Good morning, Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Thursday, October 24, 2019, which is Black Thursday, National Bologna Day, National Crazy Day, United Nations Day, and Wear Purple for Domestic Violence Awareness Day.
Today in History:
- On October 24, 1901, a 63-year-old schoolteacher named Annie Edson Taylor becomes the first person to take the plunge over Niagara Falls in a barrel.
- On October 24, 1945, the United Nations Charter, which was adopted and signed on June 26, 1945, is now effective and ready to be enforced.
- On October 24, 1951, President Harry Truman finally proclaims that the nation’s war with Germany, begun in 1941, is officially over. Fighting had ended in the spring of 1945. Most Americans assumed that the war with Germany had ended with the cessation of hostilities six years earlier. In fact, a treaty with Germany had not been signed.
- On October 24, 1921, in the French town of Chalons-sur-Marne, an American officer selects the body of the first “Unknown Soldier” to be honored among the approximately 77,000 United States servicemen killed on the Western Front during World War I.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- Stars & Stripes: mseaveywith “Remove” in the subject line. If you have received this from someone who forwarded it and would like to be added, email mseavey.
Stars & Stripes: Bill requiring POW/MIA flag be flown with US flag heads to Trump’s desk
By STEVE BEYNON | STARS AND STRIPES | Published: October 23, 2019
WASHINGTON — A bill requiring the POW/MIA flag to be flown with the American flag is on the verge of becoming law.
The bipartisan bill — The National POW/MIA Act, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. — requires the POW/MIA flag to be flown with the American flag at certain memorials and federal buildings, including the White House and the U.S. Capitol, to honor unaccounted-for servicemen and servicewomen from across more than 50 years of wars and conflicts.
"As the sister of three veterans, I understand the importance of honoring the sacrifices of those who have fought courageously for our country," said Warren, who is a presidential candidate for the 2020 election.
The bill passed through both chambers of Congress and now President Donald Trump must sign it into law.
“We owe it to those service members and their families to ensure that our nation never forgets their sacrifices,” said Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.
More than 81,000 American troops are still unaccounted for from conflicts since World War II, according to federal data.
Under current law, the POW/MIA Flag is required to be displayed by the federal government on certain prominent federal properties only six days a year: Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, National POW/MIA Recognition Day and Veterans Day.
“The POW/MIA Flag is representative of profound courage and sacrifice," said Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H., who introduced the House version of the bill. “By proudly displaying this symbol outside of our federal buildings, memorials, and national cemeteries, we are reaffirming our commitment to those service members and their families who have sacrificed beyond measure.”
Military Times: Should Mexico border deployments count towards Guard and reserve GI Bill benefits?
By: Leo Shane III | 15 hours ago
Defense leaders are reviewing whether Guardsmen and reservists serving along the U.S. southern border should be able to count that service towards eligibility for education stipends and other veterans benefits, military officials told lawmakers on Wednesday.
The news came during a House Veterans’ Affairs hearing on benefits parity for part-time troops activated for roles alongside active-duty service members, an ongoing concern among veterans groups who have long complained that National Guard and military reserve members are often treated differently for their service.
The latest example of the problem comes from Operation Guardian Support, the National Guard mission to assist with southern border security that began before the controversial deployment of active-duty troops to the region last year.
Thousands of guardsmen have been mobilized for the work, many of them from the Texas National Guard. But because of authorities used by the Defense Department, most of those troops are not accruing time for post-9/11 GI Bill eligibility.
“These men and women serving on the border are responding to a federal call to action made specifically by the Commander in Chief,” said Daniel Elkins, legislative director for the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States.
“And still, the vast majority of these service members are unable to earn the same federal benefits as their active-duty counterparts, even though they are performing similar duties in similar locations.”
To qualify for any post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, individuals must have at least 90 days of aggregate active-duty service since September 2001. To receive full benefits — which include 36 months of in-state college tuition, a monthly living stipend and other payouts — individuals need three full years on active duty.
Advocates have lamented that the Defense Department in past overseas military humanitarian and support missions have used a variety of different mobilization authorities, not always warning the activated troops that their time serving won’t count towards veterans health and education benefits.
Lawmakers on the committee called that practice confusing and frustrating.
“(These troops) are now continuously utilized at home and around the globe,” said Rep. Mike Levin, D-Calif., and chairman of the committee’s panel on economic opportunity. “With this shift, it’s time we re-examine our policies and benefits.”
Maj. Gen. Dawne Deskins, director of manpower and personnel for the National Guard Bureau, testified that Pentagon officials have begun a formal review of the issue. She stopped short of criticizing the policy, but noted that “I feel that members who do similar work should receive similar benefits.”
The average Army National Guard soldier serves on duty about 50 days a year, and the average Air National Guard member about 46 days. Reservists average more than 60 days a year. All of those figures are up in recent years, officials said.
Deskins said she has seen positive improvements in transition assistance programs for Guard members, but also said officials need to continue to find ways to improve benefits eligibility issues.
