Category Archives: Military

Bodies of solders slain in Mexican War returned to U.S.

The remains of 11 American soldiers killed in the Mexican-American War, likely including at least some Tennesseans, are finally returning today to American soil, according to news releases from U.S. Reps. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, and Scott DesJarlais, R-South Pittsburg.

From DesJarlais:
Washington, D.C. – Last year, Representative Scott DesJarlais (R-TN-04), introduced a resolution urging the Government of Mexico and the Mexican Secretariat of Foreign Affairs to expedite the release of identified remains of 11 American Soldiers who fought in the battle of Monterey in 1846.

170 years ago, Brigadier General Zachary Taylor led a 6,000 man military force composed largely of Tennessee Volunteers and Texas Rangers to capture the town of Monterrey. During this battle the United States suffered 120 casualties, 368 were wounded and 43 were reported missing.

According to Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology, the uncovered remains of the 11 U.S. soldiers were found at a construction site near the Texan border. The remains were identified as American soldiers who died in combat after an examination of the buttons sewn into their uniforms as well as two U.S. half-dollar coins excavated in the area. Continue reading

Navy pulls Lundberg from legislative session

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — State Rep. Jon Lundberg, a captain in the Navy Reserve, will miss the remainder of the legislative session after being called up for duty at the Pentagon.

The Bristol Republican is vacating his House seat to run for the northeastern Tennessee state Senate seat being vacated by the retirement of Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey this fall.

It’s not the first time that Lundberg’s military duties have conflicted with his elected responsibilities. He missed the end of the 2007 session when he was called to duty in Australia.

Lundberg is a former television reporter and anchor who is the founder and president of media and marketing firm The Corporate Image Inc. in Bristol.

Adjutant general upset with TN National Guard misconduct

Adjutant General Terry Haston summoned all Tennessee National Guard recruiters to a closed-door meeting this week and declared “my tolerance level is zero” for the misconduct reported by WSMV-TV of Nashville.

The station has reported on alleged drunken driving by guardsmen, on guardsmen having sex with prostitutes while on an overseas mission and on a case where a top recruiter found was by investigators to have given his prescription pills to the wife of a guardsman with whom he was having an affair.

From the report on Tuesday’s meeting and the “harsh lecture” delivered by Haston and top staff members:

While the meeting was held behind closed doors, the I-Team obtained audio of what was said inside.

“I don’t know how to say it other than this: any instances of impropriety from 15 October on – I will be [expletive] ruthless about enforcing,” Lt. Col. Andrew Grubb said.

Sgt. Major Terry Scott addressed the recruiters about the I-Team’s investigation that showed dash-cam video of two recruiters accused of driving a recruit in a truck hauling a horse trailer while drunk.

“There are some things I don’t like. When all this TV show – we’re doing this – and I saw the two drunks on TV – and knew they were national guardsmen – it embarrassed me as an NCO. And embarrassed me for the Tennessee National Guard,” Scott said.

Haston said while he supported the recruiters, he was also frustrated.

“I cannot tolerate any more of this behavior, and you all know exactly what I’m talking about,” Haston said. “My tolerance level is zero. … More than half my behavior problems in the Tennessee National Guard comes from my recruiting force.”

Haston and his staff are also being criticized by recruiters who have come to the I-Team, angry that some of the men featured in the investigations were still allowed to advance through the ranks.

…“I’m not going to tolerate you dragging my organization down that I love,” Haston said in the meeting.

Recruiters who are critical of Haston are calling for a congressional investigation into the men featured in the investigations and how they were allowed to stay in the guard.

Guardsmen with guns get civil immunity, free lawyers

Tennessee National Guard members with state handgun-carry permits, who were authorized last year to bring their firearms into state military facilities, will have both civil immunity and legal representation under a bill that passed the state Senate on Monday in a 32-0 vote, according to the Times-Free Press.

Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, said the issue “was brought to our attention after the terrorist attacks in Chattanooga that killed five of our service members.”

Tennessee Adj. Gen. Max Haston last year changed longstanding policy that prohibited National Guard members from carrying their personal firearms at state facilities.

The move came after 24-year-old Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez attacked a U.S. military recruiting station on Lee Highway and then went on to attack the U.S. Naval and Marine Reserve Center on Amnicola Highway, where he shot and killed or mortally wounded five Marine and Navy reservists.

