I remember the first time I ever became aware of the Westboro Baptist Church’s existence. It was a rumor. The group, we were told, was planning to protest the funeral of one of the soldiers in my platoon who’d been killed in combat. Furious doesn’t even begin to describe what we felt, but what could we do? We had nine months left in Afghanistan. Then we heard another rumor: a group of bikers was going to show up to the funeral to shield the family and friends of our fallen comrade from the demonstrators. They did, and ultimately drove the Westboro protesters away. I never got a chance to thank them.
The members of the Westboro Baptist Church, which was established in 1931 in Topeka, Kansas, espouse a theology of hatred and intolerance that is no less anti-American than what is preached by terrorists organizations like the so-called Islamic State. “Thank God for dead soldiers” and “thank God for 9/11” are two of their favorite rallying cries. But the group’s hatred isn’t just focused on the U.S. military. Since 1999, Westboro has also been protesting the funerals of gay men and women, including ones killed in acts of hate. And on June 18, they reared their ugly heads once again, protesting the funeral of Christopher Andrew Leinonen, who was murdered alongside 48 others during the recent massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
Fortunately, as what happened during the funeral of the fallen soldier from my platoon, a group of strangers arrived on the scene in droves to foil Westboro’s attempts to disrupt the service and counter the church’s message of hatred with gestures of unity and peace. The counter-protestors, numbering around 200 people and including bikers, priests, and members of the LGBT community, created a human barrier between the Westboro demonstrators and the funeral service, singing “Amazing Grace” and carrying signs that read “God is Love” and “Orlando Strong.” According to the Washington Post, the group had been formed “organically through Facebook.”
Eventually, another group, which was organized by the Orlando Shakespeare theater, entered the fray in silence. All of them were adorned with “angel wings” constructed from PVC pipes and white sheets — symbols of love and peace that doubled as an additional barrier between the Westboro demonstrators and those attending Leinonen’s funeral, which was held at the St. James Catholic Cathedral in Orlando. More than a dozen police officers were also present to maintain security. According to the Washington Post, soon after the “angels” arrived, the Westboro demonstrators “retreated toward their vehicles, and the crowd roared,” while the counter-protesters chanted, “Orlando strong! Orlando strong!”
Army Staff Sgt. Albert Leon Mampre, who served during World War II with the famed Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division depicted in the HBO series 'Band of Brothers,' was laid to rest on June 15th, the Army announced
Mampre, who died on May 31 at 97 years old, was the last living medic from Easy Company, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. A number of soldiers assigned to his unit provided an honor guard for his funeral service.
NIEUWEGEIN, Netherlands (Reuters) - Three Russians and a Ukrainian will face murder charges for the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine which killed 298 people, in a trial to start in the Netherlands next March, an investigation team said on Wednesday.
The suspects are likely to be tried in absentia, however, as the Netherlands has said Russia has not cooperated with the investigation and is not expected to hand anyone over.
"These suspects are seen to have played an important role in the death of 298 innocent civilians", said Dutch Chief Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke.
"Although they did not push the button themselves, we suspect them of close cooperation to get the (missile launcher) where it was, with the aim to shoot down an airplane."
A Navy SEAL sentenced to one year in prison for the death of Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar is under investigation for allegedly flirting with Melgar's widow while using a false name and trying to persuade her that he and another SEAL accused of killing her husband were "really good guys," according to the Washington Post.
NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO — The trial of Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher officially kicked off on Tuesday with the completion of jury selection, opening statements, and witness testimony indicating that drinking alcohol on the front lines of Mosul, Iraq in 2017 seemed to be a common occurrence for members of SEAL Team 7 Alpha Platoon.
Government prosecutors characterized Gallagher as a knife-wielding murderer who not only killed a wounded ISIS fighter but shot indiscriminately at innocent civilians, while the defense argued that those allegations were falsehoods spread by Gallagher's angry subordinates, with attorney Tim Parlatore telling the jury that "this trial is not about murder. It's about mutiny."