The first time the F-15 Strike Eagle saw combat was in the skies over the Middle East during Operation Desert Storm. Although the F-15 C and D were incredibly lethal in air-to-air combat, the F-15E was primarily used to take out mobile Scud missiles and surface-to-air missile sites. It was the F-15E’s only air-to-air kill during Desert Storm that would become the most memorable.
On Valentine’s Day 1991, the offensive part of the First Gulf War was in full swing. U.S. Air Force Captains Richard “TB” Bennett and Dan “Chewie” Bakke were pilot and weapons system officer, respectively, on a Scud patrol. AWACS ordered their F-15E to hit Mi-24 Hind Gunships that were close to a U.S. Special Forces operation.
Bakke told the author of “Debrief: A Complete History of U.S. Aerial Engagements” that the F-15E’s radar became “intermittent” when they moved to strike. The pilot couldn’t get a missile lock on the targets because one the Hinds began to accelerate so fast. Bakke switched his thinking to a ground attack.
Since he could only see the rotors using his LANTIRN pod (the ground targeting system used by the Strike Eagles) Bakke used a laser-guided, 2,000-pound GBU-10 bomb on the helicopter as it began to lift off. The bomb when through the rotors and the cockpit, its fuse delay exploding the munition underneath the Hind, completely disintegrating the helicopter. The other helicopters bolted after that and more U.S. air cover came in to protect the ground force.
After the Special Forces team was extracted, they confirmed the F-15E’s kill and sent Bennett and Bakke a “Thank You” via their headquarters based in Riyadh.
One of the struggles that many returning, wounded veterans face is trying to find a new normal after a horrific incident. What was once a simple pastime, like playing a quick round of your favorite video game to relieve stress, is taken away from someone who has lost the ability to hold and operate a controller as they once did.
This is what Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller is designed to alleviate. And any little thing that can help give our wounded brothers and sisters a better chance at living a comfortable, normal life should definitely be counted as a win for the veteran community as a whole.
AbleGamers has founded many Accessibility Arcades to give gamers with disabilities a space with a wide variety of modified controllers.
(USDA photo by Bob Nichols)
The disabled gaming community has had to find ways to compensate for many years, going to either extremely costly or very frustrating lengths to do so. If a gamer with disabilities isn’t able to successfully adjust the way they play to fit their condition, they have to abandon the game, wasting cash and taking a hit to morale as they have to say goodbye to their favorite titles.
And then came the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, which requires tech companies to outfit all forms of communication, including laptops, smartphones, and video game consoles, with accommodations in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Since the CCVAA’s passing, nearly all tech giants have taken steps in the right direction, introducing many text-to-speech features for the visually impaired and other accessibility options, like color-blind support settings in most major game titles. Then, Microsoft moved leaps and bounds ahead of the wave when they announced a partnership with AbleGamers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving accessibility in the video game space.
The engineers at Microsoft began working on a versatile prototype controller that can interface with all types of external input devices, allowing for an adaptive remapping of inputs. There are 19 ports on the back of the controller that can be connected to joysticks, standard controllers, buttons, switches, or whatever other type of device is most accessible to the gamer. If need be, any Xbox game can be played with one hand and a foot, one hand and a shoulder, one shoulder and a foot — whatever allows the gamer to play most comfortably.
The controller has been released to the public — and at a reasonable price. Our friends at Operation Supply Drop were given many adaptive controllers to be deployed to military hospitals around the world. The chief medical officer of OSD, Maj. Erik Johnson, has long been a supporter of using video games as a therapeutic tool for wounded troops.
With these controllers, many more wounded veterans will be able to bring gaming back into their lives.
A Marine veteran crawled across the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2019, after his legs gave out late in the race.
Micah Herndon, of Tallmadge, Ohio, persisted because he was running in honor of three friends who died in an IED attack in Afghanistan.
“The pain that I was going through is nothing compared to the pain that they went through,” Herndon told CBS Boston.
