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On March 8, 1965, the United States sent its first combat troops into Vietnam to thwart the expansionist threat of communism in Indochina during the height of the Cold War. The end result of this decision would be a long, divisive political battle in our country over the use of our military abroad and the deaths of over 58,000 Americans overseas.
Of the many things troubling about this hotly debated conflict, the fact that at least 416 of those deaths occurred before March 8, 1965, raises questions about those who died in combat before “combat troops” were ever supposed to be there. Today, 51 years later, a similar battle over semantics is playing out throughout our country and desperately needs to be addressed.
The same way “advisors,” not “combat troops,” were sent to Vietnam before 1965 as a way to quell public fears of military intervention and ensure that “American boys” weren’t doing what “Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves,” we are currently being ensured that there will be no “boots on the ground” in the wars against Islamic terrorism; we’re simply there to train their fighters to do what they ought to be doing for themselves.
But, like Vietnam, many of our troops are still very much in harm's way; the only difference is that today they are spread all across the globe.
Despite President Obama’s repeated assurance that there will be no boots on the ground in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, this is not the case. When asked last month whether U.S. troops would be participating in combat operations, Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, the top general in Iraq, told reporters, “The decision as to whether or not … something is on or off the table is not my decision. That's really, at the end of the day, that's my commander in chief's. So, you know, all of us in uniform are … preparing various options. The president will decide.”
We currently have at least 50 special operators in Syria that were sent to “focus more on advising local…rebels who are fighting the Islamic State,” and “will not play a direct combat role.” There are at least 3,700 U.S. troops currently serving in Iraq “who provide training for the Iraqi security forces.”
Combined with the nearly 10,000 troops still currently serving in Afghanistan, America is very much a country at war with boots on the ground in numerous countries. But, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Over the past few years alone, it has been reported that the U.S. Special Operations Command has served in at least 134 countries “where they were either involved in combat, special missions, or advising the training foreign forces.” And as recently as this past October, Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, an Army Delta Force commando, was killed during a rescue mission in Iraq. Although the mission “was conducted as part of the U.S. training and advisory mission” there, the dangers that faced him and other troops are apparent and all too frequent. Other dangers, however, are much less visible.
As we’ve seen in Afghanistan, it’s easy to forget that young women and men are still putting themselves in harm's way to serve their country honorably in very hostile locations throughout the world. This grows even easier when media coverage of this war diminishes and an actual dialogue about the problems our current warfighters face doesn’t exist, which is why it is so important to not blur the lines between what an “advisor” does, or whether or our troops are on a “combat mission” or not.
We owe it to U.S. troops to support whatever they do, and that gets harder to do if you don’t think they are in harm’s way.
Editor's Note: The following story highlights a veteran at Iron Mountain. Committed to including talented members of the military community in its workplace, Iron Mountain is a client of Hirepurpose, a Task & Purpose sister company. Learn more here.
Jackie Melendrez couldn't be prouder of her husband, her sons, and the fact that she works for the trucking company Iron Mountain. This regional router has been a Mountaineer since 2017, and says the support she receives as a military spouse and mother is unparalleled.
Master Sgt. Larry Hawks, a retired engineer sergeant who served with 3rd Special Forces Group, is being awarded the Distinguished Service Cross on Friday for "valorous actions" in Afghanistan in 2005.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A 40-foot-tall (12 meters) cross-shaped war memorial standing on public land in Maryland does not constitute government endorsement of religion, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in a decision that leaves unanswered questions about the boundaries of the U.S. Constitution's separation of church and state.
The justices were divided on many of the legal issues but the vote was 7-2 to overturn a lower court ruling that had declared the so-called Peace Cross in Bladensburg unconstitutional in a legal challenge mounted by the American Humanist Association, a group that advocates for secular governance. The concrete cross was erected in 1925 as a memorial to troops killed in World War One.
The ruling made it clear that a long-standing monument in the shape of a Christian cross on public land was permissible but the justices were divided over whether other types of religious displays and symbols on government property would be allowed. Those issues are likely to come before the court in future cases.
A relative of the man who opened fire outside downtown Dallas' federal building this week warned the FBI in 2016 that he shouldn't be allowed to buy a gun because he was depressed and suicidal, his mother said Thursday.
Brian Clyde's half-brother called the FBI about his concerns, their mother Nubia Brede Solis said. Clyde was in the Army at the time.
On Monday, Clyde opened fire with an AR-15-style rifle at the Earle Cabell Federal Building. He was fatally shot by federal law enforcement. No one else was seriously injured. His family believes Clyde wanted to be killed.