“What [Haston] could not do and what he brought to our attention is that he could not extend any civil immunity in the event of another terrorist attack or if there was any attack on our members that they needed to defend themselves or others,” Briggs told colleagues. “What this bill does, it extends civil immunity both for personal and property damage to our service members.”

And, said Briggs, a retired U.S. Army colonel, “because this [legal defense] could result in financial ruin of our services members if there’s ever litigation brought against them for their actions we provide legal counsel to those members also.”

Note: It’s SB1760, awaiting a vote in the House Civil Justice Committee.

TN congressmen seek honor for WWII soldier

Army Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds was honored last week by Israel for an act of bravery that saved as many as 200 Jewish Americans during World War II and members of Tennessee’s congressional delegation think it’s time for his own government to do the same, reports Michael Collins.

U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., R-Knoxville, and the state’s two U.S. senators — Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker — have begun looking for ways the U.S. government might be able to formally honor the Knoxville soldier, who died in 1985.

Duncan’s office has been working for two years to round up the supporting documentation needed to nominate Edmonds for the Medal of Honor.

It’s a huge undertaking. The medal has been awarded to just 3,496 recipients since it was first presented in 1863. Complicating matters further are the eligibility requirements, which state that the medal is to be awarded for personal bravery or self-sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty during actual combat with an enemy of the United States.

Edmonds’ defiance against the Germans certainly was an act of personal bravery that went above the call of duty. President Barack Obama said so last Wednesday during an emotional ceremony at the Embassy of Israel, where Edmonds posthumously became the first U.S. serviceman to receive the highest honor Israel bestows upon non-Jewish people who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.

Edmonds’ almost unbelievable display of courage happened in 1945, when he was a prisoner of war. One day, the Germans ordered all Jewish POWs in his camp to report the next morning in front of their barracks. Edmonds, the highest-ranking officer in the camp, ordered all of the camp’s POWs — Jews and non-Jews alike — to stand together.

An estimated 1,000 serviceman assembled in front of their barracks the next morning, Jan. 27, 1945. Upon seeing the mass of prisoners, the German officer in charge said, “They cannot all be Jews.”

“We are all Jews,” Edmonds replied.

Some of the men standing beside Edmonds that day remember him standing his ground, even when the German officer pulled out his pistol and threatened to shoot him. “If you shoot me,” Edmonds said, “you will have to shoot all of us, and after the war, you will be tried for war crimes.”

The German officer gave up and left.

Edmonds’ actions are credited with saving the lives of 200 Jewish American POWs. But Edmonds’ act of bravery took place while he was a prisoner of war, not in actual combat. That raises questions about whether he’s eligible for the Medal of Honor.

TN shooting deemed terrorist act; medals for victims

By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — After determining a shooting at a Chattanooga reserve center this summer was inspired by foreign terrorists, the Navy will award the Purple Heart to the four Marines and one sailor who were killed and the one Marine who was injured there.

U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced the decision Wednesday in a news release. He said the finding that the shooting was terrorist-inspired came after an extensive investigation by the FBI and Naval Criminal Investigation Service.

“This determination allows the Department of the Navy to move forward immediately with the award of the Purple Heart to the families of the five heroes who were victims of this terrorist attack, as well as to the surviving hero, Sgt. Cheeley,” Mabus’ statement reads.

The FBI earlier labeled shooter Muhammad Abdulazeez, a naturalized U.S. citizen, a homegrown violent extremist but declined to say what might have motivated him. His family said he had problems with drugs and depression that prevented him from holding on to a job. He was also in debt, and considering bankruptcy at 24.

But investigators also found writings from Abdulazeez that reference Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric who encouraged and inspired attacks on the homeland and was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2011.

Earlier Wednesday, FBI Director James Comey told reporters the July 16 attack was “inspired and motivated by foreign terrorist propaganda.”
Continue reading

TN Marine, slain in WWII, returning for burial Sunday

By order of Gov. Bill Haslam, flags over the State Capitol and all state office buildings shall be flown at half-staff Sunday in honor of Marine Lt. Alexander Bonnyman of Knoxville, killed Nov. 22, 1943, as a soldier in the World War II South Pacific battle of Tarawa. That’s from an email today by David Smith, Haslam’s communications director.