On Jan. 9, 2010, Herndon was riding in a vehicle with fellow Marines Matthew Ballard, Mark Juarez and British journalist Rupert Hamer when they struck a 400-pound IED, Herndon told the Washington Post.
Marine Veteran Crawls Across Boston Marathon Finish Line
Herndon had hoped to finish the race in under three hours, in order to qualify for the New York City Marathon in November. He was on pace to make that goal for most of the race, but his legs started to give out when he hit Heartbreak Hill, an incline near the 20-mile marker, according to The Post.
He started feeling discomfort in his Achilles’ tendon that eventually caused his legs to give out entirely, leading him to finish the race on hands and knees.
Video shows volunteers clearing space for Herndon to he could crawl across the finish line. He was then put in a wheelchair and taken to get medical attention.
While he is still recovering from the race in Boston, he told The Post that he plans to get back to running as soon as possible, calling it his “therapy.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
“He was a selfless leader, a brother and a friend.”
That is how Stuart Hollingsworth remembers Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, the former 10th Mountain Division (LI) soldier who posthumously received the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House on March 27, 2019.
Hollingsworth, a former staff sergeant assigned to 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, had first met Atkins a month before their deployment to Iraq in August 2006. He said that Atkins was originally with another company, but he was needed to serve as a team leader in D Company.
“He was training his previous team for combat, and was such a master of his craft, that he was able to step into another team leader role and earn the trust of everyone he met,” Hollingsworth said.
“My first impression of him was that this man was very much an authoritative leader. He led from the front and led by example — never asking anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do himself.”
Soldiers kneel to pay their respects during a memorial ceremony June 7, 2007 at Camp Striker for Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, who was killed June 1, 2007 by a suicide bomber near Sadr Al-Yusufiyah, Iraq.
(Photo by Spc. Chris McCann, 2nd BCT PAO)
Hollingsworth said that theirs was a tight-knit team, and they developed a bond that would carry them forward into combat.
“Staff Sgt. Atkins was a huge proponent of team camaraderie and unity,” Hollingsworth said. “We would do everything as a team — we moved as a team, trained as a team, ate, slept — everything.”
With that, it was easy to learn everything there was to know about his teammates, and Hollingsworth said that Atkins spoke constantly about his son Trevor.
“He was very much a family man, always talking about them,” Hollingsworth said. “I would also say that he probably loved his men almost as much, if not the same.”
That camaraderie and the love he had for his team is demonstrative of his actions on June 1, 2007, when Atkins sacrificed his life to shield his fellow soldiers from a suicide bomber. Atkins had engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the insurgent who had resisted a search, and then threw himself on top of the suicide bomber to bear the blast of the detonation.
A soldier from 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, stands in front of the monument honoring 2-14 infantry soldiers who died in service to their nation.
(Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)
Hollingsworth said that every soldier learns the words to the Soldier’s Creed, but some of those words impact him more now because of Atkins.
“There’s that one phrase — ‘I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life’ — that has more meaning to me today than ever before,” he said.
In November 2007, Atkins’ name was among those added to the 2-14 infantry monument at Fort Drum. Atkins’ heroism received national attention when he was honored with the Distinguished Service Cross during a Veterans Day ceremony at Fort Drum in 2008.
Hollingsworth had attended both ceremonies, but he said that words failed him upon meeting Trevor, who was 12 at the time.
“I was not able to adequately describe to Trevor how much I appreciated his father, what he meant to me and how truly great a man he was,” Hollingsworth said. “So being here at the Medal of Honor ceremony, I am incredibly grateful to be in the presence of the Atkins family. To have this opportunity to spend this time with them is a great honor.”
Kim Jong Un’s arrival in Vietnam for a second summit with President Donald Trump took an unusual turn when an aide appeared to miss his cue during a grand entrance.
Video footage of Kim’s arrival in Dong Dong, on the China-Vietnam border, shows the North Korean leader walking down a red carpet ramp from his personal armored train.
