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An aging reporter ruminates on covering the military over two decades
It's time for your friend and humble narrator to have a mid-life crisis. Should I, for example, post a video of myself doing the 22 Pushup Challenge whilst clad only in a thong? Probably not.
On Sunday, this reporter turns 40, the pinnacle of midlife. It's a moment where God looks you in the eye and says: "It's all downhill from here. From diapers you came and to diapers you will soon return."
For nearly half of my life, I've covered the military: First as a local reporter in Easton, Pennsylvania, and then full time in Washington, D.C. In that time, U.S. troops have been stuck in a never-ending nightmare of wars without end, made all the worse by an indifferent Congress, which ceded any authority it had over the use of military force in 2001 and never looked back.
If wisdom comes with age, then one thing this reporter has learned from covering troops for years is this: There are no turning points. That means anyone who claims Afghanistan has "turned the corner" or "a dark and painful era" in Iraqi history has ended either doesn't grasp the nature of the post 9/11 wars or is too afraid of failure to tell the truth.
When U.S. troops captured Saddam Hussein, my assignment was to observe the family of a service member deployed to Iraq as they watched President George W. Bush's television address, in which he proclaimed, "All Iraqis can now come together and reject violence and build a new Iraq."
They didn't, but I was naïve enough at the time to hope things would get better.
Back when I was a teenager, my father told me about the time he wrote a similar story as a reporter during the Vietnam War. He was with the family of a service member who was missing in action as they watched a televised speech by President Richard Nixon. They thought Nixon was going to say the war was over, but instead he announced an escalation in the conflict.
When the war finally ended, the family's son was not among the prisoners of war who returned. A local politician held a ceremony to present missing service member's father with his son's medals. My dad recalled how the man said: "I don't want the f***king medals. I want my son."
"It was a terrible time," my father said, trailing off. "Terrible."
He was trying to tell me something. I was too young to hear him.
But life is too short to dwell on the sad times and over the past two decades, your friend and humble narrator has enjoyed asking military officials about lighter topics, such as whether the Air Force will buy the hydrogen-powered iPlane that Kayne West recommended President Donald Trump use.
Just recently, this reporter received a beautiful response from George Lucas' spokespeople declining to respond to a question about whether the U.S. military's interest in space could lead to the types of conflicts he portrayed in the original "Star Wars" movies. (The prequels do not exist.)
"Outside of a few passion projects that Mr. Lucas is otherwise committed to since retiring, he has scaled back considerably on speaking engagements, interviews and public appearances and will not be available to participate," a spokesperson said via email. "While your request was given proper consideration, we do hope for your understanding."
If only defense officials could pretend to care like that.
Despite writing about troops for nearly 20 years, yours truly has never been a true "war correspondent," defined as someone who looks suave in a mix of tactical gear, personally tailored cargo pants, and tight-fitting T-shirts.
No, your humble Pentagon correspondent looks more like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle when kitted out with body armor, a helmet, and green duffel. This reporter also showed up to Iraq in the summer of 2009 with a massive gut that was the envy of FOBBITs everywhere.
Since we've established that wars no longer end, you can expect this reporter to continue covering the military and its misadventures for the foreseeable future, because every time the U.S. government decides to liberate some oppressed people, it's the men and women in uniform along with their families who answer the call. Their stories need to be told.
For me, writing about those who go to war isn't just a job. It's an honor.
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Jeff Schogol covers the Pentagon for Task & Purpose. He has covered the military for 14 years and embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq and Haiti. Prior to joining T&P, he covered the Marine Corps and Air Force at Military Times. Comments or thoughts to share? Send them to Jeff Schogol via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or direct message @JeffSchogol on Twitter.
'It just happened' — the Iraq War’s first living Medal of Honor recipient recalls his harrowing fight against 5 insurgents
On Nov, 10, 2004, Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia knew that he stood a good chance of dying as he tried to save his squad.
Bellavia survived the intense enemy fire and went on to single-handedly kill five insurgents as he cleared a three-story house in Fallujah during the iconic battle for the city. For his bravery that day, President Trump will present Bellavia with the Medal of Honor on Tuesday, making him the first living Iraq war veteran to receive the award.
In an interview with Task & Purpose, Bellavia recalled that the house where he fought insurgents was dark and filled with putrid water that flowed from broken pipes. The battle itself was an assault on his senses: The stench from the water, the darkness inside the home, and the sounds of footsteps that seemed to envelope him.
With the Imperial Japanese Army hot on his heels, Oscar Leonard says he barely slipped away from getting caught in the grueling Bataan Death March in 1942 by jumping into a choppy bay in the dark of the night, clinging to a log and paddling to the Allied-fortified island of Corregidor.
After many weeks of fighting there and at Mindanao, he was finally captured by the Japanese and spent the next several years languishing under brutal conditions in Filipino and Japanese World War II POW camps.
Now, having just turned 100 years old, the Antioch resident has been recognized for his 42-month ordeal as a prisoner of war, thanks to the efforts of his friends at the Brentwood VFW Post #10789 and Congressman Jerry McNerney.
McNerney, Brentwood VFW Commander Steve Todd and Junior Vice Commander John Bradley helped obtain a POW award after doing research and requesting records to surprise Leonard during a birthday party last month.
Hundreds of Marines will join their British counterparts at a massive urban training center this summer that will test the leathernecks' ability to fight a tech-savvy enemy in a crowded city filled with innocent civilians.
The North Carolina-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, will test drones, robots and other high-tech equipment at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana, in August.
They'll spend weeks weaving through underground tunnels and simulating fires in a mock packed downtown city center. They'll also face off against their peers, who will be equipped with off-the-shelf drones and other gadgets the enemy is now easily able to bring to the fight.
It's the start of a four-year effort, known as Project Metropolis, that leaders say will transform the way Marines train for urban battles. The effort is being led by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virginia. It comes after service leaders identified a troubling problem following nearly two decades of war in the Middle East: adversaries have been studying their tactics and weaknesses, and now they know how to exploit them.
WASHINGTON/RIYADH (Reuters) - President Donald Trump imposed new U.S. sanctions onIran on Monday following Tehran's downing of an unmanned American drone and said the measures would target Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Trump told reporters he was signing an executive order for the sanctions amid tensions between the United States and Iran that have grown since May, when Washington ordered all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil.
Trump also said the sanctions would have been imposed regardless of the incident over the drone. He said the supreme leaders was ultimately responsible for what Trump called "the hostile conduct of the regime."
"Sanctions imposed through the executive order ... will deny the Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader's office, and those closely affiliated with him and the office, access to key financial resources and support," Trump said.
While it can be difficult to peg down just how star-spangled a state is, one indicator is the rate at which citizens enlist in the military, especially during the United States' longest period of sustained conflict. At least, that's the thinking behind WalletHub's new study, 2019's Most Patriotic States in America.