More soldiers in the U.S. military’s active-duty, National Guard, and reserve forces died from suicide in the second quarter of this year than soldiers in the entire U.S. military died from the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, a new Pentagon report shows.
This shocking news reveals that active-duty suicide deaths in the 2nd quarter of 2021, versus the 2nd quarter of 2020, had an increase of 46%.
Titled “The Department of Defense (DOD) Quarterly Suicide Report (QSR),” the document reveals that from April 1 to June 30, a total of 139 troops took their lives, with 99 classified as “active component,” 14 as “reserve” members, and 26 as National Guard. Broken down among service branches, the active component deaths include 60 from the Army, eight from the Marine Corps, 17 from the Navy, and 14 from the Air Force.
The newly released numbers are more than double the total number of U.S. service members that have died from coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, with the Military Times reporting 67 COVID-related deaths in the U.S. military to date.
Following an August directive from the Biden administration, all members of the U.S. military are required to receive the COVID jab in order to continue service, with the deadline for vaccination varying among each branch.
“After careful consultation with medical experts and military leadership, and with the support of the President, I have determined that mandatory vaccination against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) is necessary to protect the Force and defend the American people,” wrote Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in an August 25 memo. “To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force.”
Only 65 % of U.S. military members, including all National Guard, Army Reserve and active-duty forces, have been fully vaccinated for the respiratory virus to date, according to Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby.
“I can tell you that active-duty personnel with at least one dose now stands at 96.7% and active-duty personnel that are fully vaccinated stands today at 83.7%,” he said at a recent press conference. “So, we continue to make progress on this and the total force, at least one dose [is] 80%. And fully vaccinated again across the total force is about 65%.”
Our appreciation to The Federalist for contents in this article.
A Marine officer who publicly criticized the Biden administration’s chaotic evacuation of American and allied troops and civilians from Afghanistan has been released from a military brig a little over a week after he was incarcerated.
“Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller Jr. is being released from confinement today, Oct. 5, 2021, as a result of a mutual agreement between Lt. Col. Scheller, his Defense counsel, and the Commanding General, Training Command,” Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Sam Stephenson said in a statement. “No additional details regarding the agreement may be released at this time.”
Scheller was put in pretrial confinement at Camp Lejeune, N.C., on Sept. 27 after ignoring orders to refrain from posting on social media. He was previously relieved of his command after his initial criticism of the evacuations.
In a statement last week, Stephenson said Scheller stands accused of showing contempt toward officials, willfully disobeying a superior officer, failing to obey lawful orders and committing conduct unbecoming of an officer. He has not yet been charged.
Scheller was relieved of command shortly after posting a video on Facebook that demanded senior officials be held accountable for the Taliban’s sudden takeover of Afghanistan and the deaths of 13 American service members killed in a Kabul attack in August. He has said he plans to resign his commission.
The video, which Scheller shared hours after the Kabul attack, has been viewed 1 million times and shared 66,000 times on Facebook.
“I want to say this very strongly,” he said in the video. “I have been fighting for 17 years. I am willing to throw it all away to say to my senior leaders: I demand accountability.”
Scheller has been critical of both Democrats and Republicans in subsequent social media statements. But he has appeared to attract more support from the political right for criticizing the Afghanistan withdrawal, including from Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.) and former president Donald Trump, who shared a story about Scheller on his website.
While many remember the heroic efforts of rescue workers who rushed to save lives as the World Trade Centre collapsed on September 11, 2001, the stories of hundreds of dogs who helped people are not as well known.
From rescue dogs finding survivors, to people being saved in the burning building by guide dogs, as well as finding items of jewellery that could be reunited with victims’ families, thousands had their lives changed by a man’s best friend.
Today we remember their legacy and how many went on to be deployed to other disaster zones, as reported by the Dogington Post.
Apollo rushed to the scene of the attacks, along with his handler, Peter Davis and was the first search and rescue dog to arrive at the site.
The German shepherd nearly lost his life to flames and falling debris, but he managed to survive after falling into a pool of water, and continued working.
He received the Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross, on behalf of the search and rescue dogs who took part in the rescue operations at the World Trade Center site and the Pentagon.
Trakr, a German Shepherd police dog, found the last survivor of the 9/11 attacks who had been trapped under the rubble for 27 hours.
Genelle Guzman-McMillan, an assistant with the Port Authority of New York, was on the 13th floor of the South Tower when it fell.