He initially descends alone. A few seconds later, an aide appears to realise what is going on, and quickly runs down the ramp to join Kim.
You can the moment in this video, via the Filipino ABS-CBN news channel. The aide’s sprint down the carpet comes around the 14-second mark:
The entourage had just completed a marathon 2,000-mile train ride from Pyongyang, across a vast expanse of southern China, which lasted two and a half days.
Experts say that Kim’s decision to travel by train could have been to avoid the appearance of being reliant on China, after he received significant attention for borrowing plane from the government-owned Air China to get to his last summit with Trump in Singapore.
The optics of Kim travelling by train could also remind North Koreans of Kim’s grandfather, who used the same train to get to countries like Vietnam as well as the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, The Associated Press reported.
Trump has characterized the summit as a follow-up to the leaders’ first summit in Singapore in June 2018, when North Korea made a vague commitment to working toward denuclearization.
Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump shaking hands at the red carpet during the Singapore Summit in June 2018.
Pyongyang appears to have made little progress on that front since the first meeting. US intelligence and North Korea experts have warned that North Korea is unlikely to give up its nuclear arms.
Trump told the Governors’ Ball on Feb. 24, 2019, that he was “not pushing for speed” with North Korea’s denuclearization.
However, he tweeted on Feb. 25, 2019: “With complete Denuclearization, North Korea will rapidly become an Economic Powerhouse. Without it, just more of the same. Chairman Kim will make a wise decision!”
As haunting images from Italy of overcrowded emergency rooms and horror stories of Coronavirus flood social media, the Italian Air Force flew with a message of strength for her people. It was a reminder of pride for the country, unity in the face of grave danger and a prayer of resilience for a country beleaguered by an enemy we haven’t seen before: COVID-19.
Set to the backdrop of Giacomo Puccini’s ‘Nessum Dorma,’ performed by Luciano Pavarotti, the flyover is beautiful, chilling and more than anything … full of hope. Translated to English, the last lyrics of the song are, “I will prevail. I will prevail. I will prevail.” You will, Italy. And America will, too.
On the day after Thanksgiving 1984, a Soviet citizen on a tour of the DMZ suddenly abandoned his group and sprinted to freedom in South Korea.
Vasilii Matuzok long dreamed of fleeing the oppression of Communism. He even obtained a job in Pyongyang as a means of making his escape attempt.
But despite its name, the Demilitarized Zone is anything but. The four-kilometer wide area is heavily mined and guarded by armed soldiers from each side. A crossing there was as near suicidal during the Cold War as it is today.
However, at a small village named Panmunjom (the site of the Korean War Armistice signing), the North and South created a Joint Security Area. This area is heavily guarded but it contains no minefields or other the deterrents to crossing that can’t be said for the rest of the DMZ.
When Matuzok’s tour group was distracted, he made a break for it.
Immediately realizing what was happening, some 30 North Korean soldiers pursued him and fired wildly in the hopes of bringing him down before he could reach the other side.
This immediately created a significant incident. As the two sides were still technically at war – having never signed a peace agreement – the North Korean soldiers pursuing Matuzok instantaneously became an armed incursion. The UN guards quickly alerted the United Nations Quick Reaction Force at nearby Camp Kitty Hawk.
The United Nations had a Joint Security Force company comprised of Americans and Koreans stationed at Camp Kitty Hawk to respond to any incidents at the Joint Security Area and provide the guard detail.
As the incident developed into a full-on firefight between the North Korean soldiers and the UN’s JSA guards, Capt. Bert Mizusawa got the call at Camp Kitty Hawk. He told his men to load up while he got as much information as he could from the Tactical Operations Center.
As his group sped the quarter mile to the JSA, Mizusawa was unaware of the defection. His sole purpose was to restore the Armistice conditions. The North Korean soldiers, invaders at this point, had to be turned back, he said, “with no concern for proportionality… we were going to win no matter what.”
