Diving right in on this Tuesday after Thanksgiving...
Here is a Congressional Medal of Honor.
Of course it is the highest award of valor given in military service here in the United States. Over the course of our history, some 3,515 have been awarded. 65 recipients are alive today.
Understandably, it's not an easy award to prove or receive; corroboration by many sources are required, and it's very subjective to begin with. One could argue that there are some military personnel that maybe should have received one, but nobody could prove their actions.
Capt. Paris Davis, who disobeyed a direct order to abandon the battlefield and his Special Forces team, saving lives during an intense firefight during the Vietnam War, is getting close to receiving the Medal of Honor after over five decades of roadblocks.
A Pentagon official told Military.com on the condition of anonymity that Davis' nomination was approved by Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in early November. It now sits on Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's desk and then would also need to be approved by President Joe Biden.
Davis, a Black man who retired as a colonel, was nominated for the award by his chain of command following the hectic battle in 1965 and then again years later. But that nomination never progressed, and records of that process were lost by Army administrative officials at least twice, according to reporting for The New York Times.
Davis' valor leading an early morning raid was seemingly never in question, with the Army citing his heroic deeds for multiple awards. Instead, the issue was the color of his skin, according to Davis.
"I know race was a factor," Davis said during a television interview in 1969.
In January 2021, then-Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller ordered a review of Davis' lost nomination.
Davis was one of the first Black officers in Special Forces and joined during a period when violence tied to preventing racial equality in the U.S. was at a peak and as Army units were desegregated.
He was shot in the arm and leg during the 1965 battle. Many on his 12-man team were injured, including one soldier he was desperately trying to get to but was stuck in mud and under jungle debris with enemy machine gunners peppering the ground around those attempting rescue.
Davis was ordered by a colonel watching the battle from a helicopter above to retreat, which would mean leaving some of his teammates behind. Some of those soldiers were still likely alive.
"I told him, 'Sir, I'm not going to leave; I have an American still out there,'" he said during the 1969 interview. "I said some words I don't care to repeat, I did a little swearing I think was due to the intensity of the situation."
Davis is yet another Black man who had to wait decades for awards to mark his valor, a wrong the Pentagon has slowly been trying to correct in recent years.
In 2021, after years of delay, Biden awarded the Medal of Honor to Alwyn Cashe, the first Black service member to receive the award since the Vietnam era. Cashe died rescuing his soldiers from a burning Bradley vehicle during the Iraq War. In 1997, President Bill Clinton awarded the medal to seven Black World War II veterans, including Lt. John Fox who died directing artillery fire at his location to limit a German advance.
Davis, 83, retired in 1985 after serving as commander of 10th Special Forces Group.
While the Pentagon is working to correct this, there are many other ordinary soldiers that were also discriminated against after their years of service. A lawsuit has recently been filed against the V.A. concerning this, which hopefully will shed more light on the issue.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has discriminated against Black veterans for years, disproportionately denying disability claims applications compared with those filed by white veterans, a lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court claims.
Conley Monk Jr., a Vietnam veteran who served in the Marine Corps, alleges that the VA improperly denied his claims for disability benefits, housing assistance and education benefits for decades before reversing course in December 2020.
And although the VA eventually granted his claims, Monk obtained records through the Freedom of Information Act that he, attorneys and advocates say showed a "statistically significant difference" in VA claims decisions for Black veterans compared with white veterans, resulting in discrimination that dates back decades.
"This lawsuit records the shameful history of racism by the Department of Veterans Affairs and seeks to redress long-standing impropriety and inaction reverberating across generations of Black military service," said Richard Brookshire, CEO of the Black Veterans Project, during a press conference Monday announcing the suit.
The suit is based on VA data indicating that from 2002 to 2020, nearly 30% of disability claims filed by Black veterans were denied when compared with a 24.2% rejection rate for claims filed by white veterans.
And according to the Associated Press, the data also showed 30.3% of claims filed by Black veterans were fully approved, while 36% of claims filed by Hispanic veterans were approved and white veterans had an approval rate of 37.1% during the time frame.
"I feel that we need to be compensated and receive some form of reparations. My lawsuit also is going to lead the charge for other veterans. That's what's really important to me," said Monk, who founded the National Veterans Council for Legal Redress, which advocates for veterans seeking upgrades to military discharges and supports those who need employment, benefits and shelter.
In response to a request for comment, VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes did not specifically address Monk's lawsuit but said historically, Black veterans have been "wrongly left ... without access to VA care and benefits" as a result of past discrimination.
So now let's shift gears - most of us live near major urban areas that have a football or baseball stadium. Every now and again, you've surely seen a few military aircraft performing a flyover. Looks easy, right? There's more to it than you would think.
I live about ten miles from Fenway Park; west of the city. Flyby aircraft often orbit over my neighborhood to adjust their timing, and there is a very large building in the next town that is unmistakable from the air and points directly at Fenway; this is their "Initial Point" for what is essentially a bombing run on the target.
Alabama fans can’t get enough of gameday traditions from pregame tailgating to singing “Rammer Jammer” after another Crimson Tide win.
But the stadium flyover moments before kickoff is climbing the charts for Bryant-Denny Stadium rituals you must cross off your college football bucket list.
As you might imagine, each flyover performed by various military branches, comes with a lot of preparation before you see, hear and feel that whoosh overhead that gives you a heavy dose patriotism and jump-starts an unforgettable stadium atmosphere.
Morgan James, an assistant athletics director for marketing and fan development at UA, coordinates each gameday flyover.
He took us behind the scenes, revealing the thorough logistical planning and precision required each time.
The planning process for flyovers actually begins around June and July before each season.
UA must file paperwork for each event/game (Request for Military Support), which they submit online for approval. Once the paperwork is approved for each game, military units can reach out to the UA point of contact to book a specific game.
Once the flyover crew is booked for a specific game, UA works with them on game specifics that include flyover time, plus departure and arrival airport(s), game tickets, in-game recognition and any additional approvals or paperwork that may be needed.
James said only two of the 2022 season’s flight crews requested a “rehearsal.”
Some want to get get “a lay of the land” the day before the game, while others want to discuss any and all details they need to know before they execute the event.
“In my experience this year the majority of the crews that volunteer to do these flyovers have done flyovers before and don’t necessarily need a rehearsal but just the timing logistics of when we want them to fly over the stadium,” James said.
The 2022 season will have had four flyovers with flight crews from across the United States.
The crews work with local air bases or airports based on their jets to determine where they can take off and land, James said.
“We have had flight crews take off and land at Columbus, Miss., as well as land in Birmingham,” he said. “To my knowledge, it really depends on the flight crew and their communication with local air bases and FAA.”
One thing I learned from the story - these flybys aren't assigned. The school will put in a request, and then aircrews from around the country can bid on it, essentially volunteering to do these. Of course, it counts as flight time and is always useful for training purposes, but that's why you never quite know what's coming over the stadium on any given day.