Along with handler James Symington, Trakr, found Genelle on the morning of September 12.
Thunder, who was usually deployed in the Washington area to look for victims and survivors of avalanches and possible drownings, was sent to search the rubble of the 9/11 attacks for victims.
Bretagne was the last surviving search dog who worked on ground zero.
The golden retriever worked at the scene for 10 days along with her handler Denise Corliss, helping to find victims and carry out rescue operations.
She was also deployed in response to Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, Hurricane Ivan and many other disasters.
A life-size bronze statue of Bretagne, was unveiled in a Houston suburb that’s still feeling the effects of Hurricane Harvey.
Coby and Guinness
The two Labrador retrievers, searched relentlessly through the rubble of the collapsed buildings, often for 12 hours during the night.
Both dogs found the remains of dozens of people and covered an area which went beyond the scope of anything they had been trained for.
Sage searched the rubble of the Pentagon, where she found the body of one of the hijackers.
It was not to be her only high profile assignment, and she was deployed to Iraq in 2007 to search for U.S. soldiers captured or killed by insurgents.
Jake was a stray dog who was rescued at only 10 months old.
He was helped back to health by his handler, Mary Flood, and was flown from Utah to New York to help in search and rescue efforts.
After being fed at a fancy New York restaurant to prepare for the gruelling task ahead, Jake worked for 17 days to look for victims.
Tap to expand
He went on to teach other dogs to follow in his steps by helping to train younger rescue dogs on how to track scents.
If you know of any hero dogs on 9/11? We’d love to hear your stories
Most Americans over the age of 40 will never forget where they were and what they were doing during the 9/11 attack on our nation. September 11th, 2021, marks the 20th anniversary of the deadliest terrorist act in America, killing 2,977 souls at the New York City, World Trade Center, the U.S Pentagon, and the fatal United Airlines Flight 93 crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The terrorist attacks that reigned down on 9/11 include 2,606 within the World Trade Center and surrounding area, 125 killed at the U.S. Pentagon, 265 killed on the four planes, including terrorists, and 19 hijackers committed murder-suicide with a total of more than 6,000 injured.
The loss of life claimed 344 Firefighters; 71 Law Enforcement Officers within the World Trade Center and surrounding area, including another officer who died when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, PA; 55 military personnel died at the Pentagon.
Of the 2,977 souls who met their tragic fate that day, 2,605 were U.S. Citizens, and 372 were non-U.S.citizens, involving more than 90 other countries, excluding the 19 perpetrators.
Let’s also not forget that this catastrophe impacted many thousands of innocent Americans who were diagnosed with cancer and chronic lung conditions from exposure to toxins at Ground Zero.
In addition, the by-product of war ensued through these very terroristic acts and claimed the lives of American military soldiers, marines, and contractors through; Operation Iraqi Freedom; Operation New Dawn, which was composed of casualties occurring in the Arabian and middle east Seas; and Operation Enduring Freedom which was the war involved within Afghanistan.
Like the phoenix rising from the ashes, three warships were constructed and emerged from the very materials of the buildings, and civilians attacked on sovereign territory the morning of September 11, 2001. Through the years, the transformation of steel and grit, reformed and reshaped into the three Navy warships, serving as a symbol of the undying fighting American spirit named and dedicated after the locations of the 9/11 attacks.
The USS New York, USS Arlington, and USS Somerset, each ship was created with some of the material from the sites honoring those innocent victims, and first responders killed that tragic day that America will never forget.
The Warship named, The USS New York (LPD21) commemorates the 9/11 attacks through the spirit and motto of “NEVER FORGET,” this ship’s crest includes an image of the twin towers behind a rising phoenix. It honors the victims of the New York World Trade Center. The first ship was built by Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding at the former Avondale shipyard in New Orleans and delivered in 2010 was the first of the LPD17-class ships. It is fortified with 7.5 tons of steel built into the ship’s bow stem, salvaged from Ground Zero, and 684 feet long, costing more than one billion dollars.
“The significance of where the WTC steel is located on the 684-foot-long ship symbolizes the strength and resiliency of the citizens of New York as it sails forward around the world,” said Navy Cmdr. Quentin King, according to ussnewyork.com. “It sends a message of America becoming stronger as a result, coming together as a country and ready to move forward as we make our way through the world.”