When Mizusawa and the QRF arrived with three infantry squads augmented with three machine gun teams, the UN guards at the JSA had the intruding North Koreans pinned down in an area known as the “Sunken Garden.” It had been only fifteen minutes since Matuzok defected.
Mizusawa sent one squad east to reinforce the men at Checkpoint 4, who were engaged against the North Koreans there while he personally led the other two squads on a flanking maneuver to the southwest. During their movement, the men came across Matuzok hiding in the bushes.
Captain Mizusawa immediately realized the urgency of the situation. If the North Koreans were able to kill or recapture Matuzok, they controlled the narrative of the day’s events.
After confirming Matuzok’s intention to defect, Mizusawa put him in the personal custody of the QRF Platoon Sergeant who raced him to safety at Camp Kitty Hawk.
With the defector now secured Mizasawa was in a tactically perfect situation. He had his enemy pinned down on low ground and was in position to move in from the flank. The Americans executed a textbook example of Battle Drill 1A. As the lead fire team bounded into the Sunken Garden under accurate suppressive fire, the North Koreans attempted to flee.
Caught in the open, they chose to surrender rather than be gunned down.
The elapsed time since the defection was approximately 20 minutes. It only took six minutes after the arrival of the QRF platoon to defeat the North Korean threat.
During the fighting, a South Korean KATUSA soldier was killed and an American soldier wounded when they drew heavy fire from the North Koreans protecting the escape of Matuzok.
The North Koreans lost three killed, five wounded, and eight captured during the incident.
However, for the North Korean soldiers, failure in this situation would be costly. It is believed that the leader of the North Korean troops and his subordinate were summarily executed immediately after the incident.
Despite being one of the worst instances of violence on the DMZ in some time, further bloodshed was avoided.
Hoping to keep the incident quiet, the Army choose to withhold some awards immediately after the firefight. It would not be until the year 2000 that the Army recognized the service and awarded or upgraded seventeen decorations to participants on that day.
Matuzok, the defector that started everything, eventually was allowed to resettle in the U.S. as a refugee under an assumed name.
On June 22, 1977, Aleksandr Ogorodnik killed himself with a CIA-supplied suicide pill after the KGB arrested him based on information initially provided by a mole within the Agency. Just over three weeks later, CIA officer Martha (Marti) Peterson — unaware of Aleksandr’s death — was seized in a KGB ambush while servicing a dead drop in Moscow.
The streets of Moscow were one of the most important, and dangerous, battlefields of the Cold War. American intelligence officers like Marti worked with assets like Aleksandr in the shadows to collect Soviet secrets. The Soviets, in turn, closely watched all foreign nationals and their own citizens for signs of espionage.
Although the story of TRIGON ended tragically, the intelligence Aleksandr provided gave US policymakers valuable insights into Soviet foreign policy plans and intentions. It was insights like this which ultimately helped us win the Cold War.
Recruiting a spy:
Aleksandr Ogorodnik was a mid-level official in the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) posted in Latin America and had access to information about Soviet intentions for the region. He enjoyed his life in Latin America and disliked the Soviet system, which he found oppressive.
The CIA recruited Aleksandr in South America in 1973. Upon signing up to spy for the Agency, he was given the codename TRIGON.
TRIGON smuggled documents from the embassy and took them to a safe-house, where Agency officers photographed them. The material he provided gave unique insights into Soviet policies in Latin America, including plans to influence other governments.
Return to the motherland:
In anticipation of his recall to Moscow, CIA officers taught TRIGON operational trade-craft and techniques. He also received training in secret writing, the use of one-time pads, and dead drop techniques.
One of the first female CIA case officer to serve behind the Iron Curtain, Marti Peterson, went to Moscow to be TRIGON’s handler. At the time, the KGB discounted the ability of women to conduct intelligence operations, so Marti went unnoticed for almost 18 months.
