Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle's 76th anniversary - We Are The Mighty
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Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary

A Marine who was present for the Battle of Iwo Jima’s history-making flag-raising has died days before the battle’s 76th anniversary.

Elwood “Woody” Hughes died Feb. 2 at age 95, the Daily Herald newspaper reported. Hughes, of Illinois, landed on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima on Feb. 22, 1945, the day before the flag-raising. He was a private first class at the time, who had joined the Corps in 1943 and had served under legendary Marine Corps Gen. H.M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith, known as the father of U.S. amphibious warfare.

In a 2020 interview with American Veterans Center, Hughes described being part of the 5th Amphibious Corps Signal Battalion attached to the 5th Marine Division. He worked with the famous Navajo Code Talkers, once delivering an urgent message for relay. He described his role on the island as that of a runner or “gofer,” downplaying the danger of his work. But he admitted he could hear the close “rat-a-tat-tat of machine-gun fire” from the command center.

“We were very close to mortar fire … we would get a siren … they would tell you to take cover,” he said.Advertisement

Hughes, who was an active member of his Marine Corps League detachment in Arlington Heights, Illinois, called the Battle of Iwo Jima the “most historic event in the history of the United States,” but said he spoke about it in tribute to those who gave their all in the battle.

Hughes, one of his state’s last survivors of the battle, made a decision in 2019 to speak publicly about his story, adding his name to a flag touring the country with the names of the other Iwo Jima survivors on it.

“They kind of treat people like me as a celebrity and a hero, and I feel I’m not. I shouldn’t be, because the heroes never walked off of Iwo Jima,” he said in the 2020 interview. “I feel I’m doing it more for the honor of those who sacrificed their lives on Iwo Jima.”

The Battle of Iwo Jima stretched from Feb. 19 to March 26, 1945, and involved some 70,000 U.S. Marines. It was a consequential, but costly, U.S. victory; with nearly 7,000 Marine casualties, it was the bloodiest battle of the Corps’ history.

The Marines’ raising of the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi became a symbol of the Corps’ indomitable spirit.

Then-Navy Secretary James Forrestal reportedly said, “The flag-raising on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years.”

Hughes was also known in his community as a longtime high school basketball coach and physical education teacher, according to news reports and his obituary.

“Due to his vivacious character and his unique outgoing style, Woody was instantly likable to all who met him. He was often remembered for his smile, a story, and a gleam in his eye,” his obituary reads. ” … Woody will be greatly missed by all those who know him.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s massive new flying boat seems aimed at Pacific rivals

China claims to have successfully tested a new sea plane, purportedly the largest in the world, and while its primary purposes are firefighting and water rescue, this new aircraft could be used to advance the country’s ambitions in the disputed South China Sea.

The AG600 Kunlong, a domestically-built Chinese aircraft roughly the size of a Boeing 737, recently completed several on-water tests on a lake in central China, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, citing China Aviation News, reported Sept. 9, 2018. It can reportedly even land in choppy seas with its hull-like fuselage.


During the testing in Hubei province, the aircraft was put through a series of water maneuvering and low-speed flight tests, according to the Associated Press.

The aircraft made its maiden flight in December 2017 Military experts reportedly believe that the latest tests indicate the plane could soon be ready for service.

The AG600 Kunlong, powered by four turboprop engines, has a significant carrying capacity. In a rescue situation, it could carry up to 50 people, and were it to be deployed for firefighting purposes, it could carry around a dozen metric tons of water.

Experts suggest that it could be used to move troops and equipment into the disputed South China Sea, where China has built militarized outposts armed with various point defense systems, jamming technology, anti-ship cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles. China even landed a heavy bomber at an outpost in early 2018.

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“The AG600 would be suitable for the quick transport of troops and materials, and could also provide other support such as evacuating garrisons in the South China Sea or even out to the Spratlys,” Collin Koh, a research fellow in Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University’s Maritime Security Program, told SCMP.

“Beijing will also use it to justify any further build-up in the region, saying the aircraft can be used for the common good, such as providing support to foreign vessels in the area and for search and rescue,” he added.

A Beijing-based military expert suggested that the the AG600 Kunlong, the work of China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co., can link countless islands in the South China Sea and play a big role in law enforcement, emergency rescue, and even reconnaissance.” Ching Chang, a research fellow at Taiwan’s ROC Society for Strategic Studies, argued three years ago that the aircraft could play a role in “all the government functions that may signify its substantial governance in the South China Sea,” thus bolstering its previously discredited claims to the highly-contested region.

The South China Sea, which briefly took a back seat to the nuclear war crisis on the Korean Peninsula, has once again emerged as a hot-button issue. Not only has the Chinese military been threatening foreign ships and planes that venture too close to Chinese-occupied territories, but the Chinese military recently got into a standoff with a British amphibious assault ship that approached its South China Sea holdings.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Emergency Relief is poised to assist all service members during pandemic

Army Emergency Relief (AER) was formed in 1942 with the mission to alleviate financial stress on the force. Since they opened their doors they’ve given out $2 billion dollars in aid. They remain a part of the Army, and assistance is coordinated by mission and garrison commanders at Army bases throughout the world. With the continual threat of the coronavirus looming, AER is ready and not just to serve soldiers – but all branches of the military.


