Category: veterans


Memorial Day

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“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” — George S. Patton

The Tomb of the Unknowns is a monument dedicated to American service members who have died without their remains being identified. It is also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; it has never been officially named. It is located in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, United States of America. The World War I “Unknown” is a recipient of the Medal of Honor, the Victoria Cross, and several other foreign nations’ highest service awards. The U.S. Unknowns who were interred are also recipients of the Medal of Honor, presented by the U.S. presidents who presided over their funerals.

On March 4, 1921, the United States Congress approved the burial of an unidentified American serviceman from World War I in the plaza of the new Memorial Amphitheater. On November 11, 1921, the unknown soldier brought back from France was interred inside a three-level marble tomb. The marble came from a Yule Marble Quarry located near Marble, Colorado. The marble for the Lincoln Memorial and other famous monuments was quarried there.The bottom two levels are six marble sections each and the top at least nine blocks with a rectangular opening in the center of each level through which the unknown remains were placed through the tomb and into the ground below. A stone other than marble covers the rectangular opening.

Since 1921 the intent was to place a superstructure on top of the Tomb, but it was not until July 3, 1926, that Congress authorized the completion of the Tomb and the expenditure of $50,000 (with a completed cost of $48,000). A design competition was held and won by architect Lorimer Rich and sculptor Thomas Hudson Jones. An appropriation from Congress for the work was secured and on December 21, 1929, a contract for completion of the Tomb itself was entered into. The Tomb would consist of seven pieces of marble in four levels (cap, die, base and sub-base) of which the die is the largest block with the sculpting on all four sides.

In late January 1931, the 56 ton die of Yule marble (quarried 3.9 miles south of Marble, Colorado by the Vermont Marble Company) was lifted out of the quarry. (Only the die block is addressed for no data is available as to the other three levels). The quarrying involved 75 men working one year. When the block was separated from the mountain inside the quarry it weighed 124 tons. A wire saw was then brought into the quarry to cut the block down to 56 tons. On February 3, the block reached the marble mill site (in the town of Marble) where it was crated, then shipped to Vermont on February 8. The block was sawn to final size in West Rutland, Vermont and fabricated by craftsmen in Proctor, Vermont before it was shipped by train to Arlington National Cemetery, Virginiawhere it was carved by the Piccirilli Brothers under the direction of the sculptor Thomas Jones.  (The brothers also carved the Lincoln statue for the Lincoln Memorial). The Tomb was dedicated in April 1932.

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The Tomb was placed at the head of the grave of the World War I Unknown. West of this grave are the crypts of Unknowns from World War II (south) and Korea (north). Between the two lies a crypt that once contained an Unknown from Vietnam (middle). His remains were positively identified in 1998 through DNA testing as First Lieutenant Michael Blassie, United States Air Force and were removed. Those three graves are marked with white marble slabs flush with the plaza.

The Tomb has a flat-faced form and is relieved at the corners and along the sides by neo-classical pilasters set into the surface with objects and inscription carved into the sides. The 1931 symbolism of the objects on the north, south and east sides changed over time.

North and South panel with 3 wreaths on each side represent (in 1931) “a world of memories” but later the six major battles engaged in by American forces in France; Ardennes, Belleau Wood, Chateau-Thierry, Meusse-Argonne, Oisiu-Eiseu, and Somme. Each wreath has 38 leaves and 12 berries.
East panel that faces Washington, D.C., are three Greek figures representing Peace, Victory, and “American Manhood” but later “Valor” instead of “American Manhood”
Western panel is inscribed the words (centered on the panel):
HERE RESTS IN
HONORED GLORY
AN AMERICAN
SOLDIER
KNOWN BUT TO GOD

In 1994, Ted Sampley, a POW/MIA activist, determined that the remains of the Vietnam Unknown were likely those of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who was shot down near An Loc, Vietnam, in 1972. Sampley published an article in his newsletter and contacted Blassie’s family, who attempted to pursue the case with the Air Force’s casualty office without result. In January 1998 CBS News broadcast a report based on Sampley’s investigation which brought political pressure to support the identification of the remains. The body was exhumed on May 14, 1998. Based on mitochondrial DNA testing, Department of Defense scientists confirmed the remains were those of Blassie. The identification was announced on June 30, 1998, and on July 10, Blassie’s remains arrived home to his family in St. Louis, Missouri; he was reinterred at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery on July 11.

The crypt that once held the remains of the Vietnam Unknown has been replaced. The original inscription of “Vietnam” and the dates of the conflict has been changed to “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen.” as a reminder of the commitment of the Armed Forces to fullest possible accounting of missing service members.

