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Author: TriSec    Date: 01/15/2013 11:06:45

Good Morning.

Today is our 4,118th day in Afghanistan.

We'll start this morning as we always do; with the latest casualty figures from our ongoing war, courtesy of Antiwar.com:

US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 2,175
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1,081

We find this morning's cost of war passing through:

$ 1, 413, 410, 325, 000 .00

Next this morning, we'll turn to valor. It's something we actually rarely talk about here at ask a vet, but today we'll take a moment to recognize America's newest recipient of the Medal of Honor.

An Army sergeant who ignored his battle wounds to take out the enemy, rescue the injured and retrieve the dead during an ambush by 300 fighters in Afghanistan will receive the Medal of Honor, the White House announced Friday.

Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha, 31, who has since left the military, will be only the fourth living service member awarded the nation's top honor for courage in Iraq or Afghanistan.

His citation says he is being recognized for "acts of gallantry and intrepity" when fighters attacked Combat Outpost Keating from all sides with rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns, mortars and rifles on Oct. 3, 2009, igniting a daylong battle.

Romesha, a father of three, rousted reinforcements and then engaged in battle with the help of an assistant gunner. After taking out one machine-gun team, he set his sights on a second and suffered shrapnel wounds when a grenade hit a generator he was using for cover.

"Undeterred by his injuries, Staff Sergeant Romesha continued to fight and upon the arrival of another soldier to aid him and the assistant gunner, he again rushed through the exposed avenue to assemble additional soldiers," the citation says.
"With complete disregard for his own safety, (he) continually exposed himself to heavy enemy fire as he moved confidently about the battlefield engaging and destroying multiple enemy targets."

At the same time, Romesha was orchestrating a plan to secure key points of the battlefield — and directing air support to knock out a band of 30 heavily armed fighters who were attacking "with even greater ferocity."

He and his team also provided cover so that three wounded soldiers could get to an aid station, then "pushed forward 100 meters under withering fire, to recover the bodies of their fallen comrades."

Eight soldiers were killed in the battle, chronicled in the book "The Outpost," by journalist Jake Tapper, who described Romesha as "an intense guy, short and wiry," the son of a Mormon church leader who had attended seminary before joining the military.

Romesha, according to the book, never lost his cool — playing "peekaboo" with a sniper so he could get a bead on him, smiling as bullets ricocheted around him.

In addition to Ssgt Romesha, another MOH application is under review. Marine Sgt. Peralta threw himself on a grenade some 8 years ago in Iraq to save his comrades. Five such Medals of Honor were awarded for similar action on Iwo Jima long ago, so I'm not sure why this award is being held up.

The Navy Department’s top official said he supports a fallen Marine receiving the nation’s highest combat valor award for his heroics in Iraq eight years ago.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Monday the decision rests with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, boosting anticipation Panetta will overturn an earlier, controversial decision to award Sgt. Rafael Peralta the lesser — though still prestigious — Navy Cross. The Navy Department acknowledged earlier this year that it was reviewing new evidence in the case that proponents of Peralta say should result in his award being upgraded.

Peralta, 25, is credited with saving the lives of several Marines by smothering a grenade and absorbing the full brunt of its blast during house-to-house fighting in Fallujah, Iraq, on Nov. 15, 2004. He is considered one of the most famous Marine heroes of the Iraq war.

Mabus made the remark during an unrelated Navy Cross ceremony for Marine Sgt. William Soutra, who received the nation’s second-highest valor award at Camp Pendleton, Calif., for heroism in Afghanistan in 2010.

Peralta’s case is a complicated one. Four years ago, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates denied Peralta’s nomination for the Medal of Honor, infuriating the Marine’s family and Marines across the country. His family refused to accept the Navy Cross.

Gates decided in 2008 that the evidence in Peralta’s case was inconclusive, saying it is unclear whether the Marine made a conscious decision to smother the grenade because he already had been mortally wounded in the head by a ricocheting rifle round. In awarding Peralta the Navy Cross, the Navy Department said in his award citation that he had “reached out and pulled the grenade to his body” — a selfless, heroic act typically associated exclusively with the Medal of Honor.

The Navy Department acknowledged in March that it was reviewing a new pathology report and two videos recorded by fellow Marines on the scene after the blast. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., a Marine officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, has pushed hard for the review.

Panetta’s staff is still reviewing Hunter’s request, said Eileen Lainez, a Pentagon spokesman, on Tuesday. She declined additional comment.

Finally this morning...we do need to look at some veteran's issues. Paul Rieckhoff posted this to the book of face last night, and it's presented here for your review.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Suicides in the U.S. military surged to a record 349 last year, far exceeding American combat deaths in Afghanistan, and some private experts are predicting the dark trend will grow worse this year.

The Pentagon has struggled to deal with the suicides, which Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and others have called an epidemic. The problem reflects severe strains on military personnel burdened with more than a decade of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, complicated by anxiety over the prospect of being forced out of a shrinking force.

Pentagon figures obtained Monday by The Associated Press show that the 349 suicides among active-duty troops last year were up from 301 the year before and exceeded the Pentagon's own internal projection of 325. Statistics alone do not explain why troops take their own lives, and the Pentagon's military and civilian leaders have acknowledged that more needs to be done to understand the causes.

Last year's total is the highest since the Pentagon began closely tracking suicides in 2001. It exceeds the 295 Americans who died in Afghanistan last year, by the AP's count.

Some in Congress are pressing the Pentagon to do more.

"This is an epidemic that cannot be ignored," Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said Monday. "As our newest generation of service members and veterans face unprecedented challenges, today's news shows we must be doing more to ensure they are not slipping through the cracks."

But, you can't tell that to a Republican. He wants proof that services have been cut and the GOP is obstructionist when it comes to veteran's issues. There's no winning here, is there?

114 comments (Latest Comment: 01/16/2013 04:25:36 by Will in Chicago)
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