The USS Arlington (LPD24) was named in honor of Arlington County, Virginia, where American Flight 77 crashed into the west wall of the Pentagon. It was delivered in 2012 and was built by Huntington Ingalls Industries; the ship contains a “Tribute Room” fortified by a section of I-Beam and remnants of the crash site.
The USS Somerset (LPD25) was named in honor of Somerset County, where the United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field when Americans fought so courageously against hijackers. This ship was constructed with 22 tons of steel in the ship’s bow, taken from one of two mining excavators present at the site at the time of the fatal crash.
Americans are a strong and resilient people; we are redefined by the honor and valor of our many heroes who fought their way out of hell on that fateful day, September 11, 2001, at Ground Zero, the Pentagon, and onboard United Airlines Flight 93.
This year as we bow our heads in prayer and celebrate the memory of the reverend souls whose names are forever etched in history, their stories will never be forgotten; they were the backbone of American culture, whether they were first responders, civilians, or military personnel.
God Bless the United States of America and all the families of the fallen tied to 9/11; let us learn from the apocalypse of tyranny and hold those accountable who challenge our sovereign way of life, whether they be foreign or domestic terrorists.
“The planes were hijacked, the buildings fell, and thousands of lives were lost nearly a thousand miles from here. But the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were an attack on the heart of America. And standing here in the heartland of America, we say in one voice…
We will not give in to terrorists; We will not rest until they are found and defeated; We will win this struggle, not for glory, nor wealth, nor power, but for justice, for freedom, and for peace; So help us, God,” – Tom Harkin
“Hundreds of boats were converging on Governor’s Island: dinner boats, tug boats, ferries… At the end of the day, over a half million people were evacuated by the volunteer armada of over 120 vessels with nothing in common except for the desire to help their fellow man.”
Waverly, Tennessee experienced historic flooding on August 21st, 2021. The area was hit suddenly with 17″ of rainfall, leaving at least 20 people dead and destroying 250 plus homes and countless businesses.
In the midst of a tragedy, a grain of hope emerged in the form of a 6-year-old Great Pyrenees-Labrador mix named Cooper. The dog is being hailed as a hero after he helped a boy survive the floodwaters.
“He said that when he was hanging on to a pole, the dog came down the creek and managed to swim over to him. He said this dog saved my life, he swam to me and made me hold on.”
The boy and Cooper were later brought aboard rescue boats. Aside from Cooper getting a small scrape on his back, both he and the boy he helped were fine.
Veterinarian Dr. Jessica Peek owns the Waverly Animal Clinic, where Cooper ended up later that day. She told Daily Mail Cooper definitely received the hero treatment while in their care.
“We’ve been calling him Big Hero Dog all week long. He’s a living sweetie and we’ve been giving him lots of treats, telling him he’s a hero.”
Waverly Animal Clinic shared on Facebook that all their kennels were full in the aftermath of the flood. Peek said Cooper’s story is just one of many involving pets affected by the weekend flooding. Several animals were separated from their families during the storm.
“You feel a little helpless and don’t know what to do when people are trapped and looking for their pets. We’ve tried to give pets a safe place to be so owners could deal with other things they have to deal with.”
A Hero Reunites With His Proud Family
Caitlyn Rochelle learned her dog Cooper was at Waverly Animal Center when she saw the post about him on Facebook. She later told Daily Mail how proud she was of her sweet pup:
“It made me cry. It was no surprise that he saw someone else in distress and went after him.”
Cooper was staying with Rochelle’s father when he got swept away by the water. Rochelle’s own home had flooded when a tree crashed through her roof that Saturday morning.
Both Rochelle and her father are overjoyed to have Cooper back. Just as he demonstrated with his rescue of the stranded boy, he’s an emotionally supportive dog.
“He’s always been a good dog, a great emotional support animal. When my dad and I get depression, Cooper senses it and sits and lays his head on us.”
Leave it to a dog to be completely selfless in his own time of need.
Planes land with United States military member’s bodies inside. As soldiers offload caskets onto the tarmac and prepare for hard weeks ahead, military officials, family members, and loved ones wait for the Dignified Transfer. Most have their right hand to their forehead in a salute, while others have their hand over their heart. One by one, the caskets are carried off of the plane. As you glance over, you see the President of the United States checking his watch?
Why does President Joe Biden think he can do whatever he wants? Even if you have no respect for the soldiers and families, you should act as if you do.
Many families chose not to meet with Biden after the Dignified Transfer because they saw how disingenuous Biden was and knew his actions and decisions caused the death of their family member. It’s unimaginable what the families felt as they spoke to Biden about the incidents, and many declined the meeting altogether.