The tomb guards are soldiers of the United States Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment. It is considered one of the highest honors to serve as a Sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Fewer than 20 percent of all volunteers are accepted for training and of those only a fraction pass training to become full-fledged Tomb Guards. This attrition rate has made the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Guard Identification Badge the second least-awarded decoration of the United States military (the first being the Astronaut Badge).

The soldier “walking the mat” does not wear rank insignia, so as not to outrank the Unknowns, whatever their ranks may have been. Non-commissioned officers (usually the Relief Commander and Assistant Relief Commanders), do wear insignia of their rank when changing the guard only. They have a separate uniform (without rank) that is worn when they actually guard the Unknowns or are “Posted”. The duties of the sentinels are not purely ceremonial. The sentinels will confront people who cross the barriers at the tomb or who are disrespectful or loud.

Memorial Day Flags In cermeony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

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UPDATE (21 Dec 2300)

Jon Hammar Sr,. has confirmed that his 27-year-old son, is back on U.S. soil and with him in a rented car in Brownsville, Texas.  Hammar Sr. said his son was released from CEDES prison at 8 p.m. local time and made it back across the bridge between Matamoros, Mexico and Brownsville, Texas by around 8:30 p.m.

UPDATE

Twenty-seven-year-old former Marine Jon Hammar of Palmetto Bay will be released Friday from a Mexican prison, according to U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Source: CBSMiami

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UPDATE – Dec 20, 2012

Ever since the plight of Lance Corporal Jon Hammar was made public, the Silver Star Families of America, (SSFOA), have been quietly working behind the scenes for Hammar’s release from a prison in Mexico. And they have made some headway.

CEO of the SSFOA Steve Newton, stated: “We have contacted the Mexican Embassy in Washington and every Mexican consulate in the United States. We have also contacted the U.S. State Department and our Embassy in Mexico City. To be honest our State Department has been somewhat slow and—unhelpful.

We finally made a solid contact with our Consulate office in Matamoros who gives us up to- date information on Hammar’s condition and provided us an address to send him reading materials so we have made progress.”

“While some are engaged in big media events, the SSFOA has been working quietly with both U.S. and Mexican officials,” Newton continued. “It is probably a good thing the plight of Mr. Hammar has gotten out to the public because it might draw the attention of those in the government that can help.

We have also been passing on information to the family through Hammars Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla office.”

“It is not our job to determine blame for the situation and we feel that any solution will be a compromise between Mexico and the United States and the people of both Nations. Our main concern is making sure Hammar is well treated, safe, and is at least fairly comfortable while we work to free him.

We firmly believe that he will be released on January 17th, at his next court appearance. If that does not happen we will have to –reevaluate the situation and take other action. And we are doing a few things we can’t talk about at present.”

“We learned today our letter to the President of Mexico has finally been delivered. (Letter in full below) We will build on that and we will not rest until Hammar is home.”

———-

Dear Mr. Newton,

Thank you for your letter addressed to President Pena Nieto that you sent to the Ambassador regarding the imprisonment of Mr. Jon Hammar in Matamoros. The U.S. Embassy has forwarded your letter to the Government of Mexico per your request.

We appreciate your concern of fellow citizen Jon Hammar. Please know that U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate General in Matamoros are working closely with high-level Mexican Officials to ensure that proper judicial proceedings are in place and encouraging a prompt resolution.

Embassy and Consulate officials continue to monitor Mr. Hammar’s safety and well-being throughout his detention.

Sincerely,

Office of the Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs U.S. Embassy Mexico City

The Honorable Lic. Enrique Peña Nieto President of the United Mexican States

In care of: U.S. Embassy and the Mexican Consulate

———-

I would like to bring to your attention the mission of the Silver Star Families of America: to remember, honor and assist the wounded, ill, injured and dying of the American Armed Forces from all wars.

We are an organization of thousands of members who respect the sacrifice of those who have stood for freedom. Intergral to our mission is the welfare and well-being of Jon Hammar, a United States Marine Corp veteran has been arrested and is presently incarcerated in CERESO de Matamoro.

Mr. Hammar suffers from post traumatic stress, a psychological and emotion illness caused by prolonged exposure to violence. Mr. Hammar was a soldier in Afghanistan and Iraq, and should be receiving therapy for his wounds, which is likely to become worse under the stress of his incarceration.

We have no wish to interfere with the Mexican judicial system, nor with any official negotiations between governments, but we would like to request that for humanitarian reasons, the honorable President Enrique Peña Nieto will consider using your considerable influence and power to prevail upon the Public Ministers to consider Mr. Hammar’s condition and intention, reducing the charges to those that would allow him to leave prison and return to his own country.