Lieutenant General Raymond Mason (ret.) has been the Director of AER since 2016 and feels passionate about his role at AER and what the organization can do for military families. He shared that the one thing that keeps him up at night is the soldier or military member that doesn’t know about AER.

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary

“If a soldier, airman, sailor, marine or coast guardsman is distracted by something in their life…. like finances, they probably aren’t focused on their individual training. They aren’t focused on their unit mission and if we send them into a combat zone with those distractions they are a danger to themselves and their buddies on their left and right,” said Mason. That’s where AER comes in.

AER is a 501c3 non-profit and receives no federal funding; instead they rely on the generous donations of others to make their mission a reality. Mason also shared that AER has close relationships with all of the other services relief organizations, with them often working together to serve those in need. For example, a coastie can walk into an AER office on post and get the same help as a soldier, although the representative they work with has to follow the guidelines of their branch’s relief organization.

Their biggest concern right now is information. “I want to make sure everyone from private to general knows about our program,” said Mason. He touched on the new environment of social media and the exploding availability of aid to military families. While he shared that it can be a good thing that there are so many organizations devoted to supporting the military; there are also some really bad agencies out there. Mason shared that AER is working hard on more strategic communication and marketing of their relief program to prevent that.

“This isn’t a giveaway program, it’s a help up. You get back on your feet and get back in the fight,” said Mason. AER is also open to all ranks, knowing that anyone can need assistance at any time. They can walk into AER and know that they’ll have their back. AER maintains a 4 out of 4 star rating with Charity Navigator, shared Mason, and it’s something they are very proud of.

There are military members who are reluctant to request help through relief agencies out of fear of reprimand or negative impacts to their career. While AER encourages members to go to their chain of command with their needs, even granting approval for first sergeants to sign checks up to 00 – Mason understands it isn’t always easy. As long as they are outside of their initial trainings and have been serving over twelve months, they can go through direct access to get help without involving command.

As the military orders a stand down on travel due to the coronavirus, guard families are concerned. Many of them are unable to hold civilian jobs due to the frequent schools, trainings, TDYs and deployments. With orders being canceled or held, this means financial ruin could be just a paycheck away. AER will be there for those families and stands ready to serve them.

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary

But all of this costs money, something that AER will always need to continue to support military members and their families. They are stepping up their donation requests by engaging with American citizens and corporations. “We’ve never done that throughout our history and we are doing it for the first time,” said Mason. He continued by sharing although they’ve received support from them in the past, they’ve never asked. Now they are asking.

AER just began its annual fundraising campaign, which kicked off on March 1 and will run through May 15, 2020. For the first time, they are really involving the bases and have turned it into a fun event that each group can make their own, Mason shared. There will be an awards ceremony later on in the year to celebrate those who went the extra mile.

He also shared that AER and most relief societies receive a very low percentage of donations that are actually received from active duty, which is concerning. Mason stated that it isn’t about the amount that they give, but that they do give. “Military members fight for each other. When in combat you fight for your buddy on your left or right. If you aren’t willing to reach in your back pocket to help your buddy on your left and right, we have a problem,” said Mason.

“Leave no comrade behind” is the army’s creed – it is a motto that all should take to heart, especially at home.

To learn more about AER and how you can help their mission, click here.

Articles

These are the new upgrades coming to the B-2 Stealth bomber

The Air Force is now testing new, high-tech sensors, software, electronics and other enemy radar-evading upgrades for its B-2 stealth bomber to preserve its stealth advantages and enable the aircraft to operate more effectively against increasingly capable modern air defenses.


The massive upgrade, designed to improve what’s called the bomber’s Defensive Management System, is described by Air Force developers as “the most extensive modification effort that the B-2 has attempted.”

Also read: Air Force says F-35A ready and waiting to be unleashed on ISIS

The Defensive Management System is a technology designed to help the B-2 recognize and elude enemy air defenses, using various antennas, receivers and display processors to detect signals or “signatures” emitting from ground-based anti-aircraft weapons, Air Force Spokesman Capt. Michael Hertzog said in a written statement.

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
A B-2 Spirit soars after a refueling mission over the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, May 30, 2006. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III

The modernized system, called a B-2 “DMS-M” unit, consists of a replacement of legacy DMS subsystems so that the aircraft can be effective against the newest and most lethal enemy air defenses.

“This system picks up where mission planning ends by integrating a suite of antennas, receivers, and displays that provide real-time situational awareness to aircrew.  The DMS-Modernization program addresses shortcomings within the current DMS system,” Hertzog added.

