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“On the strength of one link in the cable,” an old naval officer once wrote, “dependeth the might of the chain.” It’s a military maxim, but it contains plenty of truth for those of us in the news business, especially these days. In a time when the American citizenry’s distrust of media reaches ever new lows, we journalists know that any error of fact, any failure to do the due diligence on what we publish under our banner, is a gross disservice to the community we seek to entertain and enlighten. If people are to take us seriously, we must take seriously our power to tell and share true stories.
Last month, Task & Purpose published an essay by Peter Delacroix, the pseudonym of an author who claimed to be a Navy corpsman with 25 years in uniform, multiple downrange deployments, a Purple Heart, and a Combat Action Ribbon, who had “transitioned from female to male after retiring from the Navy.” The author’s story described, in disturbing detail, the sexual assaults and harassment he had suffered in the service. It ended with an impassioned and eloquent appeal for the military to do more to prevent and punish sexual assault: “Time, at long last,” it concluded, “to believe us.”
As a matter of course, when we receive an outside opinion contribution from a reader, the assigning editor takes a few steps to ensure that the author’s opinions, whatever they may be, are buttressed by facts. That process is especially critical when a piece makes serious factual allegations. For example, when a U.S.-born Army veteran and T&P; reader wrote us in early June to detail his harrowing run-in with Customs and Border Patrol agents in Vermont, we preinterviewed him, verified his service, and reached out to CBP for confirmation of the incident and a comment on it — which they provided us. The result of this process, in that case and many others, was an important contribution to our community’s conversation — and one we could stand behind.
That process was not followed with Delacroix's piece; it should have been. That process was also not formalized; it will be now.
On Wednesday, several weeks after Delacroix’s piece published, we were alerted to the possibility that he had not correctly represented himself as a veteran. It was then that we realized our process had not been followed; that should never have been a possibility.
As an individual and as a manager of a newsroom, I abhor transphobia, stalking, victim-shaming, and abuse. Much of the skepticism we saw expressed on social media over Delacroix’s story and identity was grounded in this bad-faith, hateful, and violative behavior. We cannot and will not endorse that behavior.
Nevertheless, we tell true stories, and so we set out to do what should have been done before publishing: We set out to establish the truth.
In these endeavors, I reached out to Delacroix Wednesday; he was not helpful. “I regret ever writing that essay, or having it published,” he wrote me, listing the personal abuse and threats he and family members had received after readers divined his personal contact info from details in the story we’d published. “Retract the story, do what you need to do, but I'm done with having to prove myself or have my privacy so thoroughly invaded.”
We followed up — was there nothing he could provide to substantiate enlistment, or deployments, or decorations, or duty stations? Could he really not share any service documents, deployment keepsakes, recruit training graduation photos, citations? We received no response.
We searched records, but could verify few details. We spoke with common members in the community, who fared no better. And we consulted veterans who specialize in stolen valor and tracked this case. We found no compelling or conclusive evidence to support any of Delacroix’s claims of service.
“I think finding the truth in this particular situation is important because this isn't simply someone who spent all their time during a deployment on a FOB, making up stories about getting into a firefight or something,” one veteran who independently investigated Delacroix’s claims told me. “This is someone who has made claims of receiving a Purple Heart.”
That lack of credibility has serious consequences. “Sexual assault in the military is a very, very serious issue,” the veteran added, “and all Delacroix has done is help undermine other people who have either been assaulted, or could possibly come forward in the future.”
As result of all of this, I cannot stand by this story. Task & Purpose is retracting it. I don’t do this lightly. But our commitment to our audience and to the truth requires it.
The Marine Corps has tapped a new Silicon Valley defense firm to develop a "digital fortress" of networked surveillance systems in order to enhance the situational awareness of security forces at installations around the world.
Marine Corps Installations Command on July 15 announced a $13.5 million sole source contract award to Anduril Industries — the two-year-old defense technology company and Project Maven contractor founded by Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey and several former Palantir Technologies executives — for a new Autonomous Surveillance Counter Intrusion Capability (ASCIC) designed to help secure installations against "all manners of intrusion" without additional manpower.
This is no standard intrusion system. Through its AI-driven Lattice Platform network and 32-foot-tall autonomous Sentry Towers, Anduril purports to combine the virtual reality systems that Luckey pioneered at Oculus with Pentagon's most advanced sensors into a simple mobile platform, enhancing an installation's surveillance capabilities with what Wired recently dubbed "a web of all-seeing eyes, with intelligence to know what it sees."
The Marine Corps' dune buggy drone jammer may have downed two Iranian drones in the Strait of Hormuz, U.S. military have officials announced.
The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer was transiting the Strait of Hormuz on July 18 when two Iranian drones came dangerously close, according to U.S. Central Command.
"This was a defensive action by the USS Boxer in response to aggressive interactions by two Iranian UAS [unmanned aerial systems] platforms in international waters," CENTCOM spokesman Army Lt. Col. Earl Brown said in a statement. "The Boxer took defensive action and engaged both of these platforms."
Green Beret with terminal cancer meets Trump to rally support for military medical malpractice reform
On July 17, Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal briefly met with President Donald Trump at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina to discuss the eponymous legislation that would finally allow victims of military medical malpractice to sue the U.S. government.
A Green Beret with terminal lung cancer, Stayskal has spent the last year fighting to change the Feres Doctrine, a 1950 Supreme Court precedent that bars service members like him from suing the government for negligence or wrongdoing.
The Pentagon is no longer topless. On Tuesday, the Senate voted to confirm Mark Esper as the United States' first permanent defense secretary in more than seven months.
Esper is expected to be sworn in as defense secretary later on Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters.
"We are grateful for the Senate leadership and the Senate Armed Services Committee's willingness to quickly move through this process," Hoffman said.
The new trailer for Top Gun: Maverick that dropped last week was indisputably the white-knuckle thrill ride of the summer, a blur of aerial acrobatics and beach volleyball that made us wonder how we ever lost that lovin' feeling in the decades since we first met Pete "Maverick" Mitchell back in 1986.
But it also made us wonder something else: Why is Maverick still flying combat missions in an F/A-18 Super Hornet as a 57-year-old captain after more than 30 years of service?