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The Navy vessel built from steel from the wreckage of the World Trade Center
Sailors aboard the USS New York pay their respects every year to those who died in the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The plan for Tuesday is to perform the ceremony at Naval Station Mayport, the home base for the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock.
But this ship carries more than a New York name. Reminders of 9/11 abound. Its very nose is made from steel salvaged from the wreckage of the World Trade Center. And its sailors are taught to never forget their connection to the catastrophe.
"Every ship in the Navy has a namesake room or a legacy room, but on our ship the whole ship is a legacy to what happened," Command Master Chief Ben Hodges said.
A steel plate recovered from the Trade Center rubble is on display above one of the most-used passageways. A firefighter's helmet reminds sailors of the first responders who sprung into action.
Hodges said the reminders extend to the ship's daily prayer ritual, for which the chaplain chooses the name of someone who died in the attacks to honor. It all makes it impossible to forget Sept. 11, he said.
"We talk to all of our sailors when they initially check in and explain to them the significance of what they are a part of," Hodges said. "You can't help when you walk around the ship to notice all the things meant to remind you of why you serve."
Despite all of the reminders found in many corners of the ship, the piece with the greatest significance goes unseen.
The New York's bow stem — the part at the very front of the ship just below the water's surface — was forged using steel from one of the twin towers.
The USS New York sails the Hudson River on November 2nd, 2009(U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons)
The scrap had been located at the Staten Island landfill; and it is believed to have been from the south tower. On Veterans Day 2002, the Intrepid Air-Sea-Space Museum presented it on behalf of the City of New York to Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, according to the Navy.
Navy engineers determined it was possible to use thousands of pounds of the salvaged steel for the bow stem casting, and the molten steel was cast Sept. 9, 2003, at the Amite Foundry and Machine in Amite, La. The steel was treated and about 7.5 tons of it was smelted for the part of the ship that cuts through the water.
Kevin Wensing remembers the day that workers poured the sacred steel into the mold. He was there as a special assistant to then-Secretary of the Navy Gordon England.
A band played as Navy officers and politicians mixed with factory workers who wanted to be a part of the occasion. Wensing said it was one of the most reverent occasions he's ever been a part of.
"It was a very spiritual, kind of religious thing, in a way, when you are down in Amite, Louisiana, and you think about all the people who suffered on 9/11," Wensing said.
Wensing said employees had been making it a point to touch pieces of the steel when they came to work each day.
"Everyone involved with the project knew it was something special," Wensing said.
The secretary of the Navy is in charge of naming all future Navy vessels, so part of Wensing's job at the time was to read through thousands of letters asking for specific names.
He said the idea to name the ship for New York came just a few days after the attacks. The USS Arlington and USS Somerset were named for the Virginia home of the bomb-damaged Pentagon and the Pennsylvania county where United Flight 93 crashed.
Wensing said the decision to name vessels after the attack locations was easy, but it was much harder to decide what types of ships would get the names.
Submarines are usually the only vessels named for states, Wensing said, but it's extremely difficult to get civilians on board subs for tours. So because the New York, Arlington and Somerset would be vessels with frequent tour requests, it was imperative that they were surface ships.
There's another specific reason why they are all San Antonio-class amphibious transport ships. Wensing said the secretary wanted the ships to be vessels that housed both Navy sailors and Marines, so the transport ships made perfect sense.
Although the New York is often toured by civilians, Tuesday's ceremony is not open to the public, Hodges said.
But he said on the anniversary of the attacks everyone should be reminded of the ship's motto: "Strength forged through sacrifice. Never forget."
©2018 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
The first 11 soldiers were awarded the Expert Soldier Badge on Tuesday after being the first to take the pilot test two years ago during the award's initial testing.
They received the new badge during the Association of the United States Army's annual conference in Washington, D.C.
The ESB is available to all soldiers who are not combat medics, infantrymen, or Special Forces. To be able to take the test, soldiers have to qualify as "expert" on the M4 carbine or M16 rifle and receive a recommendation from their chain of command, according to the Army. The standards test soldiers' skills over a five-day period, per the Army, and includes events like the Army Combat Fitness Test, day and night land navigation, a 12-mile march, and more.
These Afghan and Iraqi interpreters faced 'life-threatening delays' to get their US visas. They sued the government and won
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe / Radio Free Liberty
When Sakhidad started working as a translator for the U.S. military in Afghanistan at the age of 19, he hoped his "faithful and valuable" service would earn him a special U.S. immigrant visa and eventual U.S. citizenship.
In 2011, after two years on the job, Sakhidad applied under a special visa program set up by the U.S. Congress to protect persecuted U.S. allies.
He waited four years for his application to be processed. But the U.S. government never finished reviewing his case.
In the spring of 2015, shortly after the closure of the U.S. base where he'd worked for five years, Sakhidad was abducted, tortured, and killed by the Taliban.
They left his body on the side of a road with a note stuffed in his pocket — a threat addressed to his three brothers saying they would also be killed because they had worked for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
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With northeast Syria engulfed in the fog of war, the Turks, Russians, and Kurds have all launched their own propaganda campaigns to win the battle over information.
One of the biggest unknowns at the moment involves exactly how many ISIS fighters and their families previously captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces have managed to escape since Turkey invaded Kurdish-held Syria on Oct. 6, 2019.
But while Defense Secretary Mark Esper has blamed Turkey for catalyzing the release of "many dangerous ISIS detainees", a senior administration official was unable to say on Monday exactly how many ISIS prisoners may have escaped.
Based on open source reporting, about 850 women and children affiliated with ISIS are believed to have fled a detainee camp at Ayn Issa and another five ISIS prisoners escaped from a prison at Qamishli, said Caitlin Forrest, director of operations for the Institute for the Study of War think tank in Washington, D.C.
Few things say "I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and I'm all out of bubble gum" like a Navy amphibious assault craft absolutely covered with Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighters ready to bomb an adversary back to the Stone Age.
That's the logic behind the so-called "Lightning Carrier" concept designed to turn those "Gator Navy" amphibs into ad hoc aircraft carriers — and the Corps appears to be moving slowly but surely into turning that concept into a new doctrine for the new era of great power competition.