tiny voice called out from the top of the steps.
I crawled across my kitchen floor and peered around the bottom of the steps.
“Yeah?” I smiled up at my son at the top of the stairs, his pudgy little fingers gripping the baby gate.
“Lub you. I go back to bed now,” the 3-year-old ginger smiled at me from the top of the steps before skittering back to his bed.
I laid down on the tile right there between my kitchen and dining room and just sobbed.
“Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.”
James Bray Stack was killed in action by a sniper on Nov. 10, 2010, in Sangin, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
“James is fine.”
He left behind a wife and baby daughter, Mikayla.
“Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.”
He competed in the Junior Olympics in 2008, taking the Gold.
“James is fine.”
His daughter was 1 year and 7-days-old, and it was one year and four days after my father died.
“Everyone is FINE…”
Everyone is not fine.
I have, since that morning in 2010, been both wracked with guilt and rattled to my core. I’d never experienced combat deaths from the wife side of the field. When Marines died, it was Marines I knew. I didn’t know their wives. I knew them because I’d served with them. I’d ridden to boot camp with them or worked with them in an S3 shop somewhere or left Camp LeJeune on a bus with them at some point.
When Marines I knew died, I simply felt bad for their wives. But then again… I didn’t yell at them.
“Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.”
Years later, Katie would tell me what she remembered from that day. “It was November,” she’d tell me. “The Marine Corps birthday. James would’ve liked that.”
That’s all, really. She doesn’t particularly remember me yelling at her the day before. She doesn’t really remember most of it.
We are closer friends than most of either of our friends. She calls me out of the blue sometimes, and I text her every few random months to check in. But she isn’t far from my mind, ever. I stalk her on Facebook to make sure she’s okay, and she stalks me on Facebook to make sure I’m still married.
I haven’t seen her in five years. Sometimes I hear my words “Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.” in my mind and I feel like I’m being crushed. I might never stop feeling guilty about that.
“Is there such a thing as survivor’s guilt when the other person survived as well?” I asked my therapist one day.
“Yes. All that is required for survivor’s guilt is that you be dealing with some level of PTSD, and that the thing that happened did not happen directly to you. Stack’s death happened to his wife, not to you.”
“How effed up does that make me?” I asked her, laughing a bit at myself because it’s frowned on to laugh at other people.
“It makes you normal.”
“Other spouses feel like this?”
All these years, all this time, I thought I was alone in that. I thought I was some weird Marine/Marine wife hybrid that had gotten caught in the middle and was just short circuiting or something. But no. It’s normal.
We feel survivor’s guilt, too.
I wish I’d known that six years ago. I wish I’d known that it was normal, that there were other people who felt like I did. I could’ve been of far more use to other spouses, Gold Star and the others.
But most of all, I wish I’d known it was normal because maybe I could’ve helped Katie more.
In November 2018, the Camp Fire decimated the rural town of Paradise, California, becoming the state’s most destructive and deadliest wildfire ever. The windswept wildfire razed more than 14,000 residences, and at least 86 people were killed.
While Sacramento District’s official involvement following the Camp Fire has been minimal, that hasn’t prevented district employees from getting involved.
Joanne Goodsell was recently hired as a Cultural Resources Specialist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She is also an archaeologist, and wanted to find a way to use her skill-set to help victims of the fire. She would have been motivated to help regardless of where the fire took place, but this one hit home — literally. Goodsell grew up in Paradise.
“It was personal. I had wanted to do something to help, but there’s not much you really can do outside of donating. But sometimes you want to help firsthand, to find a way to do more,” said Goodsell.
She did donate money, but was still looking to find how she could do more. That’s when she came across a Facebook post leading her to a group called the Institute for Canine Forensics.
The ICF, in coordination with two Northern California archaeological consulting firms, was asking for archaeologists to come out and help with the unfortunate task of trying to find people’s ashes; not of those who perished in the fires, but the ashes (also called cremains) of previously deceased and cremated loved ones that were now intermingled with the ashes and debris of their burned out homes.
“A friend had posted a link where the ICF was asking for archaeologists to help with the recovery efforts,” said Goodsell. “So I got in contact with them and found this was a good fit for my skill set as an archaeologist.”
Goodsell’s involvement soon inspired other archaeologists in her section at the Corps to volunteer as well. Joe Griffin, Chief of the Cultural, Recreational, and Social Assessment Section soon got involved, as did archaeologists Hope Schear and Geneva Kraus.
Finding ashes among ashes would seem an impossible task, but the ICF brought in dogs that are specifically trained to locate human cremains. After a client has requested service, an ICF handler speaks to the client to determine the approximate location of the cremains and what kind of container they were in. The dogs then sniff through the debris field and either sit or lay down when they find a scent. From there it’s up to the teams of archaeologists.
Nature’s chemical reactions also provide some help in the archaeologists’ searches. First, the texture of the human ashes are different from ashes of say, burned drywall or wood. Second, when the cremains burn a second time, they turn a different color than the typical gray or white ash surrounding them, making them easier to see.