News release from state Department of Veterans Services:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Veterans Services Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder recognize the service and sacrifice of 1st Lieutenant Alexander Bonnyman, Jr. Bonnyman, of Knoxville, was assigned to Company F, 2nd Battalion, 18th Marines Regiment, 2nd Marine Division when he was killed in action on November 22, 1943 after several days of intense combat on the island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll.

Approximately 1,100 Marines were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded. Bonnyman personally led a 21-man team in the attack against Japanese forces holding a large concrete blockhouse and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for personal acts of exceptional valor during the battle. He was 33 years old.

After the battle of Tarawa, service members were buried in a number of battlefields on the island. In June 2015, a team from History Flight Inc. notified the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) after discovering a burial site on Betio Island.
Continue reading

Bill grants immunity to Guardsmen shooting at terrorists

News release via Senate Republican Caucus:
NASHVILLE — State Senator Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville) said today he is introducing legislation to provide immunity and personal liability protection for Tennessee National Guard members involved in protecting themselves or others in a terrorist attack.

Following the terrorist attack in Chattanooga resulting in the death of five military service members, Major General Max Haston, Tennessee Adjutant General, authorized the carrying of personal firearms on state military facilities by Tennessee National Guard members with valid handgun carry permits. State law, however, does not provide immunity or personal liability protection in the event of damage or injury sustained in defense of the service member or others during a terrorist attack.

“Our Tennessee National Guardsmen have become targets of terrorists as demonstrated by the tragic events in Chattanooga,” said Briggs, a retired Army Colonel with combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The intent of this bill is to provide the service member legal cover in defending him or herself and others during a terrorist attack. I believe my fellow Tennesseans and state legislators will agree this protection is necessary for our Guardsmen.”

Senator Briggs is developing the bill in consultation with Haston and other law enforcement officials. The bill will be filed for consideration during the 2016 General Assembly Session which is scheduled to reconvene in January.

“The attack in Chattanooga reminds us of the constant threat, on and off the battlefield, facing our brave men and women in uniform,” added Briggs. “This legislation will strengthen current security measures implemented by the Adjutant General to help protect them.”

Biden calls Chattanooga killer ‘perverted jihadist’

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday called the slaying of four Marines and a sailor at a Chattanooga reserve center the act of a “perverted jihadist.”

Biden’s comments came at a memorial to the five servicemen killed in a shooting rampage by Kuwait-born Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez.

“These perverse ideologues, warped theocrats, they may be able to inspire a single lone wolf to commit a savage act, but they can never, never threaten who we are,” Biden said. “When this perverted jihadist struck, everyone responded.”

The vice president’s strong words contrast with the official comments of investigators who have not yet been able to determine a motive behind the attack. The FBI has said it has not been able to determine whether the 24-year-old Abdulazeez was “radicalized” before the July 16 attacks and has been treating him as a homegrown violent extremist.

Speaking before Biden, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said officials may never know “what combination of disturbed mind, violent extremism and hateful ideology” was behind the shooting, but vowed that the United States would present a strong response.

“The few who threaten or incite harm to Americans — violent extremists or terrorists, wherever they are — will surely, very surely, no matter how long it takes, come to feel the long arm and the hard fist of justice,” Carter said.
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McCormick bill provides in-state tuition to children of soldiers killed in TN

News release from Gerald McCormick
(NASHVILLE) —House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) announced today that he has filed HB 1407, legislation that would provide in-state tuition to any postsecondary institution in the University of Tennessee and the Tennessee Board of Regents systems for children of military parents who die as a result of a targeted attack on Tennessee soil. The in-state tuition would be available to these children regardless of their domicile or place of residence during the child’s enrollment in the institution.

“Clearly, there is no greater sacrifice than to lay down one’s life in service to their country,” said House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick. “I think being able to do this for the children of our fallen heroes is an opportunity for Tennessee to show its appreciation for the service of these men and women and it may possibly ease a future burden on the family members.”

Gerald McCormick lives in Chattanooga and represents District 26, which is part of Hamilton County.

Note: It’s HB1407. No Senate sponsor yet, according to the legislative website.