Category Archives: military news

Stars and Stripes falls victim to changing media climate?

Wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute.

Donald John Trump keeps yammering about how much he cares about the men and women who serve in the military, doing duty that he couldn’t fit into his own life when he was of the age to fight for his country.

Why, then, is the Pentagon — under the current president’s watch — stripping Stars and Stripes of the government subsidy on which it relies to provide news and other information to our military personnel?

Stars and Stripes, which has been published regularly since World War II, is losing its $8 million annual subsidy, ostensibly so the Pentagon can spend that money (which amounts to chump change in the total spending accrued by the agency) on other projects.

As Stars and Stripes reported: “Every day in my office as commander of U.S. European Command, I would read Stars and Stripes,” said retired Adm. James Stravidis, who served as EUCOM chief and NATO Supreme Allied Command from 2009 to 2013. “It was an invaluable unbiased and highly professional source of information which was critical to me in my role overseeing U.S. military throughout Europe.”

Allow me to join Adm. Stravidis in declaring my own intense interest in Stars and Stripes. Many of us serving in Vietnam came to rely on the newspaper to tell us of what was happening back home. We also had Armed Forces Radio, but to those of us who preferred to read the printed word, Stars and Stripes served as a sort of lifeline to the “The World.”

Are we now being led to believe that our young men and women no longer get to read the news that Adm. Stravidis said kept him informed just a few years ago?

This is an absolute shame.

POTUS’s incessant feud with brass shows his own ignorance

Donald Trump’s current feud with former White House chief of staff John Kelly only underscores what most of us have known all along.

The president keeps saying how much he respects the military but keeps demonstrating at every possible turn how he manages to disrespect those who make command decisions.

Kelly is a retired Marine Corps four-star general. He ran the Department of Homeland Security before he moved to the White House post. He didn’t last long before Trump fired him. Now he’s going after Gen. Kelly for speaking up on behalf of an Army lieutenant colonel who acted as he was trained to do when he heard something he perceived to be illegal; in Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s case, he heard the president ask a foreign government leader for a personal political favor.

A year ago, Trump fired off an angry tweet criticizing another highly decorated officer, retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal. He said McChrystal had a “big dumb mouth.” He had criticized Trump’s sudden decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan, ,which is still in the midst of a war with the Taliban and other terrorists.

Trump has disparaged other premier military men, such as former national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who happens to be an Army lieutenant general and a noted military scholar.

Let us remember what he declared during the 2016 presidential campaign that he knows “more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me.” He doesn’t know more. He doesn’t anything about the Islamic State, or al-Qaeda.

And speaking of al-Qaeda, how can one forget when he said that the May 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden should have occurred before it did. He then launched a brief feud with retired Admiral William McRaven, the former head of the Special Operations Command and under whose watch the SEALs along with CIA commandos took out the al-Qaeda leader.

What is most galling about all of this, of course, is the manner in which Trump avoided military service during the Vietnam War. He managed to find a family doctor who signed off on something called “bone spurs,” enabling young Donald to obtain a medical deferment that kept him out of uniform.

Yes, all of that rubs many of us who did serve in that war the wrong way. It also rubs many of us raw the way he continues to disparage brilliant and courageous military officers who saw fit to thrust themselves into harm’s way while the commander in chief chose to stay far away.

Disgusting.

Zero, to 34, now to 50 injuries in missile attack

What’s going on at the Pentagon?

The Iranians fired ballistic missiles at our forces in Iraq in response to our killing of Qassem Soulaimani, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Hey, this was a bad dude, a ruthless terrorist chieftain.

The missiles landed on our base. The Pentagon and Donald Trump said immediately there were zero U.S. casualties.

Wait! Then the number rose suddenly to 34 service personnel. The brass said they suffered traumatic brain injury when the missiles blew up.

Now we hear the number has reached 50 military personnel.

Is this how it goes now? The public gets information handed out in dribs and drabs.

We all are grateful that none of the injuries is life-threatening. Most of the personnel who were injured have returned to duty.

This sloppy information release seems all too common in an administration that simply cannot seem to get its story straight the first time.

The men and women who serve us — as well as their families who pray for their safety while they stand in harm’s way — need to know the whole truth all the time.

USS Doris Miller: What a marvelous honor for a Pearl Harbor hero

Doris Miller was in the right place at the wrong time, I suppose one could say.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Miller was working in the laundry room on the USS West Virginia, a battleship that was moored at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Then all hell broke loose.

Japanese warplanes swooped in over the harbor and hit the West Virginia, along with many other ships and planes. Miller jumped into action. He tended to his mortally wounded ship captain, helped other wounded sailors. Then he strapped himself into a deck gun — a weapon on which he was not qualified — and began firing at enemy aircraft.

He survived that terrifying event. He received a medal from Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz. Miller would die in action in 1943.

But here we are today. The U.S. Navy has announced that it will name a future Gerald R. Ford class nuclear aircraft carrier in honor of Doris Miller.

Yes, the USS Doris Miller will carry the name of the first African-American so honored. It will carry honor a young man who was thrust into a hero’s role in a time of immense national peril and tragedy.