“Men and women join our ranks and continue to serve out of patriotism, a sense of duty, and love of country and community,” she said. “The benefits and entitlements provided to them as a result of their service are critical to retaining this all-volunteer fighting force.”
Military officials on the panel did not say when the review will be completed, or whether the decisions will apply retroactively or only to future service.
Associated Press: New Sept. 11 exhibit stages the hunt for Osama bin Laden
By: Verena Dobnik, The Associated Press | 11 hours ago
NEW YORK — Declassified U.S. government documents and artifacts will be part of a new exhibit about the decade-long search for Osama bin Laden at the site of the New York terrorist attack he masterminded.
“Revealed: The Hunt for Bin Laden” opens Nov. 15at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, a multimedia account of the mission that ended with bin Laden’s death in Pakistan in 2011.
With direct access to the operatives who led America’s feverish post-9/11 hunt for the top terrorist, the exhibit presents a sort of whodunit drama with graphics, videos and the voices of the protagonists.
Those include intelligence agents, former President Barack Obama and members of the U.S. Navy SEALs team that raided the compound where bin Laden was shot and killed in his bedroom.
“This is essentially a kind of crime story, however, at a horrific scale of crime and at a global scale of pursuit, with many trials and tribulations,” the exhibit’s main designer, Jonathan Alger, said Wednesday at a news conference at the museum.
“The entire space is cinematic,” he said. “At the time, every single minute and second, it was a cliffhanger.”
Photos show the scenes of the search, including caves and a wild mountain range in Afghanistan where bin Laden was believed to be hiding. He was under protection of the Taliban, which issued al-Qaida members passports allowing them to move around freely.
One of those passports will be displayed, along with enrollment forms used by al-Qaida to recruit new members.
In other images, American anti-terrorism military units are seen on terrain they’re combing for possible clues to bin Laden’s whereabouts. A trunk on display contains items collected during U.S. raids, including some from bin Laden’s compound.
A declassified, pre-9/11 U.S. intelligence document reveals: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.”
An artifact on display from his al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan is a blue wall fragment seen in propaganda videos featuring bin Laden.
The presentation titles one section “Gains and Setbacks,” and details the U.S. failure to catch bin Laden before he fled Afghanistan.
“We were working on it; we just didn’t do enough,” said Mark Kelton, the former CIA chief in Pakistan in charge of the bin Laden compound operation.
Speaking at the news conference, Kelton’s voice broke with emotion as he remembered that after bin Laden was gone, he told American colleagues in Pakistan “that we had delivered justice to a murderer.”
Members of Navy SEAL Team 6 recorded in their own words how they tracked bin Laden’s courier, eventually descending in a helicopter on the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, as Obama and his Cabinet watched from the White House.
On Wednesday, the parents of a New York firefighter who died on 9/11 came to the presentation to thank both U.S. operatives and exhibit organizers.
“This is the completion of a tale of history — the head of the snake is dead,” said Maureen Santora, whose son, Christopher Santora, died at 23 while running toward one of the burning trade center towers that collapsed.
She thanked Kelton with a long tearful embrace.
The 9/11 museum is a nonprofit on the 16-acre site where more than 2,700 people died and are memorialized with two reflecting pools in the footprints of the fallen twin towers. The collection includes more than 60,000 items that tell intimate stories linked to the attacks and its aftermath.
Military Times: Trump lifts Turkey sanctions, declares victory for American troops after new cease-fire agreement in Syria
By: Leo Shane III | 19 hours ago
President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced a permanent cease-fire along the Turkey-Syria border and hailed his recent, controversial military moves in the region as an unequivocal victory for America.
He also blasted past American military intervention in the Middle East as making the region “less safe, less stable and less secure than before” and attacked his critics as overtaxing U.S. service members and overlooking more immediate threats like unchecked immigration from war-torn foreign countries.
“American forces defeated 100 percent of the ISIS caliphate during the last two years,” Trump said at a White House press conference. “We thank the Syrian Democratic Forces for their sacrifices in this effort. Now, Turkey, Syria, and others in the region must work to ensure that ISIS does not regain any territory. It’s their neighborhood, they have to maintain it.”
“Countless lives are now being saved as a result of our negotiations with Turkey, an outcome reached without spilling one drop of American blood. No injuries, nobody shot, nobody killed.”
In response to the new cease-fire agreement — which Turkish officials were scheduled to confirm later today — Trump also announced plans to lift all sanctions leveled against Turkey for their recent military operations.
Earlier this month, Trump pulled back U.S. special operations forces working alongside Kurdish fighters in northern Syria amid reports that Turkish military forces were preparing an assault on border towns.
Defense Department leaders have scrambled to position troops in the region since then, including temporarily stationing hundreds of service members in Iraq with the promise they will not remain there for long.
Trump announced Wednesday that a small number of U.S. troops will remain in the disputed border areas to help secure oil fields there, preventing terrorist groups from seizing control of them.
But he also declared an effective end to significant American military involvement in the region, saying that it was time to “let someone else fight over this long bloodstained sand.”