The Silver Stars Families of America is willing to pay whatever fines are assessed by the court. Our respect for the sovereignty of the Mexican state is absolute and our only concern is for Mr. Hammar’s well-being.

If charges cannot be dropped or reduced to the minimum, we would ask that you consider having the criminal matter expedited, and grant Mr. Hammar amnesty as you are empowered to do in Article 89, XIV of the Political Constitution of the Mexican United States, or you request that the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate of the Republic grant amnesty to Mr. Hammar under the powers granted the Legislature in Article 73, XIII.

Again, our only concern is to assume that Mr. Hammar receives the help he desperately needs. Our respect for the sovereignty of the Mexican state is absolute and our only wish is for an honorable settlement of this situation. A misunderstanding of Mexican customs regulations should not deprive a young wounded warrior of years of his life.

I appeal to you as a father and a Christian. Please let the good hearts of the Mexican people prevail and provide justice tempered with mercy. You know and I know this child should not suffer anymore than he already has.

I stand with you in justice and compassion,

Steve Newton

CEO Silver Star Families of America

The Silver Star Families of America has one mission: To remember, honor and assist the wounded, ill, injured and dying of our Armed Forces from all wars.

They can be contacted at: Silverstarfamilies.org Letter edited by a friend and don’t know if he wants his name used. Thank you my friend. I also want to thank our interpreter. You know who you are.

Steve Newton The Silver Star Families of America 525 Cave Hollow Rd. Clever, MO. 65631 http://www.silverstarfamilies.org

———-

Dear Mr. Newton:

This Consulate of Mexico in Kansas City, Missouri, acknowledges receipt of your letter dated December 10, 2012, regarding the situation of Jon Hammar, a United States Marine Corp, arrested and presently incarcerated in CERESO de Matamoros.

I inform you that your letter has been sent to the appropriate Mexican authorities for their attention.

Kind Regards,

Alicia kerber Palma Head Consul

Source

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‘Devastating’ photo sent to family of ex-Marine jailed in notorious Mexican CEDES prison over antique shotgun

NY Daily News – By Christine Roberts

The mother of a former Marine imprisoned in Mexico says she is heartbroken over a new photo of her son, the first taken since he was locked up for trying to declare an antique gun at the border.

“It’s just devastating,” Jon Hammar’s mother, Olivia Hammar, told the Daily News. “He’s normally such a happy kid. And now he just looks so lost.”

The photo shows the 27-year-old chained to a bed inside his cell at the notorious CEDES prison in Matamoros, Mexico.

An anonymous email account from Mexico sent Olivia’s husband, Jon Hammar Sr., the picture Monday, as first reported by Fox News Latino.

“I found your email on the Internet and I wanted to send you this photo,” the sender wrote in Spanish.  “I am not giving you my name because I like my job and I don’t want to lose it. Juan is OK but I hope he is let out quickly.”

Jon Hammar, who spent four years serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been jailed at CEDES since shortly after Aug. 13, when he was arrested while crossing from Brownsville, Tex., to Matamoros.

Hammar and his friend, former Marine Ian McDonough, were on a road trip to Costa Rica. When the pair reached the Brownsville border, Hammar told U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents that he was carrying a shotgun.

The agents allowed the two to continue, and allegedly said that the gun, which apparently belonged to Hammar’s great-grandfather, wouldn’t be an issue at the Mexican checkpoint.

Yet when Hammar told Mexican border agents about the gun, he and his friend were immediately handcuffed. The friend was later released…

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Parents Enlist Help To Free Ex-Marine From Mexican Prison

CBS Miami – By David Sutta

…The Hammars went public with their story a week ago, four months after Jon was locked up, because all diplomatic efforts seemed to be getting nowhere.

Hammar’s troubles began in August when he took off with a buddy to Costa Rica to surf and deal with post traumatic stress from the war.

Once across the border, though, he was immediately arrested, placed in a notoriously dangerous prison some say is run by a drug cartel and charged with bringing a firearm into the country – a federal crime.

“We started receiving calls from members of the cartel saying, we have your son and we’re going to kill him. And then they’d put him on the phone, and I realize that they really did,” said Olivia Hammar.

The rifle, a family heirloom, was actually cleared by U.S. Customs.

“Customs weighed the gun, measured the gun, I think took pictures of the gun and gave him paperwork to fill out and then he took that paperwork across to the Mexican side, declared the gun and was immediately arrested,” said Olivia Hammar.

In a statement, a spokesman for the Mexican Embassy stressed that possession of any weapon restricted for the use of the army in Mexico is a federal crime and must automatically be prosecuted.

“All it is, is that the barrel of the rifle was this length or the other length. It was not like he was trying to start a militia,” said Ros-Lehtinen.

