Two U.S. Servicemembers Killed in Afghanistan


By Debbie Gregory

Two U.S. Army Rangers who were killed in Afghanistan on April 26th  may have been struck by “friendly fire” according to the Pentagon.

Both Sgt. Joshua Rodgers, 22, and Sgt. Cameron Thomas, 23, were deployed from Fort Benning, Ga. A third soldier was wounded in the operation.

Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis confirmed that there is an investigation to determine whether the men had been killed by ground fire, either from American forces or Afghan commandos who were taking part in the raid.

“We are investigating the circumstances of the combat deaths of the two Army Rangers in the beginning of what was an intense three-hour firefight,” Davis said.

Davis said the target of Wednesday’s deadly raid was Abdul Hasib, whom Defense Department officials called the emir of the Islamic State in Afghanistan. Pentagon officials said they could not confirm that he was killed in the operation.

A spokesman for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, Captain William Salvin said the deaths occurred in the same valley where the United States had dropped “the mother of all bombs,” the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast.

The soldiers were fighting the Islamic State in Nangarhar Province. They were taking part in a lengthy raid, supported by airstrikes from American warplanes, in Achin, a small district where a number of Islamic State fighters have been engaging in a long-running battle with Afghanistan security forces.

U.S. officials say intelligence suggests Islamic State is based overwhelmingly in Nangarhar and neighboring Kunar province.

U.S. officials have said they believe that IS has only 700 fighters in Afghanistan, but Afghan officials estimate it has more than double that number.

In a statement, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Sergeants Rodgers and Thomas “proved themselves willing to go into danger and impose a brutal cost on enemies in their path.Our nation owes them an irredeemable debt, and we give our deepest condolences to their families.”

California Governor Pardons Three Deported Veterans To Help Them Regain Residency

Deported Veterans

Following their honorable discharges from the military, three former servicemembers were convicted of crimes and deported. None of these crimes resulted in a physical injury to another party.

Marines Erasmo Apodaca Mendizabal and Marco Antonio Chavez, as well as former soldier Hector Barajas Varela are the Veterans pardoned by California Governor Jerry Brown, which may restore their green cards and allow them to apply for U.S. citizenship.

Former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, also a Marine Corps veteran, worked on their cases, and said, “The injustice we are solving is not the actual crime or conviction, the injustice is what the federal government did to them.”

As a lawful permanent resident, Erasmo Apodaca Mendizabal joined the Marine Corps after graduating from high school. During his three years of service, he was deployed to Iraq in Operation Desert Storm. He earned a national defense service medal and other military honors.

In 1996, he broke into his ex-girlfriend’s house when he was drunk and stole $500 worth of goods. He was convicted of burglary and was deported in 1997 after serving a ten month sentence.

At 19 years old, Marco Antonio Chavez enlisted in the Marine Corps and served for four years.

In 1998, he was convicted for animal cruelty and served 10 months in prison. An immigration judge considered his conviction an aggravated felony, which led to his deportation in 2002.

He moved with his family to Mexico, and his wife, who does not speak Spanish, commuted across the border for work. Eventually his family moved to Iowa, leaving him in Mexico.

Hector Barajas served in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division from 1995 until he was honorably discharged in 2001. When he returned home to Compton, CA, he struggled to adjust to civilian life. One night, he was arrested for shooting a gun from his vehicle. Even though no one was hurt, he was charged with assault. He pleaded guilty to illegal discharge of a firearm and served two years in prison. Then he was deported to Mexico.

Barajas established the Deported Veterans Support House in Tijuana to help fellow deported veterans adjust to their new lives. “The Bunker” as it is known, is a two-story apartment covered in military posters and American. flags.

After receiving a heads-up, Fletcher was in Tijuana with Barajas when he learned that the governor had granted his pardon.

“He was stunned, he started crying, he was overwhelmed,” Fletcher said. “He couldn’t believe it. He’s had just years and years of bad news, yet every day he gets out there and tries to help.”

Immigrants who serve in the United States military are eligible for citizenship. All of those who serve often have problems adjusting to civilian life and this should be a consideration. With their pardons and the reason for their dismissed green cards gone, their lawyers will argue that the crucial permit for living and working in the United States should be reinstated

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Paralyzed Army Veteran Walking Again


By Debbie Gregory.

In 2004, Eugene Simpson Jr, 26, was an Army tank commander with the1st Battalion, 77th Armor, based in Schweinfurt, Germany. His unit deployed to Iraq to help train the Iraqi Army and conduct patrol missions.

One day his patrol unit was struck by the force of an improvised explosive device as they drove by it. He was ejected from the vehicle and badly injured. He was flown back to Germany for multiple surgeries. The prognosis was not good.

Simpson, an athletic soldier, was paralyzed from the waist down with a severed spine. As is often the case for many disabled Veterans who have returned home from war, the father of two became divorced within the year.

“Once you get home, someone has to make things accessible for you, and you have to find your way around it,” he recalls. “And that was a little difficult.”