With the Islamic State threat gone, Trump said, Defense Department operations in the region also need to end. He has framed fighting between Turkish, Kurdish and Syrian fighters as a local conflict outside U.S. national security interests, even as lawmakers from his own party and several former military leaders have warned that the conflict could allow terrorist cells to coalesce.
“(Those critics) are the ones that got us into the Middle East mess, but never had the vision or the courage to get us out,” Trump said. “They just talk. How many Americans must die in the Middle East, in the midst of these ancient sectarian and tribal conflicts?
“After all of the precious blood and treasure America has poured into the deserts of the Middle East, I am committed to pursuing a different course, one that leads to victory for America.”
Trump did not specify how many U.S. troops will be left in Syria or Iraq as part of his new plan.
The oil fields referenced by Trump were the scene of a deadly exchange between U.S. forces and Russian mercenaries in February 2018. American troops embedded with Syrian Democratic Forces called in air support to counter an assault by Russian mercenaries and pro-Syrian regime forces in Deir ez-Zor province, Syria. Nearly 200 enemy fighters were killed in the fight.
On Monday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters that troops there are still working alongside the SDF fighters to “deny access to those oil fields by ISIS and others who may benefit from revenues that could be earned.”
Stars & Stripes: Missing West Point cadet is found dead after dayslong search
By STEVEN BEYNON | STARS AND STRIPES | Published: October 23, 2019
WASHINGTON — A 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing for days was found dead late Tuesday night, according to U.S. Military Academy officials.
Cadet Kade Kurita of Gardena, Calif, had been missing with a M4 rifle since Friday evening. The cause of his death is under investigation, but foul play is not suspected, academy officials said.
"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita’s family and friends” said Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of the academy.
Kurita was reported missing when he did not show up Friday for a scheduled military skills competition. His body was found Tuesday at about 9:17 p.m. at West Point. The rifle was also recovered, academy officials said.
Kurita was found after a massive search across West Point’s 16,000 acres involving 130 soldiers from the 23rd Military Police Company from Fort Drum, multiple law enforcement teams, search dogs and military helicopters from the 2nd Aviation Detachment from Stewart Air National Guard Base.
Army Times: Meal, Refusing-to-Exit — scientific study backs long-held belief that MREs make it harder to defecate
By: J.D. Simkins | 14 hours ago
An Army study has confirmed a belief service members have known in their hearts — and intestines — to be true for generations: Living on a Meal, Ready-to-Eat diet contributes to a dwindling frequency of bowel movements.
The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry study featured over 60 volunteers from military and civilian backgrounds who, over a period of 21 days, provided gastrointestinal data to the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine.
Volunteers were divided into two groups; one cohort was instructed to brave an MRE-only regimen of two to three meals per day, while the other was directed to maintain a normal diet of relatively equal caloric intake. Meal types were tailored to each participant to avoid significant weight fluctuation, and both groups were asked to maintain a preestablished level of physical activity.
To wash the meals down, MRE participants were asked to stick to water only, or, “if desired,” spoil themselves with a daily allowance of two to three cups of black coffee.
Participants documented their 21-day trial using food logs that were reviewed by the researchers, who also collected fecal, blood, and urine samples to study the diet’s impacts on intestinal health. Data was analyzed over a two-year period from 2015 to 2017.
At the conclusion of the three weeks, the authors reported that participants in the MRE group averaged one fewer bowel movement per week than the non-MRE group, a moderate vindication of every Meal, Refusing-to-Exit joke ever made on field ops or deployments.
This intestinal traffic jam, the authors concluded, is largely attributable to the MRE’s lack of good bacteria found in the sort of fresh foods, such as fruit or yogurt, that provide the extra nudge the bowels need for a satisfactory release.
The brown bags so familiar to every service member are instead packed with foods that can withstand the harsh environments personnel routinely occupy. Each MRE contains “an entrée, a starch, a spread (cheese, peanut butter, jam/jelly), a dessert and/or snack, a beverage powder, instant coffee or tea and chewing gum,” the study’s authors wrote. These items, on average, yield about 1,300 calories and 12 grams of fiber.
Despite the strict diet of non-perishable MRE items contributing to fewer bowel movements — defecation reportedly returned to normal once participants resumed their regular diet — participants in the MRE group fared just as well as their non-MRE counterparts when it came to gastrointestinal health.
Gastrointestinal discomfort can often be the product of high stress, dehydration, or even hygiene, environmental factors experienced by any service member who has found themselves in harsh surroundings, study author Dr. J. Philip Karl told Stars and Stripes.
In the more controlled environment of this study, meanwhile, gastrointestinal irritation or inflammation was indistinguishable between groups.
According to Karl, these findings are likely indicative of an American diet increasingly devoid of fresh foods.
“Americans tend not to eat enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains,” Karl told Stripes. “The MRE actually provides more fiber and more of several vitamins and minerals compared to people’s typical diets. … I think MREs get a bad rap."