Dressed in protective clothing, the archaeologists would determine a search area, set up a perimeter and begin excavating down to ground level, removing layers of ash and debris as they worked toward where they believed the cremains to be.
Most often, they eventually found the cremains on the ground, surrounded or mixed in with other ash and debris. Original ceramic containers almost never survived the fire, and metal urns melted. It was helpful that sometimes the searchers also found the original metal medallion that stays with a cremated body, making recognition of the human ashes a bit easier.
“One set of cremains were in a fireproof safe, and even it burned, but we still found some cremains in there,” said Goodsell. “Our highest recovery rates were often for cremains that were in the original containers and had been sitting on the floor of a closet.”
The loss of a loved one’s ashes can add a sense of guilt to the already heavy burden of losing a home, especially for those who had yet to fulfill a promise to spread a loved one’s cremains as requested in person or in a will. Fortunately, Goodsell said they had close to a 70 percent success rate in recovering and returning entire cremains and medallions.
The job of searching for cremains at the Camp Fire is finished, at least for now, but Goodsell hopes that in the near future cremains recovery will become standard operating procedure following wildfire disasters.
“This is not going to be the last time this is needed,” said Goodsell. “Finding and returning the cremains means a great deal to these family members. Even if it was a small, token amount, people were very, very grateful.”
Iraq’s prime minister on July 4 congratulated his fighters on “the big victory in Mosul” — even as fighting with Islamic State militants continued in Mosul’s Old City neighborhood where Iraqi forces are about 250 meters from the Tigris River and facing increasingly brutal resistance.
Haider al-Abadi spoke during a press conference in Baghdad, less than a week after he declared an end to IS’ self-styled caliphate after Iraqi forces achieved an incremental win by retaking the landmark al-Nuri Mosque in the Old City.
“Praise be to God, we managed to liberate [Mosul] and proved the others were wrong, the people of Mosul supported and stood with our security forces against terrorism,” al-Abadi said.
His remarks came on the third anniversary of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s sermon at the al-Nuri Mosque, from where he declared an Islamic caliphate on IS-held lands in Syria and Iraq.
Also during the press conference, al-Abadi added that he has given instructions to rebuild and stabilize areas of the city already freed from the militant group.
Inside Mosul’s Old City, civilians fleeing Iraqi advance are increasingly desperate. The elderly and weak are carried across mounds of rubble in blankets. Soldiers — increasingly fearful of the Old City’s inhabitants after a string of suicide bombings — hurry the groups along.
A middle-aged woman with a gaunt, pale face fainted as she fled past the destroyed al-Nuri Mosque. Two soldiers carried her to the roadside and tried to revive her with cold water.
Largely cut off from food and water for months, humanitarian groups are reporting a spike in the number of displaced people suffering from malnutrition and dehydration.
“None of the previous battles were like this,” said Iraqi Maj. Faris Aboud, working at a small field hospital just outside the Old City.
“In a single day we received 300 wounded,” Aboud, a father of three continued. “For me, seeing the wounded children is the hardest, we see children who have lost their entire families under the rubble, they have no one now.”
Lt. Gen. Abdel Ghani al-Asadi, of Iraq’s special forces, said earlier in the day that Iraqi forces are just 250 meters (yards) from the Tigris River, in the western half of Mosul. The Tigris divides the city roughly into its western and eastern half, which was liberated from IS militants back in January.
IS militants who remain trapped in just a few hundred meters of territory in the Old City are now in a “fight to the death,” al-Asadi said, adding that IS fighters are increasingly resorting to suicide bombings and that he expects the fighting to get even heavier as they are pushed closer to the river.
Iraqi forces marked a significant victory this week when the Rapid Response Division retook Mosul’s main hospital complex on the city’s western side.
The building that once held the city’s best medical facilities now sits devastated by the fight. For weeks, a handful of IS snipers perched in the main hospital’s top floors held back hundreds of Iraqi forces.
Iraqi forces launched the operation to retake Mosul, the country’s second largest city, in October. IS overran Mosul in a matter of days in 2014. At the height of the extremists’ power, they held nearly a third of Iraq.
A man who asked to only be referred to as Abu Abid, for fear for his family’s safety, was waiting to get a spot on a truck after fleeing the Old City.
“That place, it was absolute death,” he said. “We will never be the same. Once the fear has been planted in your heart, you can’t get rid of it.”
It seems like everyone is doing that dumb “ten year’s difference” thing on Facebook. Personally, I think this is just depressing for the military community no matter how you slice it.
Either you’re a young troop who’s now reminded of how goofy they looked as a civilian, you’re a senior enlisted/officer who’s now reminded of how much of a dumb boot they once were, or you’re a veteran who’s being reminded of how in shape you once were ten years ago.
If you’re an older vet who’s been out for longer than ten years, well, you’re probably the same salty person in the photo, and no one could tell the difference or that you aged. Maybe a bit more gray and less hair.
Anyways. The Coast Guard hasn’t been paid, but at least these memes are free!