Upgrades consist of improved antennas with advanced digital electronic support measures, or ESMs along with software components designed to integrate new technologies with existing B-2 avionics, according to an Operational Test Evaluation report from the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

The idea of the upgrade is, among other things, to inform B-2 crews about the location of enemy air defenses so that they can avoid or maneuver around high-risk areas where the aircraft is more likely to be detected or targeted. The DMS-M is used to detect radar emissions from air defenses and provide B-2 air crews with faster mission planning information – while in-flight.

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
The cockpit of the B-2 Spirit | US Air Force photo

Air Force officials explain that while many of the details of the upgraded DMS-M unit are not available for security reasons, the improved system does allow the stealthy B-2 to operate more successfully in more high-threat, high-tech environments – referred to by Air Force strategists as highly “contested environments.”

Many experts have explained that 1980s stealth technology is known to be less effective against the best-made current and emerging air defenses – newer, more integrated systems use faster processors, digital networking and a wider-range of detection frequencies.

Upon its inception, the B-2 was engineered to go against and defeat Soviet air-defenses during the Cold War; the idea was to operate above enemy airspace, conduct attack missions and then return without the adversary even knowing the aircraft was there. This mission, designed to destroy enemy air defenses, was designed to open up a safety zone or “air corridor” for other, less stealthy aircraft to conduct attacks.

In order to accomplish this, B-2 stealth technology was designed to elude lower-frequency “surveillance” radar – which can detect the presence of an aircraft – as well as higher-frequency “engagement” radar precise enough to allow air defenses to track, target and destroy attacking aircraft, developers explained.

It is widely believed that modern air defenses such as these are now able to detect many stealth aircraft, therefore complicating the operational equation for bombers such as the B-2, senior Air Force officials have acknowledged.

These newer air defense technologies are exhibited in some of the most advanced Russian-built systems such as the S-300 and S-400. In fact, according to a report from Dave Majumdar in The National Interest and reports in the Russian media, the Russians are now engineering a new, more effective S-500 system able to hit some stealthy targets out to 125 miles or further.

In fact, The National Interest once cited a Russian media report claiming that “stealth” technology was no longer useful or relevant – a claim that is not believed to be true at all, or is at least unambiguously disputed by many experts and developers familiar with stealth technology.

For this reason, many senior Air Force developers have explained that – moving into the future – stealth technology is merely one arrow in a metaphorical “quiver” of offensive attack capabilities used by the B-2.

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joel Pfiester.

Nonetheless, Hertzog explained that upgraded B-2 stealth technology will have a much-improved operating ability and “strategic advantage” against a vastly wider range of air defenses.

“With necessary upgrades, the B-2 can perform its mission regardless of location, return to base safely, and permit freedom of movement for follow-on forces, including other long range strike platforms.  Modifications such as the DMS-M are necessary to preserve this strategic advantage against 21st century threats,” Hertzog added.

The DMS-M upgrade does not in any way diminish the stealth properties of the aircraft, meaning it does not alter the contours of the fuselage or change the heat signature to a degree that it would make the bomber more susceptible to enemy radar, developers said.

Many advanced air defenses use X-band radar, a high-frequency, short-wavelength signal able to deliver a high-resolution imaging radar such as that for targeting. S-band frequency, which operates from 2 to 4 GHz, is another is also used by many air defenses, among other frequencies.

X-band radar operates from 8 to 12 GHz, Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, sends forward and electromagnetic “ping” before analyzing the return signal to determine shape, speed, size and location of an enemy threat. SAR paints a rendering of sorts of a given target area. X-band provides both precision tracking as well as horizon scans or searches. Stealth technology, therefore, uses certain contour configurations and radar-absorbing coating materials to confuse or thwart electromagnetic signals from air defenses.

These techniques are, in many cases, engineered to work in tandem with IR (infrared) suppressors used to minimize or remove a “heat” signature detectable by air defenses’ IR radar sensors. Heat coming from the exhaust or engine of an aircraft can provide air defense systems with indication that an aircraft is operating overhead. These stealth technologies are intended to allow a stealth bomber to generate little or no return radar signal, giving air dense operators an incomplete, non-existent or inaccurate representation of an object flying overhead.

Also, the B-2 is slated to fly alongside the services’ emerging B-21 Raider next-generation stealth bomber; this platform, to be ready in the mid-2020s, is said by many Air Force developers to include a new generation of stealth technologies vastly expanding the current operational ranges and abilities of existing stealth bombers. In fact, Air Force leaders have said that the B-21 will be able to hold any target in the world at risk, anytime.

While many senior Air Force officials have made this point in recent years, the ability of the B-21 to strike anywhere in the world, was something emphasized by Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, Military Deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, told Scout Warrior last year in an exclusive interview.

Naturally, many of the details of these stealth innovations are, by design, not available for public discussion – according to Air Force and Northrop Grumman developers.

The DMS-M program achieved a key acquisition milestone last year, authorizing the program to enter what’s called the Engineering Manufacturing and Development (EMD) phase.

“Major efforts during the EMD phase include the system Critical Design Review, completion of hardware and software development efforts, Integrated Test, and Initial Operational Test and Evaluation.  Three aircraft will be modified during EMD to support the successful completion of this phase,” Hertzog explained.