TRIGON’s value rose significantly after he returned to Moscow in October 1974. He had agreed to continue spying for the Agency, but he asked that the US government resettle his then-pregnant girlfriend. Before leaving for the Soviet Union, TRIGON requested a suicide device in case he was caught. After high-level deliberations at Langley, his CIA handlers reluctantly gave him a fountain pen containing a cyanide capsule.
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)
A few months later, per his recontact instructions, TRIGON gave a “sign of life” signal in February 1975. As face-to-face meetings were too dangerous, impersonal operational encounters—using signal sites, radio messages, concealment devices, dead drops, and car drops—began in October and were scheduled monthly.
For nearly two years they worked together, Marti and TRIGON never met. They were only spies passing in the night.
Dead rats for dead drops:
Moscow was a challenging environment to operate within. Even finding one’s way around Moscow proved difficult because Soviet-produced maps of the city were deliberately inaccurate. The Agency had to get creative when communicating with assets, which regularly included the use of dead drops.
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)
Dead drops are a way for intelligence officers to leave or receive items at a secret location in order to exchange information with an asset without having to meet directly. Everyday items like fake bricks can be used for dead drops. Packed with messages or supplies, the bricks can be deposited at a set location, such as a construction site, for later pickup.
One of the more surprising concealment devices sometimes used by the CIA were dead rats. The body cavity was large enough to hold a wad of money or roll of film. Hot pepper sauce kept scavenging cats away after the “rat” was tossed from a car window at a prearranged drop site.
Marti used a purse to conceal supplies and equipment that she transferred to TRIGON via dead drop exchanges. Because of the KGB’s gender bias, the purse, like Marti herself, did not attract suspicion.
TRIGON soon secured a position in the Global Affairs Department of the MFA that gave him access to incoming and outgoing classified cables to Soviet embassies worldwide. He provided sensitive intelligence about Soviet foreign policy plans and objectives. His reporting went to the President and senior US policymakers.
Meanwhile, Karl Koecher, a naturalized US citizen, was working at CIA as a translator and contract employee. (Unbeknownst to CIA, he was also working concurrently for the Czech Intelligence Service.) He had incidental access to information about TRIGON’s first dealings with the Agency and told his intelligence service, which then notified the KGB.
When that occurred is not known, nor is the time when the KGB began investigating TRIGON. In early 1977, however, his case officers began noticing indications—principally a marked decline in the quality of the photographs—that he had been compromised and was under KGB control.
The Krasnoluzhskiy Most
TRIGON never showed up for a dead drop encounter on June 28, 1977, so another was arranged via radio message for two weeks later.
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)
On July 15, Marti went to the Krasnoluzhskiy Most — a railroad bridge near Lenin Central Stadium —to set up the dead drop. The bridge spanned the Moscow River with a pedestrian walkway running along the side of the tracks. A spot was prepicked where TRIGON would receive a “drop” from Marti, and leave a package to be retrieved later that same night.
As night fell over Moscow, Marti left a concealment device in a narrow window inside a stone tower on the Krasnoluzhskiy Most. It was a trap.
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)
A KGB surveillance team was waiting and seized Marti. They took her to Lyubianka Prison, where she was questioned for hours and photographed with some of the espionage paraphernalia Agency officers and TRIGON had used. She was declared persona non grata (an unwelcome person) and sent back to the US immediately.
The Agency later learned that Alexander Ogorodnik had killed himself a month before Marti had been apprehended. He told the KGB he would sign a confession but asked to use his own pen. Marti wrote in her memoir, The Widow Spy, that “Opening the pen as if to begin writing, he bit down on the barrel and expired instantly in front of his KGB interrogators. The KGB was so intent on his confession that they never suspected he had poison….TRIGON died his own way, a hero.”
Do you remember when former President George W. Bush gave a speech congratulating America for completing the mission in Iraq back in 2003? That took place aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln (and is probably a moment the former POTUS would probably like to take back for obvious reasons but let’s stay on track here).
In May of 2017, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was redelivered back to the Navy after undergoing nearly a four-year mid-life Refueling and Complex Overhaul.