Olivia said her son spends his days shacked to his bed, reading a bible…

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

11 December, 2012

CLEVER, MO

 On Monday evening, the Board of Directors of the Silver Star Families of America, (SSFOA), unanimously passed a resolution calling for the release of Jon Hammar, a Marine veteran who has been jailed in a Mexican prison in Matamoros since August over a misunderstanding regarding the registration of a firearm.

Steve Newton, President and CEO of the SSFOA stated, “The mission of the SSFOA is to remember, honor and assist the wounded, ill and injured of our Armed Forces from all wars.

Hammar suffers from the invisible wound of PTS (D) and that makes him our business. We do not and will not leave one of our own behind.”

 The Board of the SSFOA also authorized the President to use “any and all legal means necessary, including the allocation of funds, to affect the release of Hammar.”

Newton continued by saying, “We have already contacted our embassy in Mexico City, although one of the three e mails was inactive. They have not responded. We attempted to contact the Mexican desk at the State Department in Washington but no one answered the phone.

It was our intention to make sure our efforts were not in conflict with any negotiations being carried on between our government and the Mexican government that might further complicate the matter. But due to their non response and the request for public assistance from the family, we are going ahead with our efforts.”

 “We will begin our efforts by trying to reach the newly elected President Enrigue Pena Nieto and by faxing letters to all the Mexican consulates in the United States. We will also continue to attempt contact with State and the White House. This issue with Hammar is not acceptable and every effort will be made to secure his release.”

You can help by visiting http://www.silverstarfamilies.org/

 
 

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Costs of Military Pay and Benefits in the Defense Budget

For fiscal year 2013, the Department of Defense (DoD) requested about $150 billion to fund the pay and benefits of current and retired members of the military. That amount is more than one-quarter of DoD’s total base budget request (the request for all funding other than for military operations in Afghanistan and related activities).

Military Compensation Includes Cash Compensation and Substantial Retirement and Health Benefits

Of DoD’s $150 billion request for compensation in 2013, more than $90 billion would go to basic pay, food and housing allowances, bonuses, and various types of special pay. Another $16 billion would go to accrual payments that account for the future pensions of current service members who will retire from the military (generally after at least 20 years of service). In 2012, DoD paid 34 cents for each dollar of basic pay for active personnel and 24 cents for each dollar of basic pay for reserve personnel.

The remainder of DoD’s request for compensation in 2013—roughly $40 billion—would cover health benefits. Whereas 1.4 million military personnel serve on active duty, a total of nearly 10 million people are eligible for military health benefits. In addition to active-duty military personnel, the people who have access to health benefits include eligible family members of those personnel, retired military personnel and their eligible family members, survivors of service members who died while on active duty, and some members of the reserves and National Guard.

DoD’s request includes funding for TRICARE—the military health care program for current and certain retired service members. In addition, the department makes accrual payments for the future health care of current service members and their spouses (under a program called TRICARE for Life) who will retire from the military and become eligible for Medicare (generally at age 65).

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Costs of Military Pay Have Been Increasing Faster Than the General Rate of Inflation and Wages and Salaries in the Private Sector

Over the past decade, the costs per active-duty service member in DoD’s military personnel account (which funds cash compensation and the accrual payments for retirees’ pensions and some of their health care) and the total costs for the military health care program have increased consistently, even with an adjustment for inflation in the general economy.

The upward trend in the military personnel account—which has increased at an average annual rate of 3.2 percent since 2000 (after adjusting for inflation)—is attributable primarily to a series of pay raises that exceeded the general rate of inflation and, in some years, the growth rate of private-sector wages and salaries.

Military Personnel Appropriation per Active-Duty Service Member

The costs of health benefits grew as a result of medical costs per beneficiary that escalated more rapidly than did either general inflation or increases in per capita costs for medical care—such as inpatient care, outpatient care, and pharmaceuticals—in the national economy. Finally, the Congress has established new medical benefits; in particular, TRICARE for Life “wraps around” Medicare benefits and substantially reduces out-of-pocket expenses for eligible beneficiaries.

Funding for the Military Health Care System by Category

DoD’s Fiscal Situation Has Changed As a Result of the Budget Control Act of 2011

CBO estimates that DoD’s funding for fiscal year 2013 will drop to $469 billion—about 11 percent below DoD’s request for the year—if all provisions of the Budget Control Act of 2011 are enforced, including sequestration (the automatic cancellation of a portion of budgetary resources). Future cuts will be substantial as well under current law. To meet those constraints, significant changes will be needed in military compensation, procurement of weapon systems, or both. This report, which focuses on military compensation, discusses several approaches that could be taken to curtail federal spending.