The program plans on achieving 2019 Full Rate Production following this phase in 2019.

The total Research Development, Test and Evaluation funding for B-2 DMS-M is $1.837B to develop four units, Hertzog added.

The B-2 is engineered and built by Northrop Grumman; the major subcontractors on the program are BAE (receivers), Ball Aerospace and L-3 Randtron (antennas), and Lockheed Martin (display processors).

Total procurement funding for the B-2 DMS-M program is $832M to procure 16 additional units.

The Air Force currently operates 20 B-2 bombers, with the majority of them based at Whiteman AFB in Missouri. The B-2 can reach altitudes of 50,000 feet and carry 40,000 pounds of payload, including both conventional and nuclear weapons.

The aircraft, which entered service in the 1980s, has flown missions over Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. In fact, given its ability to fly as many as 6,000 nautical miles without need to refuel, the B-2 flew from Missouri all the way to an island off the coast of India called Diego Garcia – before launching bombing missions over Afghanistan.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of Jun. 10

It’s raining military memes up in here (13 of them, to be exact):


1. That soldier’s face, though:

(via Devil Dog Nation)

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary

2. Hey, if the purple heart-wearing, Ranger infantry K9 wants to count her deployments in dog years, we recommend you count along (via Military Memes).

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
Otherwise, you’ll quickly learn that she doesn’t need four legs when she has all those teeth.

SEE ALSO: Here are 13 signs that you’re probably in the infantry

3. See, even the Joker enjoys mandatory fun day (via The Salty Soldier).

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
What could be better than being forced to have fun?

4. That is one disciplined corgi (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary

5. “You forgot your ID card? Hmmm, how can we turn one letter of reprimand into two?”

(via Air Force Nation)

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
That security forces airman on the right thinks this is hilarious.

6. She’s apparently grabbing her diploma on her way to the C-17 to deploy (via Pop Smoke).

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary

7. “We swept the whole place out yesterday chief.”

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary

8. Don’t head to the chow hall until you get that beard shaved off (via Military Memes).

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
Sergeant major doesn’t care if you just saved the base from attack. Uniforms regulations are uniform regulations.

9. “Wait. Do other colleges exist?”

(via Air Force Memes Humor)

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary

10. The only way the grass will spread and grow is if troops stop walking on it.”

(via The Salty Soldier)

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
Or if sergeant major spills your blood all over it.

11. Corpsman porn is exactly what you expect (via Team Non-Rec).

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
Why else would they tell you to change socks so often? They just want to watch.

12. “Why yes, I am in the Coast Guard. Why do you ask?”

(via Coast Guard Memes)

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
For anyone complaining about Popeye being on a Coast Guard board, just remember that he was a coastie before he was a sailor.

13. Sometimes, it’s possible to “Airborne!” too hard (via Do You Even Airborne, Bro?).

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
It’s around the time that you start using bus rides to practice actions inside the aircraft.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These U.S. pilots are flying security missions over Iceland

Air Force F-15 Eagle pilots are helping to guard the skies over Iceland for the eleventh time since NATO’s Icelandic Air Surveillance mission began.

The 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron began flying operations here this week in support of the mission, highlighting America’s commitment to NATO and the strength of its ties with Iceland. The squadron is tasked with supplying airborne surveillance and interception capabilities to meet its host’s peacetime preparedness needs and bolster the security and defense of allied nations.


During their rotation, the squadron will maintain an alert status 24 hours a day, seven days a week as part of their peacetime mission. This means they are ready to respond within minutes to any aircraft that may not properly identify themselves, communicate with air traffic control or have a flight path on file.

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary

(USAF)

Strengthening NATO Partnerships

“This deployment gives us the opportunity to strengthen our NATO partnerships and alliances and train in a different location while continuing to improve our readiness and capability for our alert commitment,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Cody Blake, 493rd EFS commander. “Our overall expectation is to maintain a professional presence in everything we do.”

To remain vigilant, the squadron performs daily “training scrambles” in which they simulate real-world alert notification and execute planned protocols to ensure a speedy response.

More than 250 airmen assigned to U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa and 13 F-15C/D Eagles deployed from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, with additional support from U.S. airmen assigned to Aviano Air Base, Italy. Four of the aircraft are tasked with direct support of the Icelandic Air Surveillance mission, while the additional nine aircraft will conduct training missions, providing pilots invaluable experience operating in unfamiliar airspace.

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary

An F-15C Eagle flies over Iceland during a flight in support of the Icelandic Air Policing mission Sept. 15, 2010. The IAP is conducted as part of NATO’s mission of providing air sovereignty for member nations and has also been conducted by France, Denmark, Spain and Poland.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Andrew Rose)

While providing critical infrastructure and support, Iceland has looked to its NATO allies to provide airborne surveillance and interception capabilities to meet its peacetime preparedness needs since 2008.