Approximately 2.5 million hours of labor were committed to the overhaul and restoration of this legendary aircraft carrier.
The vessel’s upgrades include various repairs and replacements of ventilation, electrical, propellers, rudders, and combat and aviation support systems.
With the innovated modification to the rudders and propellers, the USS Abraham Lincoln can now tactfully turn around with minimal support.
The U.S. Air Force may only want a handful of light attack aircraft, but U.S. Special Operations Command now appears to want at least 75.
According to a new solicitation posted on the government’s acquisition and awards website, beta.sam.gov, SOCOM plans to host an industry day event seeking “armed overwatch” aircraft for its units.
“Armed Overwatch will provide Special Operations Forces (SOF) deployable and sustainable manned aircraft systems fulfilling Close Air Support (CAS), Precision Strike, and SOF Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) in austere and permissive environments,” according to the request.
If awarded, the contract is expected to be an “Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) with a base 5-year ordering period and 2-year option ordering period.” SOCOM is looking to procure an estimated 75 aircraft “with associated support,” the request said.
The latest measure is independent of the Air Force’s ongoing work to buy a limited number of light attack aircraft.
In October, the Air Force issued an official request for proposal to acquire a small fleet of turboprop aircraft as part of its light attack effort.
The service said it wants a limited number of Textron Aviation AT-6 Wolverine and Sierra Nevada Corporation/Embraer Defense Security A-29 Super Tucano aircraft to increase “partner capacity, capability, and interoperability via training and experimentation,” according to a release at the time.
The Air Force plans to purchase two or three light attack aircraft from each company, a decision Air Force Chief of Staff Gen David Goldfein first disclosed in March 2019.
He told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee during a hearing at the time that the service would base some of the aircraft at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and some with Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) at Hurlburt Field, Florida.
The AT-6 will be used by Air Combat Command at Nellis “for continued testing and development of operational tactics and standards for exportable, tactical networks that improve interoperability with international partners,” Air Force officials said in October. The A-29, meanwhile, will be housed at Hurlburt “to develop an instructor pilot program for the Combat Aviation Advisory mission, to meet increased partner nation requests for light attack assistance.”
But some believe the Air Force hasn’t been moving fast enough on the program, one which showed early promise.
A draft request for proposal was issued in August 2018. The service was then supposed to RFP in 2018 for a light attack aircraft, but it never came until the recent October 2019 solicitation.
The slowed pace angered some lawmakers.
Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Florida, introduced a measure into the House’s version of the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act legislation that would put the propeller-driven planes under U.S. Special Operations Command’s purview, taking it away from the Air Force.
“My frustration is almost palpable at why it is taking so long to get this platform out to where the warfighters need it,” Waltz said during a September Mitchell Institute event, as reported by DefenseOne.
“If we can’t move this program forward, then perhaps we need to explore if the Army needs that authority,” he said.
Tony Garcia knew he was in trouble. He was diagnosed with PTSD and was starting to understand why he was feeling disconnected and depressed – but he was still feeling alone in his experiences as a Vietnam War veteran.
“We were trained to be a sharp blade for fighting,” Garcia said, “but we were never shown how to come back home. I felt like nobody understood me.”
The years of silently dealing with his time in Vietnam as a soldier had nearly caught up to Garcia when he started attending weekly group counseling sessions at the newly established VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System in 2011. He and 10 other veterans were some of the first veterans to meet in the new space in Harlingen, Texas, and the more his fellow veterans shared their experiences the more he recognized the similarities in their struggles.
It’s this group of veterans, and the stories they shared with each other at VA, that Garcia credits with changing his outlook on life and giving him new purpose.
Guardians of the Flag: Veterans honor legacy of Vietnam War
“That gave me the tools I needed to keep moving forward,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for the VA and the therapy – I would still be lost in my depression.”
It was during one of his group meetings that Garcia learned of a special piece of history that somehow found its way to South Texas.