The father of Rylee McCollum didn’t meet with Biden and told Fox News that he went to a different room. The father said that he declined the meeting because of Biden’s decisions and handling the exit. Nobody can blame him. He said that everything Biden has done is backward and doesn’t understand how Biden could conclude. “A high school kid could make better decisions than this” is a statement he made that will ring true for as long as Biden is in power.
Rylee McCollum’s sister said she could only handle about 15 seconds of Biden’s statement and apology and said it was fake and walked away from him. If Biden were sincere, he would look them in the eye and stand behind the decisions that he’s made and give a proper apology. Biden would understand that every move he made was strategically advantageous to the mission and would know in his heart that he made the right decisions with the wrong outcome. This situation is different. The dire situation with the faulty work leaves many deserving answers that haven’t been given. McCollum’s sister said that Biden couldn’t even look them in the eyes and merely tapped McCollum’s wife on the knee and said he understands because he lost his son. McCollum’s father said Biden made it more about his son than about the service members who lost their lives. That reads valid through his press conferences as well.
It isn’t the only mention of parents of fallen soldiers who had it out with Biden. Shana Chappelle posted on Facebook about her encounter with Biden. She said that she stood 5 inches from his face and told him that he knew nothing about what she felt when Biden tried to give her the “my son died too.” Chappelle said that after Biden interrupted her and she responded, he rolled his eyes and walked away. Chappelle told Biden that soldiers’ blood is on his hands, and he threw his hands up. Biden is in uncharted territory if he’s acting this way with the families of our soldiers.
The U.S. Central Command has denied leaving any dogs in cages at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, or abandoning any U.S. military working dogs, as the last American troops made their final historic exit from the country. A picture of rescue dogs in carriers in a hangar at the airport has been circulating online and has prompted a firestorm of criticism. However, questions do remain about the ultimate fate of these non-U.S. working dogs.
U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Karen Roxberry, a spokesperson for Central Command (CENTCOM), issued an official statement on the matter today. Various animal welfare organizations in Afghanistan and outside of the country had been working to evacuate dozens of dogs and cats from the country as part of the larger evacuation operations at the airport in Kabul over the past two weeks. The work of the Kabul Small Animal Rescue (KSAR), a non-profit organization, and Nowzad, an animal rescue charity, have drawn particular media attention.
“The U.S. priority mission was the evacuation of U.S. citizens, SIV and vulnerable Afghans,” Roxberry’s statement reads, referring to, in part, Afghans eligible for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) due to the risks they face from the Taliban due to having worked with the U.S. government. “However, to correct erroneous reports, the US military did not leave any dogs in cages at Hamid Karzai International Airport, to include the reported ‘military working dogs.'”
“Photos circulating online were animals under the care of the Kabul Small Animal Rescue, not dogs under the care of the U.S. military,” the statement continues. “Despite an ongoing complicated and dangerous retrograde mission, U.S. forces went to great lengths to assist the Kabul Small Animal Rescue as much as possible.”
The U.S. military is known to have evacuated its own working dogs previously. The U.S. State Department has also denied that any of its working dogs were left behind in Afghanistan.
The CENTCOM statement, however, does not speak directly to some of the other allegations leveled by KSAR and other animal welfare organizations regarding the fate of approximately 130 other dogs that had been at Hamid Karzai International Airport. This group of animals is understood to have included some number of former Afghan security forces working dogs. KSAR had been working to get them out of the country as part of an effort dubbed Operation Hercules.
“In the end, the dogs and their caretakers were explicitly NOT allowed to board military aircraft, and numerous private charter aircraft were not granted access to the airport either,” according to a lengthy statement issued yesterday bySPCA International, which cited information provided by KSAR founder Charlotte Maxwell-Jones. “Charlotte was informed that most of the KSAR dogs had to be released into the airport on August 30 as the airport was evacuated – turning once rescued shelter dogs into homeless strays.”
At the time of that statement, Maxwell-Jones remained in Afghanistan and had reportedly been escorted from the airport back to her shelter, which is situated approximately seven miles outside of Kabul, by the Taliban. Other KSAR staff, along with an unspecified number of rescue cats, were described as being “at another location in Kabul.”