“Every year, we experience how qualified the air forces of the NATO nations are and how well trained they are to conduct the mission,” said Icelandic Coast Guard Capt. Jon B. Gudnason, Keflavik Air Base commander. “This is what makes NATO such a great partner.”

NATO allies deploy aircraft and personnel to support this critical mission three times a year, with the U.S. responsible for at least one rotation annually. So far, nine nations have held the reigns in support of Iceland: Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Portugal and the U.S.

Articles

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

A former Southern California Marine has been handed a 21-month federal sentence for faking a Purple Heart and lifting from another Marine’s combat story to get disability benefits and a free house.


In a rare prosecution under the 2013 Stolen Valor Act, a 35-year-old Iraq war veteran will also have to pay back more than $300,000 to the U.S. government and a Texas charity.

Brandon Blackstone served with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment out of Twentynine Palms in the Mojave Desert in 2004. He deployed to Iraq in August, during a period of fierce fighting on the Syrian border.

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary

So did Casey Owens, another 1/7 Marine.

But that’s where the similarities in the two Marines’ stories end — and where Blackstone’s fabrications began.

Prosecutors and fellow Marines say Blackstone fashioned a tale of blast injuries and combat stress based on a horrific explosion that nearly killed Owens and cost him both of his legs.

Owens was in a Humvee that triggered a double anti-mine bomb while responding to a downed U.S. serviceman in September 2004.

Blackstone was in the area and likely witnessed the event. But he wasn’t injured in that attack — or in any other combat incident — according to people who were there, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Texas, and Blackstone’s own lawyer.

In fact, he was evacuated from Iraq after a month with appendicitis.

Also read: This is how the Pentagon had over 120,000 extra Purple Heart medals

But starting at least in 2006, Blackstone began spinning a story of suffering traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder after his Humvee hit a mine in Iraq.

He even fabricated two witness statements to support his claim for U.S. Veterans Affairs Department disability benefits that he received from 2006 to 2015, prosecutors said.

Worse, in the eyes of his fellow Marines, he began showing the photograph of Owens’ mangled Humvee as part of his story about how he was wounded.

“This scumbag lied to try to get s–t. You don’t do that. It’s not honorable. It’s not how we are. It’s personal for me, especially, as a friend of Casey’s,” said Andrew Rothman, a 1/7 Navy corpsman who was a key player in exposing Blackstone’s fraud.

“This kid essentially stole from all of us. And the honor part is bigger to us than the money and the house.”

Blackstone was awarded a 100 percent disability rating and, by claiming to have a Purple Heart, his application for a mortgage-free house was granted by Texas-based Military Warriors Support Foundation.

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
The Purple Heart is one of the most recognized and respected medals awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces. (Photo: AP)

Meanwhile, Owens tried to make the best of his life with a double leg amputation and brain injuries, among other medical complications. He moved to Aspen and competed as a Paralympics skier.

But Owens was still in pain. He did national TV interviews describing how he struggled to get the care he needed for his mental and physical wounds. His right leg required additional surgeries that took more of it away.

In October 2014, Owens used a gun to kill himself.

But things for Blackstone were going well. He became a mentor at a Missouri-based veterans charity, Focus Marines Foundation. He even started his own nonprofit group, called The Fight Continues, with two other post-Sept. 11 veterans.

But those brushes with others in the veterans community led to his downfall. His story, including video testimonials he was giving about his combat injuries, didn’t sit right with other 1/7 Marines who dedicated a Facebook thread to discussing it.

Related: Not all PTSD diagnoses are created equal

Eventually, Rothman tipped off the Warriors Support charity that was poised to grant Blackstone the deed to the donated house.

Blackstone pleaded guilty in September to one count of wire fraud and one count of fraudulent representation about the receipt of a military decoration for financial gain.

At his sentencing last month, a federal judge in Texas called Blackstone “shameful,” but gave him credit for accepting blame for his actions. Sentencing guidelines limited his incarceration to 27 months or less, according to news reports. His was given credit for time served since February, so he will serve 18 more months.

Blackstone’s defense lawyer, Justin Sparks, said his client was diagnosed with PTSD and suffered a head injury in Iraq — but not in combat.

The head wound happened when a superior roughed him up in the barracks and he hit his head on a dresser. There were other injuries while in uniform that weren’t related to combat but required surgery, Sparks said. While in the hospital, a higher-ranking Marine informally gave Blackstone a Purple Heart medal to acknowledge his pain — but it wasn’t an official award.

There’s no explaining why Blackstone lied about the Purple Heart or applied for the free home, knowing he wasn’t qualified, the former Marine’s lawyer told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“There’s not really a good answer for that. He was in a very, very tough time in his life and reached a pitfall there,” Sparks said this week.

Sparks said his client seemed to lose his grasp on reality as the story spun on.

There’s a symptom of PTSD where you are living your life in the third person. You’re always convincing yourself about what is reality,” he said. “It’s almost a coping mechanism.”

Sparks said his client is still rated at 70 percent disabled by the VA.

The lawyer disagreed that Blackstone was appropriating Casey Owens’ story.