Doris Miller was a native of Waco. I am pleased to see the picture above of Miller receiving a medal from another native Texan: Nimitz hailed from Fredericksburg. Miller was awarded the Navy Cross, the Purple Heart and received a commendation from the Navy secretary at the time for the actions he took on that “date which will live in infamy.” 

The Navy Department chose to make the announcement today to coincide with the nation’s celebration of Martin Luther King Day, a holiday set aside to honor the memory and the work of our great nation’s greatest civil rights champion.

“Doris Miller stood for everything that is good about our nation, and his story deserves to be remembered and repeated wherever our people continue the watch today,” acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said in a statement.

May they “continue the watch” with the pride and courage exhibited by the young man under whose name they will set sail.

Trump’s belittling of brass simply stinks beyond belief

The history of Donald Trump’s pre-business history is well-known.

He sought to avoid service in the military during the height of the Vietnam War. He received dubious medical deferments citing bone spurs or some such ailment that kept him out of being eligible for military service.

He went into business. Made a lot of money. Lost a lot of money. Had mixed success as a business mogul. Then he went into politics. He ran for president of the United States. He won!

So for this current president to dress down men who have served their country honorably, in combat, thrust themselves into harm’s way is insulting, degrading and astonishingly unpatriotic.

Two reporters for the Washington Post, Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, have written a book that tells just how disgraceful Trump’s conduct has gotten with regard to the military high command. An excerpt from that book tells of a meeting in a Pentagon room called The Tank. The brass sought to explain the nuts and bolts of military matters to the commander in chief. He was having none of it.

He called the generals “babies and dopes.” He has told them they are “losers” and said he wouldn’t “go into battle” with them.

I am trying imagine, were I one of those decorated combat veterans, hearing such denigration coming from the commander in chief. The entire world knows this man’s history. We all know that, when he had the opportunity to serve his country, he chose another path.

Don’t misunderstand me on this score. I do not begrudge a president who’s never worn the nation’s military uniform. Two recent presidents did not serve: Barack Obama or Bill Clinton. Neither did Franklin Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson, both of whom led this country through two world wars.

What is so objectionable is the snarky attitude this president demonstrates to individuals who have done what he sought to avoid doing. That he would speak to these patriots in such a manner is disgraceful on its face.

Attention, fellow Vietnam vets: Go back to where you served

A conversation I had this morning with a fellow member of the McKinney Sunrise Rotary Club brings to mind something I have believed for the past 30 years.

I believe it is vital for any Vietnam War veteran who is able to return to that country to see what I discovered when I was able to return there in 1989, two decades after I arrived there in service to my country.

I learned that the war had ended. It was over. The shooting had stopped. The country that had survived all that explosive bludgeoning has become a beautiful land full of generous people.

My Rotary friend had recalled a question I had asked a fellow who delivered a program at a recent meeting. I asked him if he had been back. He has not returned and the gentleman seemed a bit perplexed by the question.

I told my friend this morning about my emotional discovery when I returned there 30 years ago. I had gone to Southeast Asia with other editorial writers and editors on a factfinding mission. At the end of the official portion of the trip, I flew from Saigon to Da Nang with two fellow journalists — who also are Vietnam vets — to see the place where I served for a time so many years earlier.

Our guide, Mai, accompanied us to Da Nang. We took a cab from our downtown hotel to Marble Mountain, where I served for a time as an aircraft mechanic with the Army’s 245th Mohawk Aviation Company.

We were walking along the sandy soil. Mai told me how the Vietnamese had absorbed all that we had built there and repurposed it for their use. Pierced-steel planking had become fence material; they used lumber to build housing.

Then it hit me like a runaway freight train. The war was over! That’s when I broke down and sobbed like a child for about three or four minutes. My friends backed away, as did Mai. I cried all by myself.

Then it was over. I wiped my face dry. Took a deep breath. I extended my arms to my two friends and to Mai. I was cleansed. I had shed the emotional baggage I never realized I was lugging around.

I did not traipse through the bush. I did not fire my weapon in anger at the enemy. I performed rear-echelon duty. However, returning to that place in November 1989 reminded me that the war was raging when I arrive and it was raging when I left.

I saw that place in an entirely new context.

That is why I tell my fellow Vietnam War veterans that they, too, need to see the country is at it is today, not as it was when they left.

They, too, might be cleansed.

SEALs spill beans on one of their own

Special operations forces — be they Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets, Delta Force or Air Force commandos — generally aren’t inclined to blab about their colleagues unless they have valid reasons to do so.

So, when a group of Navy SEALs tell investigators that one of their own was known to be an out-of-control killer of innocent bystanders, then I believe we ought to listen and take heed.

What’s more, they are talking about a SEAL on whose behalf Donald Trump intervened. He is Navy Chief Edward Gallagher, who was convicted of conduct unbecoming a special operations warrior. Trump decided the Navy acted incorrectly and ordered that Gallagher retain his SEAL Trident emblem. Yes, the commander in chief interceded on behalf of a SEAL who had been found guilty of behaving in a manner not in keeping with the elite fighting force.