One possibility would be to restrict basic pay raises, as DoD has proposed for three of the next five years in its 2013 Future Years Defense Program, which was submitted to the Congress in April 2012. Although smaller pay raises could lead to fewer enlistments and faster attrition from the armed services, those consequences might be mitigated by increasing the availability of enlistment bonuses and selective reenlistment bonuses (the latter are offered to service members in hard-to-fill occupations). Alternatively—or in combination with restricting pay raises—DoD could reduce the number of active-duty military personnel more aggressively than the cumulative 5 percent cut currently planned between 2013 and 2017.

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Another approach might be to replace the current retirement system (under which active-duty members qualify for immediate benefits after 20 years of service) with a defined-benefit system that partially vests earlier in a member’s career, with a defined-contribution system under which DoD matches the service members’ contributions to a savings plan, or with some combination of the two systems. Those systems could cost less or more than the current system, depending on how they were structured and implemented, and savings might not be achieved for several years.

A third possible approach would be to restrain health care costs by making changes in enrollment fees, deductibles, copayments, or other aspects of current benefits. DoD has proposed various changes of this sort in its recent budget requests. Savings from some of those measures might be achieved immediately upon implementation.

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Long-Term Implications of the 2013 Future Years Defense Program

In most years, the Department of Defense (DoD) provides to the Congress a five-year plan, called the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP), along with its budget request for the coming year. Because decisions made in the near term can have consequences for the defense budget well beyond that period, CBO regularly examines the plans in DoD’s FYDP and projects their budgetary impact over the long term. This study analyzes the budgetary impact of the 2013 FYDP, which covers fiscal years 2013 to 2017, through 2030.

CBO projects that DoD’s plans will cost $123 billion, or 5 percent, more to execute through 2017 than DoD estimates. CBO also projects that the cost of DoD’s plans will exceed the limits established in the Budget Control Act.

The FYDP describes the department’s “base” budgetary plan—for its normal activities, such as manning, training, and equipping the military—and excludes overseas contingency operations, such as the war in Afghanistan and other nonroutine military activities elsewhere. Accordingly, CBO focused its analysis on DoD’s base-budget costs and produced two projections.

The first, the “CBO projection,” uses CBO’s estimates of cost factors and growth rates that reflect DoD’s experience in recent years. The second, the “extension of the FYDP,” starts with DoD’s estimates of the costs of the FYDP through 2017 and extends them beyond 2017 using DoD’s estimates where available and CBO’s projections of price and compensation trends for the overall economy where DoD’s estimates are not available. Neither projection should be viewed as a prediction of future funding; rather, the projections are estimates of the costs of executing the department’s current plans.

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What Is CBO’s Projection of the Costs of DoD’s Plans?

The CBO projection yields these conclusions (with all costs measured in 2013 dollars):

  • To execute its base-budget plans for 2013 through 2017, DoD would need appropriations totaling $53 billion (or 2.0 percent) more in real, or inflation-adjusted, terms than if funding for the base budget was held at the 2012 amount of $543 billion. For the entire projection period of 2013 through 2030, DoD’s base-budget plans would require appropriations totaling $1.2 trillion (or 12 percent) more than if funding for the base budget was held at the 2012 amount in real terms.
  • The primary cause of growth in DoD’s costs from 2013 to 2030 would be rising costs for operation and support (O&S), which accounts for 64 percent of the base budget in 2012. In particular, under DoD’s plans, there would be significant increases in the costs of military health care, compensation of the department’s military and civilian employees, and various operation and maintenance activities.
  • The costs of replacing and modernizing weapon systems would grow sharply during the next several years, from $168 billion in 2013 to $212 billion in 2018 in real terms—an increase of 26 percent. Acquisition costs would remain fairly steady at that level until 2025 before declining.
  • The growth in DoD’s costs would be less than the growth of the economy, so costs would decline as a share of gross domestic product (GDP). Spending for DoD’s base budget was 3.5 percent of GDP in 2010 and would decline to 3.0 percent of GDP in 2017 and to 2.5 percent in 2030.

Costs of DOD's Plans in the Context of the Budget Control Act

How Does CBO’s Projection Compare with a Projection Based on DoD’s Estimates of the Costs of the FYDP?

For most categories of DoD’s budget, costs under the CBO projection are higher than the costs estimated by DoD in the FYDP and the assumed costs for the extension of the FYDP. In particular, DoD’s costs of providing health care, paying military and civilian personnel, and developing and buying weapons have historically been higher than the department’s planning estimates. Over the FYDP period, CBO’s projection exceeds DoD’s estimates by a total of $123 billion, or 5 percent, in 2013 dollars.