The exact particulars of why the animals were reportedly not allowed to board military evacuations flights and why chartered aircraft arranged on behalf of KSAR may not have been allowed to land at the airport in Kabul are still murky. “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recently enacted policy suspending transports of dogs from Afghanistan and more than 100 other nations into the U.S., was another terrible impediment, despite our negotiations and pleadings,” according to the SPCA International statement.
“We applied for an Emergency Exemption so that Charlotte and the dogs could get out on our chartered flight this week. But the CDC’s adherence to its import policy during this time of crisis put animals and people at risk,” it continued. “We are alarmed that leaders at the CDC are not bringing a more balanced perspective to the importation of dogs, especially after the U.S. House of Representatives rebuked CDC on this issue and passed an amendment to restore a proper screening process.”
There could also have been similar issues at play with regards to the importation of animals into countries other than the United States. U.S. military evacuation flights did not head straight to the United States after leaving Afghanistan.
In addition, in a now-deleted Tweet yesterday, KSAR had also mentioned “we have so much $ awaiting refunds in canceled flights,” raising questions about the actual status of the expected charter flight. As of Aug. 29, there had been word that another non-profit organization called Veteran Sheepdogs of America had offered to take KSAR’s animals out on a plane it had chartered, but that there were concerns about whether that aircraft could even get to Kabul. Tweets today between Veteran Sheepdogs of America and Gray Television personality Greta Van Susteren indicate that there may be an emerging legal tussle over the whole situation.
Regardless, everything we know and continue to learn about the last few days of the evacuation operations indicates that it was full of mad scrambles to get people to the airport in Kabul and onto planes on the ground to get them out. It would not necessarily be surprising that many charter aviation companies, whether they believed they could get approval to land or not, might have been hesitant to make the trip.
The U.S. military had separately stressed that in the final stages of the evacuations it would prioritize people above all else, as CENTCOM’s statement today reiterates. It is not hard to see how American officials at Hamid Karzai International Airport would have been more preoccupied with finding space on any remaining flights for humans, rather than animals. At the same time, there were reports of official evacuation flights leaving Kabul with room to spare in the leadup to the final American withdrawal. As it stands, the United States was not able to evacuate everyone it had wanted to in the end, regardless, and is now exploring other options to get remaining American citizens and at-risk Afghans out of the country.
“We’ll continue to do everything we can to evacuate Kabul Small Animal Rescue’s staff and animals from the country after August 31,” Lori Kalef, Director of Programs at SPCA International, had said in the statement from that organization yesterday, highlighting that people, as well as animals, are also part of this particular equation. “We cannot thank our supporters enough for everything they’ve done to help the dogs and cats of Kabul and their caretakers.”
“Charlotte here! I want to apologize for the quiet social media,” according to a post just today on KSAR’s official Facebook page. “We are busy making plans, checking them twice, sorting out details, and keeping things quiet to maintain our own and the animals’ security.”
This is not the only instance of disputes between animal welfare organizations operating in Afghanistan and government officials during the recent evacuations from Afghanistan, either. Nowzad, which is based in the United Kingdom and is run by Paul “Pen” Farthing, a former Royal Marine, drew criticism in the past week over its own rescue effort.
Critics in the United Kingdom, including government officials, had implied that Farthing’s activities had taken up valuable resources that could have been used to help people get inside to safety before and after that attack. Farthing disputed that U.K. authorities had provided any assistance to him, at all. “I did that with the Taliban… Nobody facilitated my entry… any interpreters or anybody else, there was me and the truck full of dogs and cats,” he said in a subsequent interview.
However, he also thanked the U.K. government for its support in the end. That statement came after The Times newspaper reported that it had obtained an audio recording of him leaving an expletive-laden voicemail for a special adviser to the country’s Defense Secretary Ben Wallace over allegations that his animal evacuation flight was being blocked.
All told, the exact fate of KSAR’s dogs that were at the airport in Kabul remains unknown. Beyond that, only time will tell what will now happen to that organization, its staff, and its remaining cats, as well as Nowzad staff.
The Taliban have since confirmed that the dogs in question were released into the airport and are still on the loose. They say they are trying to round them up now and may be interested in putting any working dogs among them to use in the future.
Stars and Stripes has also published an interview with Charlotte Maxwell-Jones about the entire situation.
You can read more about all of this and other new developments in our continuing coverage of this story here.
“You can’t f— up as bad as he did and say you’re sorry,” Marine’s sister said of Biden
The family of one of the Marines killed in Afghanistanlast week slammed President Biden’s meeting with the Marine’s pregnant widow as scripted and a “total disregard” to the service member’s death.
