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A Fallen Cadet Lived His Ideals To The End. What About The Rest Of Us?
Peter passed away on February 14, 2018 in Parkland FL. He is a hero, having sacrificed his life to protect his friends and classmates. He loved being in the JROTC and planned on attending United States Military Academy West Point. He liked the Houston Rockets, hip-hop music, playing basketball and spending time with his friends. He is survived by his father Kong and mother Hui, and his brothers Jason and Alex and extended family.
— Peter Wang's memorial program, Feb. 20, 2018
CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. — There were perhaps five hundred of us — family, students, servicemembers, first responders, American Legion riders, JROTC cadets, Young Marines, reservists, retirees, even my Sea Cadet commanding officer from 24 years ago, squeezed into his dress whites. We parked our cars across three strip malls here on this stretch of suburban sprawl and squeezed together, flowers in our hands, under a wind-whipped tent a few miles south of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — named for one of our homegrown heroes, who dedicated her life to preserving Florida’s pristine beauty and lived to 108. The school will be remembered now not for Douglas’ abundance, doggedness, and longevity, but for the disorder and destruction wrought there in a few minutes last week by a determined 19-year-old with few life skills beyond an ability to hold a 5.56mm magazine-fed gas-operated semi-automatic rifle.
In a just world — not a perfect one, only a just one — Peter Wang, 15, would be dressing out for JROTC at Stoneman Douglas today, working on his fitness, planning the steps to a nomination and appointment for West Point. The Military Academy today announced to Peter’s family that he would be admitted as a member of the Long Gray Line’s class of 2025.
But Peter is dead. His appointment on the Hudson will not be kept. We were here to say goodbye.
“In my classroom, I tried to teach Peter principles of good citizenship,” 1st Sgt. John Navarra, Peter’s JROTC instructor, told us, pausing to allow simultaneous Chinese translation for the friends and family gathered here. “I did not realize how great a citizen he already was.”
Cadet Maj. Marshall Ryan recounted how “Peter was a hurricane of sunshine” — one of the unit’s best marksmen sure, but also a source of levity on the drill field and the firing line, always joking, sometimes even ordering UberEats on his phone as his classmates plinked away at their targets beside him.
“I always told him to lock it up,” Ryan said, “but I would be right there laughing with everybody else.”
It is supposed to be some solace to us to know Peter, this good kid, this shiny exemplar for our nutty, phrenetic South Florida community, died heroically, living his ideals to the end. He was last seen alive by his classmates holding a door in his school for others to escape the hail of small-arms fire.
I struggle with how, and when, to explain to my elementary-bound 5-year-old son that sometimes people murder other people in our schools. I always remember Mr. Rogers telling a story about seeing scary news on TV when he was a child:
“My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”
In his final moments as a human being, before an unsophisticated killer with a sophisticated weapon took away all his plans and potential, Peter Wang was a helper. He was every inch the man he’d wanted to be.
It is good that we should make sense of him, and his life, and the lives he touched. But there is no sense in his life’s abbreviation. As family members recited lines dedicated to Peter, and to the last messages that he and his classmates sent out from their high school-turned-battlezone, many in our crowd wept openly and audibly. Not simply at the injustice of it all: Many of them, teachers and friends, were survivors of the carnage that took Peter.
“He was a rock for us,” Ryan concluded, as cars whipped by behind us on University Drive, one of the county’s busiest thoroughfares. A touching memorial with a road-noise soundtrack: It was the most Florida scene I could imagine, outside of the shooting itself, a growing fact of life in our noisy, divided, and armed dystopian paradise.
Across the street, the television media waited, as respectfully as they could muster. Across the internet, the opinion-havers were tweeting and vlogging. Grown men and women were making serious money calling Peter’s death a false flag, or demanding armed drones in schools, or sneering at people for “politicizing” his death.
None of those bloviators were here with us, holding red and white flowers for Peter. None of them could hear the speakers, politicizing what’s already inherently political: the ceaseless mass murder of schoolchildren in a state where it’s harder to earn a beautician’s license than to purchase a military-grade carbine.
“One person can make an enormous difference. One person can start a war... or end one,” one of Peter’s kin told us, adding that it was on all of us to act on Peter’s behalf after we left this communion. “We have to do something. Stand up and do something for our kids.”
When he left the makeshift podium, there was applause. It was the only applause all day.
A former sailor who was busted buying firearms with his military discount and then reselling some of them to criminals is proving to be a wealth of information for federal investigators.
Julio Pino used his iPhone to record most, if not all, of his sales, court documents said. He even went so far as to review the buyers' driver's license on camera.
It is unclear how many of Pino's customer's now face criminal charges of their own. Federal indictments generally don't provide that level of detail and Assistant U.S. Attorney William B. Jackson declined to comment.
It all began with a medical check.
Carson Thomas, a healthy and fit 20-year-old infantryman who had joined the Army after a brief stint in college, figured he should tell the medics about the pain in his groin he had been feeling. It was Feb. 12, 2012, and the senior medic looked him over and decided to send him to sick call at the base hospital.
It seemed almost routine, something the Army doctors would be able to diagnose and fix so he could get back to being a grunt.
Now looking back on what happened some seven years later, it was anything but routine.
The US military now has to ask the Iraqis for permission before giving close air support to troops in combat
U.S. forces must now ask the Iraqi military for permission to fly in Iraqi airspace before coming to the aid of U.S. troops under fire, a top military spokesman said.
However, the mandatory approval process is not expected to slow down the time it takes the U.S. military to launch close air support and casualty evacuation missions for troops in the middle of a fight, said Army Col. James Rawlinson, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.
Army Spc. Clayton James Horne died in Saudi Arabia on Aug. 17, making him the eighth non-combat fatality for Operation Inherent Resolve so far this year, defense officials have announced.
Horne, 23, was assigned to the 351st Military Police Company, 160th Military Police Battalion, an Army Reserve unit based in Ocala, Florida, a Pentagon news release says.
The soldier who was arrested for taking an armored personnel carrier on a slow-speed police chase through Virginia has been found not guilty by reason of insanity on two charges, according to The Richmond-Times Dispatch.
Joshua Phillip Yabut, 30, entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle — in this case, a 12-ton APC taken from Fort Pickett in June 2018 — and violating the terms of his bond, which stemmed from a trip to Iraq he took in March 2019 (which was not a military deployment).