How Does CBO’s Projection Compare with Funding Provided Under the Budget Control Act?

CBO compared its projection of the costs of executing DoD’s plans with the maximum funding levels that could be provided to the department under the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA), which limits discretionary appropriations through 2021. If DoD continues to receive its historical share of the national defense budget, CBO’s analysis yields these conclusions:

  • The cost of DoD’s base-budget plans for 2013 through 2021 is $508 billion higher in nominal terms than the funding that would be available to DoD under the BCA’s limits on discretionary appropriations for national defense before reductions due to that law’s automatic enforcement procedures.
  • The cost of DoD’s base-budget plans for 2013 through 2021 is $978 billion higher in nominal terms than the funding that would be available to DoD after the reductions due to the BCA’s automatic enforcement procedures, which are poised to take effect in January 2013.
  • For 2013, CBO’s projection of the cost of DoD’s plans is $14 billion higher than the funding that would be available under the BCA’s limits on discretionary appropriations for national defense before the BCA’s automatic reductions. Those costs would be $66 billion higher than the funding that would be available after the automatic reductions. Accommodating those reductions, in particular, could be difficult for the department to manage because it would have to be done over only nine months. Even with that cut, however, DoD’s base budget in 2013 would still be larger than it was in 2006 (in 2013 dollars) and larger than the average base budget during the 1980s.

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Medal of Honor citation

“The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to

CORPORAL DAKOTA L. MEYER
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS

For service as set forth in the following

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the repeated risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a member of Marine Embedded Training Team 2-8, Regional Corps Advisory Command 3-7, in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on 8 September 2009. When the forward element of his combat team began to be hit by intense fire from roughly 50 Taliban insurgents dug-in and concealed on the slopes above Ganjgal village, Corporal Meyer mounted a gun-truck, enlisted a fellow Marine to drive, and raced to attack the ambushers and aid the trapped Marines and Afghan soldiers.

During a six hour fire fight, Corporal Meyer single-handedly turned the tide of the battle, saved 36 Marines and soldiers and recovered the bodies of his fallen brothers. Four separate times he fought the kilometer up into the heart of a deadly U-shaped ambush. During the fight he killed at least eight Taliban, personally evacuated 12 friendly wounded, and provided cover for another 24 Marines and soldiers to escape likely death at the hands of a numerically superior and determined foe. On his first foray his lone vehicle drew machine gun, mortar, rocket grenade and small arms fire while he rescued five wounded soldiers.

His second attack disrupted the enemy’s ambush and he evacuated four more wounded Marines. Switching to another gun-truck because his was too damaged they again sped in for a third time, and as turret gunner killed several Taliban attackers at point blank range and suppressed enemy fire so 24 Marines and soldiers could break-out. Despite being wounded, he made a fourth attack with three others to search for missing team members.

Nearly surrounded and under heavy fire he dismounted the vehicle and searched house to house to recover the bodies of his fallen team members. By his extraordinary heroism, presence of mind amidst chaos and death, and unselfish devotion to his comrades in the face of great danger, Corporal Meyer reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.”


1. Overview On Sept. 8, 2009approximately 15 kilometers south into the Ganjgal Village, Kunar Province, Afghanistan, Embedded Training Team (ETT) 2-8, Regional Corps Advisory Command 3-7 joined together with elements of 1st Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 201st Corps of Afghan National Army (ANA) and 2nd Kandak of the Afghan Border Police (ABP) for a joint operation to conduct a key leader engagement with village elders to discuss security development plans. Marine ETT advisers were allocated in groups of four to pair with ANA/ABP forces. At the time, Sergeant (then-Corporal) Dakota L. Meyer was serving with his four-man ETT including 1st. Lt. Michael Johnson, Staff Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, and Petty Officer Third Class James Layton. The joint operation unit was organized into four elements: an observation post, a quick reaction force (QRF), a dismounted patrol and a security element at the objective rally point (ORP). Meyer was tasked to the security element at the ORP while his ETT team, now joined by Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Johnson, served as the forward element of the joint operation unit.

2. Ambush The joint operation unit, consisting of American Soldiers, Marines and ANA/ABP forces, dismounted at the ORP, leaving behind the vehicles with Staff Sgt. Juan Rodriguez-Chavez and Cpl. Meyer. From his position, Cpl. Meyer watched the patrol make way to the village on foot. As they approached, the lights in the village went out and the patrol was ambushed at approximately 0530 by more than 50 insurgents in well-fortified positions along a premeditated one-kilometer-long, U-shaped kill zone within Ganjgal Village and from the mountains above Ganjgal Valley.