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer was forced to resign over the matter. The president has come under intense — and justified — criticism for meddling in a military command issue. Yes, he is the commander in chief, but that doesn’t make his meddlesome behavior any more correct.

Now the New York Times has heard from a number of SEALs who served with Gallagher as members of SEAL Team 7. They say that Gallagher shot children. The NY Times acquired some video of the SEALs spilling the beans on Gallagher.

According to the Times: “The guy is freaking evil,” Special Operator (Craig) Miller told investigators. “The guy was toxic, ” Special Operator First Class Joshua Vriens, a sniper, said in a separate interview. “You could tell he was perfectly OK with killing anybody that was moving,” Special Operator First Class Corey Scott, a medic in the platoon, told the investigators.

And yet this is the individual who drew the commander in chief’s attention and for whom the president upset the traditional military chain of command. He interceded where he was empowered to go, but where he should have stayed away.

The SEALs who have outed their colleague have told us plenty about the consequence of a president intervening where he didn’t belong. That they would do so while breaking an unwritten rule that they remain silent about their operations tells me about the enormity of what they witnessed.

Still opposed to Space Force

Count me as remaining opposed to the creation of a new military branch of service, called Space Force.

It’s an idea cooked up by the Donald Trump administration. Its aim is to put more resources and effort into ensuring the United States retains its dominance in space.

The more I think of Space Force’s relevance, the more I am inclined to compare it — odd as it might seem — to the notion of constables here in Texas. We have municipal police departments and county sheriff’s departments, along with the Texas Department of Public Safety enforcing the law. We also have elected constables, politicians who get to carry guns and wear badges who also enforce the law. They don’t make sense to me.

Back to Space Force … another add-on military agency.

It will be administered as a branch of the Air Force; the arrangement reminds of the Marine Corps being part of the Navy. The head of Space Force is likely to be the current commander of the Air Force’s Space Command.

My point is a straightforward one: The Air Force already has a stout and stellar Space Command that does a marvelous job of ensuring our security from potential attack from outer space. The existence of Space Force seems to be a sort of political plaything concocted by a commander in chief responding to an idea he might have heard on the golf links at Mar-a-Lago.

It might work, but only if the Pentagon brass keeps it under the Air Force’s command.

The United States is by far the world’s pre-eminent space power and I am one American who has faith that the Air Force will maintain that standing.

Just wondering: Why not Medal of Freedom for Gary Sinise?

A cousin of mine posed the question on social media. He is in the Army. He’s been serving our country for more than a decade.

He wonders why Gary Sinise, the actor and avid champion of veterans’ rights, hasn’t yet been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Indeed, my family member poses an excellent question.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor. It has gone to many worthy recipients. It also has been bestowed to many who, um, haven’t done nearly the kind of work that Sinise has done for many years.

Sinise portrayed a troubled Vietnam War veteran in the acclaimed film “Forrest Gump.” Since before that film’s release and surely after it came out, Sinise has been an outspoken advocate for veterans. He has argued on behalf of vets suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as well as those with debilitating physical wounds suffered in combat. He has raised money to benefit the families of veterans.

And yet he has yet to be honored with the nation’s esteemed Presidential Medal of Freedom. Many presidents since Sinise’s veteran advocacy has become well-known and heavily reported.

As one proud veteran myself, I want to carry that torch a little farther on behalf of my cousin who’s still defending this country.

Gary Sinise has earned veterans’ ever-lasting gratitude and deserves to be honored officially with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

We’re remembering ‘a date which will live … in infamy’

This is not a celebratory date. I hesitate even to call it an “anniversary.” It’s a date of solemn remembrance and honor.

We remember the event, the attack on our Navy at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The Japanese fighter planes and bombers that roared in over the harbor that day 78 years ago brought this country into the world’s bloodiest and costliest war.

We also honor the heroes who fought back that Sunday morning. They were awakened by the sounds of ships and planes exploding under the force of the ordnance dropped by those aircraft.

We remember the USS Arizona, the World War I-era battleship that is memorialized to this day in the harbor, at the place where it blew apart and sank. There reportedly are just three survivors of the attack on the Arizona. One of them is a gentleman named Lou Conter.

Conter is now 98 years of age. His time on Earth is running out, just as it has already for all but fewer than 500,000 of the more than 16 million men and women who fought for this country and saved the world from the tyrants who wanted to conquer us all.

I want to insert a point of personal pride here. One of those brave Americans was my father, Pete Kanelis, who 78 years ago today — as he and his parents and siblings were listening to the news about the attack on the radio — ventured to downtown Portland, Ore., to enlist in the Navy.

Lou Conter will receive honors and high praise from those who have gathered at Pearl Harbor. He couldn’t participate a year ago and this year he is the only one of the three Arizona survivors who is able to take part.

Let us never forget the sacrifice of these heroic Americans. Indeed, we should honor them every single day and thank them — either privately or out loud — for all they did to save us from the evils of oppression.