“Brandon never claimed his lost his legs,” Sparks said. “The only common elements in the two stories are PTSD, the Purple Heart, and head injuries. There must be at least 1,000-plus soldiers who have those three things.”

Blackstone’s fellow troops don’t buy the PTSD explanation for his behavior. Several of them also were disappointed by his sentence.

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
A Marine salutes the memorial stand for his fallen brother. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“He was in the grip of his own lies,” said Eric Calley, a former Marine who used his own money to start The Fight Continues with Blackstone.

“That judge should be ashamed. I think (Blackstone) deserves a life sentence for what he did to our veterans.”

Lezleigh Owens Kleibrink, Owens’ sister, said her family was hoping for closure from a tougher sentence but didn’t get it.

Kleibrink said she has no doubts that Blackstone was trying to at least bask in the association with her brother’s reputation.

“He was a thief and Casey’s story was a means to get what he wanted,” she told the San Diego Union-Tribune this week.

Further reading: Here are the criteria that entitle a service member to the Purple Heart

“What Brandon doesn’t understand is that it’s ripped open our wounds once again,” Kleibrink said. “Anyone who makes my mother cry like this … He may have joined the Corps, but he was no Marine.”

The Military Warriors Support Foundation said it was the charity’s first brush with stolen valor in awarding more than 750 homes to combat-wounded veterans.

“This was an unusual case, in that even official VA documentation was inaccurate,” said spokesman Casey Kinser. “That said, we are constantly reviewing our processes to vet our applicants more accurately and efficiently.”

The Fort Worth-area house that Blackstone nearly owned has been awarded to another Marine family.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Winning a Nobel Prize isn’t as easy as you think

There have been calls to award a Nobel Peace Prize to everyone involved with ending the Korean War, including President Donald Trump. Given that the award has a broad selection process, it’s much more competitive than you’d think and the specifics about the process are often kept secret for fifty years.


Any person, group, or organization can be nominated after doing, in accordance to Alfred Nobel’s will, “the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” The only officially recognized nominators include heads of state, former Nobel Peace Prize laureates, and current or former members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
The first ever recipient was Henry Dunant, the founder of the International Red Cross. His organization would win the award three more times.

Any submissions must be done begin in September and the absolute cut-off is February 1st. Between the beginning of February and the end of March, the list is combed through and a short list is prepared for April.

In 2018, there were 328 candidates and each of the five members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee usually pick five nominees. Because of the secrecy around the process, the Nobel Committee combs through the maybe twenty-five candidates until September.

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
This year’s front-runner is The White Helmets, a volunteer search and rescue organization that saved countless lives during the Syrian Civil War.
(United States Agency for International Development)

In October, the voting between the members begins and the winner is chosen. The decision is final and there are no appeals. Hence the secrecy. No one can be upset that they weren’t picked if they didn’t know they got that far. Once the voting has finished, it’s announced to the world who the winner for that year will be.

Then comes the big day on December 10th. The new laureate receives their shiny golden award, a diploma, and a monetary prize. The prize money in 2017 was 9 million Swedish Kronas, which is $1,028,655 US Dollars. The prize money is often donated to which ever cause the recipient championed.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The 2018 VETTY Awards recognized exemplary service to the veteran community

In acknowledgement of veterans that have gone beyond their call of duty, the 3rd annual VETTY awards recognized marquee veterans that have exemplified ongoing public service and advocacy efforts, and who have demonstrated exceptional contribution and service to the veteran community in 2017.


Chief Washington Correspondent and CNN anchor journalist, Jake Tapper, hosted the event, held Jan. 20 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington DC.

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
Seda Goff accepting the VETTY for Employment on behalf of Bunker Labs with Mark Rockefeller and Sofia Pernas.

Tapper is known for his vocal advocacy of the veteran community and his book The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor debuted at number 10 on The New York Times Bestseller list.

His work reporting on veterans earned him the “Tex” McCrary Award for Excellence in Journalism from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

Esteemed speakers and presenters for the red carpet event included Marine Corps and Navy veteran Montel Williams of The Montel Williams Show, and actress Anne Heche, series lead of the hit NBC military drama, The Brave .

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
Montel Williams gives a passionate speech to the VETTY audience.

During Williams speech, he recognized what an honor it is to be a United States military veteran.

“I get the opportunity to travel around this country on a daily basis—and there is nothing prouder in my life—or world—than to be able to step up and say that I am a veteran.”

Williams also empathized with his fellow veterans about where some Americans choose to share their loyalty.

“It bothers me… but… last week another awards show had 25 million people watching—but none of those people would have the right to get an award without the people sitting in this room.”

His comments were met by a roar of applause—but how fitting his comments considering the audience.

Winners Of The 3rd Annual VETTY Awards

Mental Health: Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, Inc.

Education: Dustin Perkins | Director of Marketing | Student Veterans of America

Leadership: Sarah Verardo | Executive Director | The Independence Fund

Employment: Bunker Labs

Community: National Veterans Legal Services Program

Honorary VETTY: Steven D. Vincent | Senior Business Development Manager | tiag® (The Informatics Applications Group, Inc.)