The American Soldiers, Marines and ANA/ABP forces took cover, returned fire and made multiple attempts to call for artillery and air support. Meyer was instructed to remain at his post at the ORP. The forward element, his ETT, had been pinned down at their position and encircled by enemy fire. As casualties mounted, the joint operation unit remained pinned down without support for two hours. Upon listening to 1st. Lt. Johnson yell over the radio, “If [you] don’t give me this air support, we are going to die out here,” Meyer requested permission to enter the kill-zone and was denied the four times he asked. After four denials, he took it upon himself to leave his relatively safe location at the ORP. Meyer mounted a gun truck with Rodriguez-Chavez as the driver.

3. Rescue With contact to the forward element lost, Meyer and Rodriguez-Chavez drove the kilometer of the ‘kill zone’ and entered into the heaviest zone of fire, without the aid of supporting arms, in order to aid wounded American Soldiers, Marines and ANA/ABP forces. The two Marines became the focus of enemy fire, as a barrage of mortars, rocket-propelled-grenades (RPGs), machine gun and small arms fire were sent their way.

Without hesitation, Meyer and Rodriguez-Chavez evacuated wounded, provided essential aid and recovered bodies of the joint operation unit taking them back to the casualty collection point (CCP), then ventured back into the kill-zone four more times, still in search of the forward element.

Upon reentry, Rodriguez-Chavez warned Meyer that they may get stuck in the rough terrain ahead. In spite of this risk, Meyer remained steadfast, remarking, “I guess we’ll die with them.” As forward movement resumed, the two continued to be the target of attack by the enemy. Rodriguez-Chavez maneuvered the HMMWV while Meyer staved off the enemy with effective fire atop the turret. An artillery malfunction forced the two Marines to return to the ORP to swap vehicles for a working heavy machine gun. Along the route back, more wounded were discovered, retrieved and transported to safety. In the course of the exchange, Meyer sustained a laceration to his arm from RPG and mortar fire, but it would not deter him.

Still in search of his ETT, Meyer led a fifth and final charge back into the kill-zone accompanied by Marine 1st. Lt. Ademola Fabayo and Army Capt. William Swenson. Air support finally came hours into the fire fight in the form of a UH-60 helicopter providing much needed cover. The PARARESCUEMEN aboard the helicopter informed Meyer of spotting what appeared to be four bodies. Meyer dismounted the HMMWV and ran to the identified location. Even with the helicopter keeping an eye on him from above, Meyer was in a riskier position now than he would have been if he had stayed close to the vehicles with other members of his group. He was out in front of the group, moving near buildings and terrain and drawing a high volume of enemy fire. Meyer, disregarding continuing small arms and RPG mortar machine gun fire, ran into the direction of the helicopter until he came upon the four lifeless bodies of the four missing Marine advisors – his ETT. Moving out of the ditch, across the danger zone, he transported the bodies with the assistance of Swenson and the ABP commander.

4. Conclusion Over the course of a six-hour fire-fight, without regard for his own personal safety, Meyer entered the kill zone five separate times to evacuate the wounded, provide essential aid and, ultimately, saved the lives of 13 U.S. Marines and soldiers in addition to 23 Afghan soldiers. Meyer personally killed at least eight Taliban insurgents, while providing cover for his team to fight their way out and escape certain death.

Still after all his valiant effort, Meyer does not consider himself a hero. “The heroes are the men and women still serving,” he said.

For his actions on Sept. 8, 2009, his selfless valor that day in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Services, Sgt. Dakota L. Meyer has earned the distinguished recognition of being awarded the Medal of Honor.

UNIT HEROES

  • 1st Lt. Michael Johnson

    1st Lt. Johnson was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his heroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy while in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Johnson boldly led his team in a hasty attack to seize a house from which they were taking fire. His efforts enabled several Afghan soldiers to regain contact with the rest of the patrol.

  • Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Johnson

    Gunnery Sgt. Johnson was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal for heroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy while in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Following an ambush by enemy forces, Johnson suppressed the enemy fire, allowing his team to take cover.

  • Petty Officer Third Class James Layton

    Petty Officer Third Class Layton was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal for heroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy while in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. When exposed to a hail of rocket and machine gun fire, Layton returned fire while gallantly attempting to save the life of his team leader.

  • Gunnery Sgt. (then Staff Sgt.) Aaron Kenefick

    Gunnery Sgt. Kenefick was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal for heroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy while in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. GySgt. Kenefick fought with bravery and determination while demonstrating unwavering courage in the face of the enemy.

Related Links:

Top Medal for Marine Who Saved Many Lives

White House initially denies rep.’s request to attend Medal of Honor event

Coming Home…

Air Force Special Operations ‘gentle giant’ laid to rest

AFT – By Maj. Kristi Beckman
Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs

9/1/2011 – ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va.  — For the second week in a row, an Air Force Special Operations Command pararescueman was laid to rest here.