Biden traveled to Dover, Delaware, on Sunday to attend the dignified transfer of the 13 service members killed in Kabul’s suicide bombings last week and meet with their families.
Jiennah McCollum, the pregnant wife of Marine Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, alongside the fallen Marine’s father and sisters, were scheduled to meet with the president, but only Jiennah ended up speaking with Biden.
Roice McCollum, one of the late corporal’s sisters, told the Washington Post on Sunday that she, her sister and her father all refused to meet with Biden because they held him responsible for their fallen Marine’s death.
Jiennah’s meeting with Biden did not go over well, though, with Roice saying the pregnant widow was frustrated after briefly speaking with the president.
Roice said the family felt the president’s conversation with Jiennah was hollow and lacking meaning, and said Biden appeared to show a “total disregard to the loss of our Marine.”
According to Roice’s account to the Post, Biden spoke about the service of his veteran son, Beau Biden, and his death from brain cancer — a topic Biden also brought up while both addressing the nation after the deadly Kabul suicide bombing and speaking with the new prime minister of Israel.
“You can’t f— up as bad as he did and say you’re sorry,” Roice said in regards to Biden. “This did not need to happen, and every life is on his hands.”
Paula Knauss of Clearwater, Florida, the mother of 23-year-old Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, said she was heartbroken over the loss of her son and eviscerated Biden’s “hasty withdrawal after 20 years of war.”
“You can’t have a hasty withdrawal after 20 years of war,” she said. “Because it’s beyond me.”
“It disgraces the name of all those who have fought in the past and who are now on ground, foreign ground fighting right now, my son’s [82nd] Airborne is still there, and they deserve to be protected,” Knauss continued.
Houston Keene is a reporter for Fox News Digital. You can find him on Twitter at @HoustonKeene.
Daniel Glor started this petition to President, Board of Education Michael Fuchs and 6 others
Honoring Major Andrew D. Byers
Proposal: We propose to name the Clarence High School pool after Major Andrew D. Byers, a distinguished Clarence Swimming Alumnus. Doing so will honor and commemorate how he lived and the example he set through his bravery, character, and the ultimate sacrifice he made in defense of our nation.
Clarence alumni swimmers and divers often return to the pool to visit the team and share stories, provide advice, and enjoy the camaraderie. The students gain insight and inspiration from these alumni visits. Andy will never be able to share his brave story and rich insights with current and future swimmers, so we propose doing so on his behalf by memorializing him in a noted place in his life: The Clarence High School pool. Naming the pool after this beloved husband, son, brother, dear friend, distinguished student athlete and selfless guardian of our nation’s freedom will provide an example for future generations of Clarence swimmers and students.
Andy’s Story: Major Andrew Byers (US Army Special Forces) was killed in action in Kunduz, Afghanistan on November 3, 2016 while conducting a ‘Train, Advise, and Assist’ mission with Afghan special operations forces. Byers was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for selflessly running into a kill zone to retrieve a fallen Afghan comrade, for maintaining positive control of a 59-man force during a seemingly hopeless situation, and for sacrificing his life by leading from the front to rescue his men.
By putting himself in harm’s way to selflessly save his comrades, Andy died in a manner consistent with the way he lived. Those that knew Andy best were not surprised by the accounts of the selfless valor he displayed that day. Andy’s strength of character was apparent to those he interacted with throughout his life. His peers and friends would often tell others how he served as a shining example of the very best that Clarence High School has to offer.
Andy especially shined in the pool as a four-time All-American Swimmer and team captain. As detailed by his swim coach Eric McClaren, “It was Andy’s distinct ability to lead and to motivate the people around him that set him apart from others. He was a role model from the first day he walked into the pool. Even the upperclassmen would tell you that Andy was the driving force behind our team. It is no coincidence that Andy’s class never lost a dual meet in his entire high school career.”
Andy was known to have the strongest work ethic on the team and an unmatched drive to not only be his best, but to help others around him realize their true potential. While Andy was a formidable example of strength, he also possessed genuine kindness and compassion when interacting with those who needed some encouragement. Andy was welcoming to all. Andy excelled in academics at Clarence and participated in student council and the yearbook committee. Despite his many achievements, Andy remained the same modest person his peers came to know.