Simpson was re-married in 2013 to his wife, Aerial. He adjusted to his “new normal” with the help and support of his family.

While at McGuire for an annual checkup, Simpson saw another veteran on one of the exoskeletons. “It looked awesome,” Simpson said. “And my head was rushing and I was thinking how amazing it would be to stand up and walk around a little bit again.”

Simpson, who now is 40, was accepted as a volunteer in one of the VA‘s multicenter Cooperative Study Programs based on new powered exoskeleton technology that can provide eligible paraplegics a chance at a better quality of life.

The program is based upon pilot research by Dr. Ann Spungen of the Bronx VA Medical Center’s Center of Excellence on Medical Consequences of Spinal Cord Injury.

“Exoskeletons allow upright ambulation in the household and community for persons with SCI who otherwise lack functional ambulation,” said Dr. Lance Goetz, site investigator for the Richmond McGuire study.

Simpson was already in shape, so he had very little preparation to do for the study.

The FDA approved exoskeleton, called the ReWalk 6.0, is a wearable robotic exoskeleton that provides powered hip and knee motion for independent, controlled walking while mimicking the natural gait of the legs.

The ReWalk 6.0 not only improves mental, social and physical health by standing and walking, but also helps overcome bowel and bladder management difficulties.

“The importance of the study [to me] is just that it’s giving guys that are paralyzed just the opportunity to feel normal and do the things they couldn’t do because of the wheelchair. People don’t realize that, just one or two steps, it changes guy’s lives. Mentally it can do amazing things.”

Military and Veteran Medicine has become world-class and has evolved well beyond the “Six Million Dollar Man”.   Tell us what you think at:

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Service Disabled Veteran Business Owners Info

service disabled

The purpose of the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Concern Procurement Program is to provide procuring agencies with the authority to set acquisitions aside for exclusive competition among service-disabled veteran-owned small business concerns. The program also has the authority to make sole source awards to service-disabled veteran-owned small business concerns if certain conditions are met.

At VAMBOA (Veterans and Military Business Owners Association), our focus is connecting Service Disabled Veteran Business Owners, Veteran Business Owners and Military Business Owners with opportunities to grow their businesses.

Statistics show that that 70 percent of Americans would prefer to do business with a veteran-owned business than one that is not veteran-owned. Veterans are trusted by Americans.

The private sector also represents endless contract potential. And while there is a demand for service disabled and veteran businesses qualified for contract opportunities, the certification process can be difficult to navigate.

To become certified as Vet-owned, you will need your DD 214. If you intend to apply for service-disabled status, you will also need a letter from the United States Department of Veteran Affairs stating that you are, indeed, service-disabled. Contact the VA’s benefits office if you have lost or misplaced this disability status letter.

The more important factor centers on whether in fact there exists actual veteran ownership, control, and direct “hands on” operating/ management, or whether a veteran’s status is being used in name only.

There will always be those who are ready, willing and able to play the system, evading laws, regulations, or guidelines to win a contract. But for those who want to play by the rules, help is available.

If you are a veteran or service-disabled veteran, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has a multitude of resources to help you start and grow your small business. From creating a business plan to finding your first customer, the SBA will assist you and help you succeed. They also have funding sources for your business.

And don’t forget to join VAMBOA. Membership is free, and you will receive all of the benefits of membership. Here is a link to join:


Two Airmen Receive Air Force’s Highest Honor


By Debbie Gregory.

Two former Special tactics airmen received Air Force Crosses on Thursday at Hurburt Field in Florida.   Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein who officiated at the ceremony and said, “What they did was the essence of special tactics.”  

Military Connection wants to commend and congratulate both of these American heroes. They represent the best of the best and are true heroes who went above and beyond moving deliberately into harm’s way to protect others.  

Retired Master Sgt. Keary Miller. a pararescueman assigned to the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron in 2002, fought in the 17-hour battle that has become known as the Battle of Robert’s Ridge.

Staff Sgt. Chris Baradat, a combat controller assigned to the 21st Expeditionary Special Tactics Squadron, directed 13 releases of 500-pound bombs and more than 1,100 rounds from A-10s and AC-130s during three hours of fighting in 2013.

These special tactics airmen had previously received Silver Stars for gallantry, but their medals were upgraded as a result of a Defense Department-mandated review of valor awards bestowed for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Air Force Cross is the service’s second highest medal for valor in combat.

Both of these heroes are very humble and act like they did nothing special. Miller told reporters that “We don’t go out there picking missions to try to get a medal,” he said. “We go out there to perform what the Air Force has recruited us and trained us to do.”

Staff Sgt. Chris Baradat said, “A lot of the difficulty was just coordinating between different air assets that were coming in for strikes and having to move other aircraft out of the way,” Baradat told reporters during the teleconference.   He said that “he was just one piece of the puzzle”.

America is in good hands with these incredible heroes among us. Those who serve and their loved ones sacrifice so much so the rest of us can be safe. We must never forget those who serve and wear our nation’s uniform.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.


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