Honorary VETTY: George A. Chewning, II | Director of Governmental Affairs | Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation

Among the VETTYs attendees were respected veterans and mil-spouse entrepreneurs that dedicate their lives to supporting a community—a community that is first to support our great nation—but reserved when is comes to applause.

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
VETTY attendees dressed in their best for a night of recognizing incredible veterans.

Presenting at this year’s awards were not only celebrities like Emmy-winning actress Shohreh Aghdashloo and Mike Vogel of NBC’s The Brave , but also veterans such as Army veteran and former Seattle Seahawks long-snapper, Nate Boyer, and Air Force veteran and the CEO of Streetshares, Mark Rockefeller.

Another notable presenter was Navy SEAL, Shark Tank success story, and CEO of Bottle Breacher, Eli Crane—a man that has been vocal in his support of the United States and his veteran comrades through today’s troubling political environment.

Crane was seen with Marine Corps veteran Eric Mitchell of LifeFlip Media, Navy SEAL veteran Sal DeFranco and his wife Dana of Battle Grounds Coffee , and Marine Corps veteran Travis McVey of Heroes Vodka.

The Academy of United States Veterans (AUSV) established the annual VETTY awards in 2015 to recognize the most impactful entities that contribute to the well-being of the veteran community.

The AUSV was founded with one principle in mind: the importance of public service.

They inspire veterans who have found their purpose in serving their country—and hopes to encourage a culture where caring for one another is not considered a duty, but a joy.

In respects to their principals, the AUSV has pledged to donate a portion of the evening’s profits to helping restore the livelihoods of our fellow citizens who have been affected by the devastation of Hurricanes 2017.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

This toddler’s White House briefing on COVID-19 is the best thing you’ll see today

With an abundance of data points on COVID-19 — the news, your friend from high school who has turned into a respiratory and infectious disease expert on social media despite never going to med school, your family, your neighbors, that group text — it’s difficult to discern what is relevant and what is truthful.

Finally, here’s one source that absolutely nails it. Three-year-old toddler “Dr. Big Sister” Hannah Curtis delivers a spot on briefing from her very own White House.



MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s how the Marine Corps is changing its promotions policies

Corporals need the opportunity to be corporals before they become sergeants.

That’s what Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy Black told Marines last week when introducing new enlisted promotion and retention policies.

Starting in January 2019, corporals won’t be able to pick up sergeant until they’ve been in the Marine Corps for four years. That’s twice as long as the current requirement.

And sergeants won’t make staff noncommissioned officer status until they’ve served at least five years — a year longer than currently required. Sergeants will also need 36 months time-in-grade before they can make staff sergeant. That’s up nine months from the 27 required now.


Black told Marines that about a third of new sergeants are leaving the service within a year of picking up rank.

“Quite frankly, we can’t afford to lose about 30% of our sergeants every single year,” he said. “… We need sergeants on flight lines, we need sergeants in squads, we need sergeants doing what they’re supposed to do, and we need corporals to … master their responsibilities to reach the next higher paygrade.”

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Hector J. Marchi Ramos, a radio operator with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, I Marine Expeditionary Force, is promoted to sergeant by his wife during a promotion ceremony at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. Sept. 4, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps/Capt. Joshua P. Hays)

Starting in July 2019, new staff sergeants will also owe the Marine Corps at least two years of service once they pin on their new rank.

“Marines who are selected to the rank of staff sergeant must have at least 24 months of obligated service remaining on contract beginning on the date of their promotion,” states Marine administrative message 612/19, which announced the changes.

The service already requires gunnery sergeants to serve at least three more years after pinning on that rank, Black told the Marines in Yuma, Arizona, where he discussed the policies last week.

“What’s the benefit of that?” asked Black, who previously served as the top enlisted leader of Manpower and Reserve Affairs. “If about 30% of people who get selected to staff sergeant … and don’t stay at least 24 more, that speeds up promotion from sergeant to staff sergeant, that speeds up promotion from corporal to sergeant. You start to lose experience along the way.”

That’s because the Marine Corps promotes to fill vacancies, said Yvonne Carlock, a Manpower and Reserve Affairs spokeswoman. A lot of corporals were picking up sergeant before they hit the end of their first four-year enlistment, only to leave the service at that point, she said.

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary

(Screenshot via YouTube)

To fill those voids, the Marine Corps would again tap into the corporal ranks to promote more Marines to sergeant, and the same pattern was repeated.

“The reason we’re doing this,” Carlock added, “is to reduce the churn.”

The move hasn’t been popular with everyone. One Reserve Marine career planner told Stars and Stripes “nobody is going to want to wait four years to pick up sergeant.” And a corporal told the outlet if the changes leave fewer Marines making sergeant, that could mean “less structure in the ranks.”

Marine officials say the opposite will be true — that the moves will keep more newly promoted noncommissioned officers and staff NCOs from immediately leaving the ranks.

