Today is our 4,356th 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: 2,266
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1,102
We find this morning's cost of war
passing through: $ 1, 471, 264, 650, 000 .00
As you know, I collect stories all week long for this particular blog....from time to time, my cache just gets a bit out of control, so we're diving right in.
We'll start with record keeping. If you have elder relatives and have been interested in their service history, then you know about the devastating National Archive fire in 1973
. This wiped out a significant portion of WWII records.
No such event has happened since then, instead we just lose the paperwork
The Army has conceded a significant loss of records documenting battlefield action and other operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and has launched a global search to recover and consolidate field records from the wars.
In an order to all commands and a separate letter to leaders of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Army Secretary John McHugh said the service also is taking immediate steps to clarify responsibility for wartime record keeping.
The moves follow inquiries from the committee’s leaders after a ProPublica and Seattle Times investigation last year reported that dozens of Army and National Guard units had lost or failed to keep required field records, in some cases impeding the ability of veterans to obtain disability benefits. The problem primarily affected the Army but also extended to U.S. Central Command in Iraq.
McHugh, in his letter to committee leaders, said that while the Army kept some of the required records, “we acknowledge that gaps exist.”
Of course, some veterans with good paperwork are still having issues with their service. There's a little-known loophole regarding the Vietnam war that is keeping veterans from receiving additional benefits that they should be entitled to. Say for instance, you were in the Navy in those days, but never actually set foot in Vietnam. The VA treats you differently.
CHICAGO — If Greg Fuller had ever, even for just a few minutes, set foot on Vietnamese soil during the time he spent serving in the Vietnam War, he'd be eligible to collect thousands of dollars each year in disability payments.
Diagnosed in 2005 with prostate cancer, Fuller is among the untold number of Vietnam veterans who have illnesses that have been linked to Agent Orange, an herbicide that the U.S. military sprayed over the Vietnamese jungle to expose enemy forces and destroy food crops.
But as a member of the so-called Blue Water Navy — sailors who served aboard ships that operated off the shore of Vietnam — Fuller has received only denial letters from the Department of Veterans Affairs, which maintains that the cancer is not connected to his service in the war because his boots never touched land.
The VA says Blue Water Navy veterans aren't eligible because the herbicide was sprayed over land. Veterans and their advocates say the herbicide ran off into the South China Sea, contaminating the water that the Navy distilled for drinking and powering the ships' boilers.
Now think for a moment that you're an endangered bird of some sort. You'd think the last place you want to be is where the military is firing heavy artillery or dropping bombs. But surprisingly enough, it turns out that military ranges don't have the bird's biggest enemies on it - people. Some of them are thriving.
SAN CLEMENTE ISLAND, CALIF. — The sign leaves no doubt about the risk in entering the steep seaside hills that North America’s rarest bird calls home: “Danger. Boom. Explosives. Unexploded Ordnance and Laser Range in Use. Keep Out.”
Despite the weekly explosions that rock this Navy-owned island off the Southern California coast, the San Clemente Island loggerhead shrike has been rebounding from the brink of extinction, even on the military’s only ship-to-shore bombardment range.
The black, gray and white songbird — which has gone from a low of 13 in the 1990s to 140 today — is among scores of endangered species thriving on military lands during the past decade.
For many, it’s a surprising contrast, with troops preparing for war, yet taking precautions to not disturb animals such as the red-cockaded woodpecker and thumb-size Pacific pocket mouse. But military officials downplay the relationship, saying they’re concerned primarily with national security.
We finally reach the war zone with our last story today...Ever wonder what it would be like to have your village destroyed by the US military? Like so many other places in wartime, a hamlet in Afghanistan was the most important place in the world for a few days, got destroyed, and both sides moved on. It never recovered
TAROK KOLACHE, Afghanistan — It took 50,000 pounds of American explosives to level Niaz Mohammad’s village.
The village had become a Taliban stronghold, a virtual factory for bombs that killed and maimed American soldiers. At the height of the U.S. offensive in late 2010, commanders chose what they considered their best option: They approved an airstrike that flattened all the buildings in town, more than 40, including Mohammad’s home. Though no civilians were killed, the bombardment quickly became one of the most controversial attacks of the war in Afghanistan.
Three years later, the village is a sandy ruin, symbolizing the gains and losses of America’s longest war. A handful of villagers, among them Mohammad, have trickled back. The U.S. Army withdrew this summer from the valley where Tarok Kolache is located. The Taliban has mostly fled to other districts.
Relative peace came to Tarok Kolache, but only after it was demolished.
But wait, there's more! We'll now head into bonus-click territory:Nato says "no plans to withdraw from Afghanistan"
In av-dork news, the Air Force discovers what geese already knew.