After graduating from Clarence, Andy attended The United States Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated 12th in his class of 972. Following graduation, Andy joined the Green Berets, successfully completed Jump School, and became a ranking officer of a High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) Parachutist team. Andy had a distinguished military career, highlighted by a posthumous award of the Silver Star, the United States’ third highest decoration for valor in combat.
In addition to receiving the Silver Star, throughout his distinguished career, Andy was awarded the Purple Heart, three Army Commendation Medals, Army Achievement Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Parachutist and Military Free Fall Parachutist badges, the Ranger tab, and the Special Forces tab.
The fellow alumni of Clarence High School are honored to have Andy as an alumnus. There are no words to properly encapsulate the quality of Andy’s character, but Coach McClaren comes closest with “exceptional.” Andy was a beloved husband, son and brother, a dear friend, distinguished student -athlete, and a selfless guardian of our nation. Naming the Clarence High School pool after Andy is a permanent and tangible way to honor him, recognize the way he lived his life, and enables his story to serve as an example for future generations of Clarence students.
Be thou at peace Andy. May we forever honor your bravery and sacrifice.
THIS 🙌: The moment you all have been waiting for. WATCH as Robin, the last dog on this South Korean dog meat farm, is removed and rescued! Like our very own Nara says, "this farm is now officially gone, gone!" 🎉 pic.twitter.com/8kzegvjCPT
The flower fields at Fennville Cemetery in Michigan feature a beautiful sea of poppies. If you come across this place, you will think that it is an ordinary flower farm. However, there’s a heartwarming and interesting story behind this stunning poppy field.
Two years ago, couple Joan Donaldson and John Van Voorhees started planting the poppies in the four-acre field. This is to honor their son, Mateo Donaldson, who was previously deployed in Afghanistan. He was a beekeeper on this farm before he joined the military and went to Afghanistan. YouTube
“He came home with PTSD and took his own life,” Joan disclosed. Apparently, combat situations have negative effects on the soldiers’ minds and bodies. The families of soldiers who have PTSD are also greatly affected by their loved ones’ unfortunate situation.
“We decided to create the poppy field in memory of him, because all these flowers feed the bees and butterflies, which he loved caring for so much. He’s not buried very far from this field,” Joan added.
Just 200 feet away from the poppy field lies Mateo’s grave. The couple said that looking at the flower fields give them peace, knowing that their beloved son is watching over them. Though Mateo’s death was very sad and tragic, Joan and John still see their son as a hero who fought and died for their country. YouTube
The four-acre field of white, red and blue flowers is not just for the couple to enjoy. A lot of veterans also find solace in this breath-taking flower field when they visit the cemetery. The couple is glad when veterans who have PTSD talk to them and say how much peace they feel when they look at the colorful flowers.
They believe that Mateo is not only watching over them but also his fellow soldiers suffering from PTSD. Even people who are not veterans find interest in this beautiful farm. Whatever it is that they are struggling with in life, the amazing field of flowers seems to take all their worries away. YouTube
“I think, for the most part, we live in a world where people don’t provide enough beauty, or think about it, or how much it could mean to them. So, maybe when they encounter situations like this, they begin to realize how much they need it,” Joan said.
Seeing how the flower fields always become the “calm in the storm” for many visitors, the couple encourages more people to visit their field of poppies. They only have a few rules for visitors to follow: don’t walk in the fields and don’t pick flowers. Facebook
Of course, this field of flowers is very precious for the couple so they are only looking after it. If you would like to visit, simply follow their rules and find yourself in great solace, watching the spectacular view of beautiful and colourful flowers. You can find the farm at 5859 124th Avenue in Fennville, Michigan.
What a unique way to honor and remember a family member! Truly, losing a loved one is a hard battle but their memories and their love will stay in our hearts forever.
Watch this video and be amazed by this lovely field of poppies:
“He that takes truth for his guide, and duty for his end, may safely trust to God’s providence to lead him aright.” - Blaise Pascal. "There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily" – George Washington letter to Edmund Randolph — 1795. We live in a “post-truth” world. According to the dictionary, “post-truth” means, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Simply put, we now live in a culture that seems to value experience and emotion more than truth. Truth will never go away no matter how hard one might wish. Going beyond the MSM idealogical opinion/bias and their low information tabloid reality show news with a distractional superficial focus on entertainment, sensationalism, emotionalism and activist reporting – this blogs goal is to, in some small way, put a plug in the broken dam of truth and save as many as possible from the consequences—temporal and eternal. "The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." – George Orwell “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ― Soren Kierkegaard