One of the veterans began talking about his experience at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon before it fell to North Vietnamese forces in April 1975. The Marine and Rio Grande Valley native recalled how in the middle of trying to evacuate the compound he encountered two employees trying to destroy the ceremonial flag in Ambassador Martin’s office. According to the story, the veteran approached the men who were apparently angry that they would not be evacuated and wrestled the flag from them before they could further damage it.
The veteran, who asked Garcia to keep his identity private, took the flag home with him to South Texas and kept it in his home for about 30 years. After his wife asked him to get rid of the tattered flag, the veteran gave it to a friend in a neighboring town with instructions to pass the flag along to another veteran should he ever need to part with it too.
“I couldn’t believe what they were telling me,” Garcia said. “I couldn’t believe the flag had made it all the way here and it was in somebody’s garage.”
At that time, it was an amazing story that piqued Garcia’s interest. He felt a connection to the flag even then, but he wouldn’t get to see or hold it until a few years later when his fellow veterans asked if he would take it.
“They didn’t know what to do with the flag, so they offered it to me,” Garcia said, “and immediately I said I would take it and care for it.”
Tony Garcia (left) and his fellow Warriors United in Arms members move the ceremonial flag in Brownsville, Texas.
Garcia, who had recently founded a veterans organization with several of his friends, decided the flag would not be hung up on a wall in his home or stay in storage. As the Warriors United in Arms of Brownsville, the group would find a way to protect, display, and tell the story of the flag they all felt a deep connection with.
“I really do believe this flag represents the American fighting man in Vietnam,” Garcia said. “This flag represents everything we went through as Vietnam War Veterans. Like the flag we all went and did what Uncle Sam wanted, and like the flag we were disrespected when we came home . . . I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t forgotten.”
Today, the ceremonial flag is encased and held in the main vault at the IBC Bank in Brownsville, Texas. Garcia and his fellow warriors frequently take it to local schools, businesses and events. They tell the story of how the flag founds its way to them, and they explain why it’s such an important symbol.
On 2019s Vietnam War Veterans Day, the group will display the flag at the VA clinic where Garcia first heard its amazing story. The goal, Garcia said, is to help Vietnam War veterans and show them that they are not alone.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
It was once the most heroic thing a soldier could do. They’d strap themselves up with the barest of combat essentials and jump out of the back of a perfectly good aircraft into uncertain danger — often ending up miles away from their intended drop zone and, sometimes, completely on their own.
Combat jumps led the Allied Forces to victory in WWII. These same tactics were employed during the Korean War and Vietnam War and, eventually, were used by Rangers and Green Berets in Grenada and Panama. When it came time for the Global War on Terrorism, well, let’s just say there are only a handful of combat jumps that come without asterisks attached.
It should be noted that this list cannot be exhaustive, as there are likely some jumps that that have yet to be declassified. Also, there were many airborne insertions done in-theater, but those don’t qualify you for the coveted “mustard stain,” so they don’t make the list.
The following are the only jumps that have happened since September 11, 2001 that satisfy all the requirements to fully classify as combat jumps.
Now it is known as Kandahar Airfield, home to the ISAF command, several NATO nation’s commands, a TGI Fridays, and a pond full of human excrement.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Tony Wickman)
Just 38 days after the horrific attacks of September 11th, the 75th Ranger Regiment sent 200 of their most badass Rangers to meet with the 101st Airborne Division 100 miles south of Kandahar, Afghanistan — the last bastion of complete Taliban control in Afghanistan. The Rangers landed on a derelict strip of land and expected heavy resistance. In actuality, they found just one, lone Taliban fighter who presumably sh*t himself as 200 Rangers dropped in on him.
There, they established a sufficient forward operating base, called FOB Rhino, which opened the way to take back Kandahar for the Afghan people.
Fun fact: they technically beat the next entry by a few days, forever solidifying their bragging rights.