Tech. Sgt. John Brown, with family roots in Arkansas and Florida, was buried here Aug. 30, one week after his teammate and friend Tech. Sgt. Daniel Zerbe.

Both Brown and Zerbe were on a CH-47 helicopter Aug. 6 when it crashed in the Wardak province of eastern Afghanistan. Another teammate who died, Air Force combat controller Staff Sgt. Andy Harvell, will be buried at a later date. They were among 25 U.S. Special Operations Command operators who died in the crash, which also took the lives of five U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers, seven Afghan commandos and one civilian interpreter.

Family, friends, senior leaders and past teammates attended Brown’s funeral, including former Secretary of the Air Force James Roche, AFSOC commander Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel and the AFSOC command chief, Chief Master Sgt. William Turner.

The 3rd United States Infantry’s “The Old Guard” led a procession through Arlington National Cemetery, pulling Brown’s flag-draped casket on a caisson led by a team of six white Lippizan horses. More than 100 of Brown’s teammates followed, marching in silence.

A missing-man formation of four A-10s from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., Brown’s former base, broke the silence, followed by three-rifle volleys, a flag-folding ceremony and the playing of “Taps.”

During a memorial service for Brown held Aug. 16, his youth pastor, Ray Fritz said: “One word that sums up John is kind. He was kind to a fault and would do anything for anyone.” Many who grew up with Brown said they remembered him as a dedicated, courageous family man who was an example for everyone and a man of character.

At 6 feet 2 inches tall, Brown was nicknamed “the gentle giant.” A former teammate of Brown’s said he was a big man, but his heart was even bigger. He said Brown had a belief in something higher and believed in a justness and goodness that would shine through. He said everyone in attendance could take away some life lessons from “big John Brown” to live harder, fight stronger and live better than the common man.

Each of Brown’s teammates and friends nailed a pararescue badge into the top of Brown’s casket, a tradition signifying he will never be forgotten among his team.

“He was a man who would not quit and only needed a family behind him and an enemy in front of him,” one of Brown’s former team-leads said.

Brown is survived by wife Tabitha, his father Dan, his mother Elizabeth Newlun, and brothers Danny and Lucas.

Tabitha said she will forever miss her husband.

“He is my best friend and the love of my life,” she said.

Recently Accounted-For

The families of these service members recently were briefed by their respective Casualty or Morturary Offices. The highlighted names are linked to a more detailed news release on that serviceman’s identification.

  • Cpl. Robert J. Tucker, U.S. Army, 2nd Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, was lost on Nov. 26, 1950, near Kujang, North Korea. His remains were identified on June 11, 2010.
  • Maj. Thomas E. Clark, U.S. Air Force, 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 37th Tactical Fighter Wing, was lost on Feb. 8, 1969, when the F-100D aircraft he was aboard was struck by enemy fire and crashed in Savannakhet Province, Laos. His remains were identified on June 3, 2011.
  • Maj. Bruce E. Lawrence, U.S. Air Force, 557th Tactical Fighter Squadron, was lost on July 5, 1968, when the F-4C aircraft he was aboard failed to return from a night armed-reconnaissance of enemy targets in Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam. His remains were identified on May 31, 2011.
  • Cpl. Edward M. Pedregon, U.S. Army, 31st Regimental Combat Team, was lost on Nov. 30, 1950, during a battle against the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces near the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea. His remains were identified on May 4, 2011.
  • Maj. Thomas E. Reitmann, U.S. Air Force, 344th Tactical Fighter Squadron, was lost on Dec. 1, 1965, when the F-105D Thunderchief he was aboard crashed in Vietnam. His remains were identified on May 2, 2011.
  • Pvt. Herman F. Sturmer, Jr., U.S. Marine Corps, 2nd Marine Division, 8thMarine Regiment, 2nd Battalion, was lost on Nov. 20, 1943, when his unit encountered an enemy attack while landing on Tarawa Island, Republic of Kiribath. His remains were identified on April 8, 2011.
  • Col. Leo S. Boston, U.S. Air Force, 14th Air Commando Wing, 602nd Fighter Squadron, was lost on April 29, 1966, while aboard an A-1E aircraft on a search and rescue mission over North Vietnam. His remains were identified on April 4, 2011.
  • Spc. 4 Robert B. Bayne, U.S. Army, B Company, 141st Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, was lost on March 28, 1945, while on a reconnaissance patrol near Schwegenheim, Germany. His remains were identified on March 14, 2011.

A complete listing of recently account-for servicemembers can be found on the Recently Accounted-For page.