Along with the new promotion rules for sergeants and staff sergeants, the Marine Corps is introducing new initiatives to help retain enlisted leathernecks. Carlock said the moves are meant to improve processes.

Marines who demonstrate “high levels of proficiency and talent must be given the most efficient means by which to request and be approved for reenlistment and subsequently be provided opportunities to excel in critical leadership roles,” the administrative message states.

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mackenzie Gibson)

A select number of Marines will be allowed to submit their reenlistment packages a year ahead of schedule. The move could also leave them eligible to receive reenlistment bonuses and other initiatives that apply to Marines choosing to stay on another term in that fiscal year.

“Under current policy, [a Marine] with an end of current contract (ECC) of April 2022 is considered an FY22 cohort Marine and is currently required to wait until July 2021 to submit for reenlistment,” the administrative message states. “Under Early Reenlistment Authority, this Marine, if a computed Tier 1 Marine with no jeopardy on current contract, will be allowed to reenlist as early as July 2020 during the FY21 Enlisted Retention Campaign.”

General officers will also be given the authority to approve some Marines’ reenlistments without sending requests to Headquarters Marine Corps.

“[Major Subordinate Command-level] General Officers will be allocated a specified number of reenlistments for approval based on the percentage of the eligible cohort assigned to their command,” the message states.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Another week down, another 13 memes to get you to Libo brief.


1. Salute what now?

(via Sh-t my LPO Says)

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
Since they’re facing four different directions, there’s still something wrong.

2. And people say Marines aren’t romantic (via Military Memes).

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
It’s really just that they’re in love with different things.

SEE ALSO: 17 photos that show why troops absolutely love the .50 caliber machine gun

3. Nothing like a little stroll before flight ops . . . (via Sh-t my LPO Says).

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
Straight lines go faster.

4. When civilians stage military photos (via Coast Guard Memes).

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary

5. When you realize enlisting is not like being a character in a video game (via Air Force Nation).

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary

6. When Coast Guard wants to dance but the party is in international waters (via Coast Guard Memes).

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary

7. Nothing like a corrosion control shop with a sense of humor (via Air Force Nation).

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
Warning: Right after the pilot freaks, the maintenance chief might lose his sh-t.

8. Why 0331s and 11Bs have to be supervised (via Pop Smoke).

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
Luckily, grunts are also very accomplished cleaners.

9. The CO doesn’t get lost during field exercises …

(via Sh-t my LPO Says)

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
… he led you to that diner on purpose.

10. The Navy has been building an corps of elite sailors capable of the most challenging missions (via Sh-t my LPO Says).

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
That little ribbon is a mark of excellence.

11. Don’t worry Active duty, the reserves are ready to back you up (via Military Memes).

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
They’ve got your uniforms mostly right and they’ll start studying tactics once deer season is over.

12. The guys with the missiles need to be properly supervised (via Air Force Nation).

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
One bender could really mess everything up.

13. Your new lieutenant is an expert (via Pop Smoke).

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary
We’re just not sure in what.

NOW: Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

OR: Here’s what would happen if modern Marines battled the Roman Empire

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why US F-35s will deploy aboard foreign carrier for first time

A US Marine Corps F-35 squadron plans to deploy aboard the British Royal Navy’s new flagship, the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

“It’s going to be a wonderful new way — and I will offer, potentially a new norm — of doing coalition combined allied operations with a maritime partner,” Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, head of Marine Corps aviation, said at this week’s Sea-Air-Space conference outside Washington, DC, according to Military.com.

A yet-to-be-identified Marine Corps squadron is expected to deploy aboard the foreign carrier in 2021.


This approach will be a “tremendous milestone in the progression of maritime interoperability with the UK,” Capt. Christopher Hutchinson, a Marine Corps spokesman, told Military.com. He told Business Insider that this will be the first time in modern history, if not ever, US aircraft have deployed aboard a foreign aircraft carrier.

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary

HMS Queen Elizabeth visiting New York City.

(Royal Navy)

The deployment has been a long time in the making, as senior US and British defense officials reportedly first began discussing this type of cooperation as a real possibility when the HMS Queen Elizabeth was commissioned in 2017.

An F-35B jet, a short takeoff/vertical landing variant of the fifth-generation stealth fighter developed for the Marine Corps, landed on the HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time last September. “The largest warship in British history is joining forces with the most advanced fighter jets on the planet,” then British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said in a statement.

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary

An F-35B Lightning II above the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, Sept. 25, 2018.

(UK Ministry of Defense)

Last fall, US Marine Corps Maj. Michael Lippert, an F-35B test pilot, spent several weeks conducting test flights from the deck of the British carrier. The movement of a whole squadron to the carrier is simply the next step in the cooperative process.

Both sides are currently preparing for the eventual deployment. “They’re working together … on all of the things that go into making sure supportability is right,” Rudder said, according to Military.com. “It has been a pleasure working with our UK partners on this. I think it’s going to be a very interesting data point and operational success.”

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

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