The 75th Rangers, who are featured heavily on this list, led the way into Iraq by making combat jumps into Iraq in March, 2003 — the first in Iraq since Desert Storm.
The Rangers landed in the region a few weeks earlier by airborne insertion to capture the lead operational planner of the September 11th attacks. They accomplished this within three days of touching boots to the ground. The next wave of 2nd Battalion 75th Rangers came to secure al-Qa’im and Haditha before making their way into Baghdad.
If you didn’t know about this one… Don’t worry. Literally everyone in the 173rd will remind you of this whenever their personal Airborne-ness is brought into question.
(U.S. Army photo by Specialist Adam Sanders)
Operation Northern Delay
In the early morning of March 26th, 2003, 996 soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Division jumped into the relatively empty Bashur Airfield and stopped six entire divisions of Saddam’s army from continuing on to Baghdad.
This marked the first wave of conventional troops in the region and the beginning of the end of Saddam’s regime. This was also the only jump conducted by conventional USAF airmen as the 786th Security Forces Squadron also jumped with them.
Come on, 75th Rangers! You guys are leaving out all the good, juicy details of your classified missions!
Various Regimental Reconnaissance Detachment jumps in Afghanistan
Very little is known about the last two publicly-disclosed combat jumps, as is the case with most JSOC missions, other than the fact that they were both conducted by the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Regimental Reconnaissance Company Teams 3 and 1.
RRC Team 3 jumped into Tillman Drop Zone in southeast Afghanistan on July 3rd, 2004, to deploy tactical equipment in a combat military free-fall parachute drop.
This was the last RRC time made a jump until Team 1 jumped five years later on July 11th, 2009, into an even more remote location of Afghanistan — but this time, scant reports state that the jumps including a tandem passenger to aid in deploying tactical equipment.
We’ll just have to wait for the history books to be written, I guess.
The year is 1918, and American troops are facing the Germans in deadly trench warfare on the Western Front. That isn’t the only place war has taken hold, the Great War is raging all over the world, and California is no different. There, along the far, far Western front, California state horticulturist George H. Hecke called up California’s most precious natural resource: children.
Their enemy was a pest unlike any other the state had ever seen, and Hecke decided their time had come. The squirrels had to go.
The new children’s crusade called for a seven-day operation whereby California schoolchildren would attack the vicious squirrel army (often depicted wearing the pointed “Hun” helmet worn by the German army at the time). When the students weren’t creating passive killing fields by spreading rodent poisons where squirrels were known to gather food the kiddos were encouraged to form “a company of soldiers in your class or in your school” to go out and meet the enemy head-on, hitting the furry huns where they lived. “Squirrel Week” was on.
“All the killing devices of modern warfare will be used in the effort to annihilate the squirrel army, including gas,” wrote the Lompoc Journal. “Don’t wait to be drafted.”
The U.S. government made every effort to link the anti-squirrel effort to the war effort, referring to the California Ground Squirrel as “the Kaiser’s aides” while showing the squirrels decked out in enemy uniforms, wearing the Iron Cross. The government even distributed recipes for barley coated with the deadly poison strychnine.
The state had a point. OtospermophilusBeecheyi, also known as the California Ground Squirrel, was not only a pest to farms and stored food, but was also known to carry certain diseases, such as bubonic plague. More importantly, the rodent ate nearly 0 million in crops and stored food in California (using today’s dollar values), food which could otherwise go to the doughboys fighting the World War raging in Europe. Children were even asked to bring in squirrel tails to school to show off their confirmed kills.
The schoolchildren did not disappoint. In all, More than 104,000 squirrels met their furry maker during Squirrel Week 1918 – but that was just one battle. The war raged on as long as the War in Europe raged on. California children continued killing the squirrels for a long time after Squirrel Week. The effort did not have lasting consequences for the squirrels at large, however. Today the California Ground Squirrel’s conservation status is the lowest at “least concern.”
Least concern, or lulling us into a false sense of security before counter-attacking? You decide.