By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
For several years Athens Now has discussed the spiritual assault on our troops through examples of the restriction of their religious liberties in such places as the United States Air Force Academy, the removal of Bibles from MWR (Morale, Welfare Recreation) hotel nightstands, the forbidding of praying in Jesus’ name, and the oxymoronic ordination of “atheist chaplains.”

There is good news, though, of a pushback that unsurprisingly has the Marines running point on the op. General Robert B. Neller, who is the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, had the following to say to his “Leathernecks”:
“Fitness is a vital part of being a United States Marine. Although we all understand the importance of being physically fit, it is also important to remember the other three aspects of overall fitness: spiritual, mental, and social. All of these aspects are essential to the well-being of each individual Marine and Sailor, and our Corps as a whole…

Research indicates that spiritual fitness plays a key role in resiliency, in our ability to grow, develop, recover, heal, and adapt. Regardless of individual philosophy or beliefs, spiritual well-being makes us better warriors and people of character capable of making good choices on and off duty…

By attending to spiritual fitness with the same rigor given to physical, social and mental fitness, Marines and Sailors can become and remain the honorable warriors and model citizens our Nation expects…”

What? Where is Mikey Weinstein (not to be confused with the nefarious Harvey) when you need him to be a whistleblower or watchdog protecting our troops from religion, which Marx calls the “opiate of the masses”? Well, predictably, Mikey didn’t stay silent for long. His response to the General was:

“This is nothing more than a Trojan Horse for fundamentalist Christians to proselytize to a captive audience.”

The point that Mikey is missing is that General Neller has an endgame that is steadfastly secular: “Spiritual well-being makes us better warriors and people of character capable of making good choices on and off duty.” He didn’t say how, he just said that it does, and Mikey has no leverage because it is up to the individual to figure out what that means for him or her.

The Marine’s most senior enlisted leader, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green is part of the pushback. On November 27, he made it clear that an aspect of spiritual fitness has to do with resolving differences and coming to the place where they will lay down their lives for each other on the battlefield. He also said that in his 34-year career he had never seen a Marine refuse to participate when a chaplain uttered some of the most comforting words on earth: “Let us pray.” He also had this to say:

“We set aside all of those differences to go forward and be willing to die for the very people that we love, for the nation, the Constitution and the flag that we honor,” said Green. “That’s the unique thing.”

Green had been called upon to address leaders from all of the branches to clarify the concept of spiritual fitness, with the great irony being that at the end of the day, spiritual things, be they fitness or anything else, just can’t be clarified through the use of one’s noggin. However, he did say this:

“Well, if you believe in God, yeah, we’re talking about that. But we’re really talking about that spirit regardless of where we come from.

We truly understand that’s an opportunity to dedicate ourselves to the soldier, sailor, airmen, Marine, Coast Guardsmen, National Guardsmen to our left and to our right – to say, ‘If you’re down on the battlefield, I’m coming to get you,’” he said.
That, ladies and gentlemen is what it means to be Semper Fidelis, always faithful, and if the Corps has anything to do with it, no one is going to take that away from our Leathernecks or any other service member, ever.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Hardly a day goes by without me talking, thinking, or reading about neuroscience, the relatively new and ever-burgeoning study of everything squishy residing between our ears. It has become my passion, along with helping people build every aspect of their health, and the more I learn, the more I understand myself and others, particularly soldiers. It is because of the understanding of neuroplasticity, the fact that we can literally, physically change our brains for the better, that I have more hope than ever for PTSD sufferers, particularly those who have seen combat. And, the great gift is, that if it was the battlefields of Omaha Beach, Korea, Vietnam, the Balkans or the Middle East wars, it doesn’t matter, you can still grow a new brain and recover from whatever you have seen or done. You can also stop apologizing for missing the fellow soldiers with whom you experienced what have come to be called “high-ordeal moments.”

There has been a recent discovery that has added a positive new twist on what makes our “fearfully and wonderfully made” brains all the more so, and it is right on time for the holidays. This understanding has explained some things to me about my own brain, and by extension I am hoping it will help those who have served as well as their families during this holiday season.

By way of explanation, I devoted an entire chapter in my book, A Ballad For Baghdad, to a discussion on celebrating holidays in a combat zone. The chapter is called “Have Yourself A Merry Little…” and in it I clumsily try to explain why the holidays I celebrated in Iraq between 2004-2007 are my all-time favorites. In no way do I mean that I would trade them for holidays with my family, it’s just that now I have learned that there was something extra physically going on in my brain while in-theatre, and beginning to explore it has made me much more comfortable inside my own skin…and brain.

It turns out that there are several factors that go into making memories, and it is the combination of celebration as well as struggle, and the neuro-chemicals of both when combined with the electrical system in our brains that make the most powerful memories and bonds. It is explained in more detail in a book written by Chip and Dan Heath entitled, The Power Of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact. You might want to put this on your wish or gift list.

We all remember things that are peak events, such as our wedding day or the births of our children. We also remember pushing through that last barrier, whether it was the end zone, the long bomb basket with no time on the clock, breaking the tape or hitting “send” as we uploaded our last assignment. What happens is that in a combat zone people are often times intensely experiencing both things at the same time, and the brain is treated to a double dose of chemicals that serve to create the “Band of Brothers.” If spouses and family members can get comfortable with the fact that their loved ones’ brains were bathed in creative juices that were designed by their Maker to help and not harm, to inspire and not isolate, then the jealousy that oftentimes hits those who “weren’t there” can be redirected in to understanding as well as building a whole new and unique set of memories. Eric Barker puts it this way:

“Anthropologist Dimitris Xygalatas found that groups that went through “high-ordeals” bonded far more than those that went through “low-ordeals.” Struggling together made people closer. This is why fraternities haze. Why soldiers feel like they are kin.”

I used to feel a little crazy or guilty for wishing I could be teleported for a few hours each holiday back into the Great Sandbox, but not anymore. Now I know that my brain was doing exactly what it was designed to do by the One who loves me the most, and I am grateful to the Heath boys for telling me why. Happy Thanksgiving, and may your holidays and your brains be immersed in healing, gratitude, and true Light.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Since 2009, we as the American people have been “treated” to one of the strangest cases of desertion/kidnapping/prisoner exchange/collaboration with the enemy/and who knows what else in the form of the Bowe Bergdahl case. First he claimed to have been kidnapped, then it looked like he had deserted his base, then that he had been “flipped” by the enemy, then his dad gave a weird speech in a Rose Garden ceremony that almost seemed Bowe’s father was sympathetic to the enemy. Then Bowe went back to work for a while, then he vanished from the news cycle, and then all of a sudden he was pleading out for desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Strangeness begets strangeness.

It needs to be remembered that soldiers were severely injured and/or lost their lives while looking for Bowe, and all the interviews I have seen have indicated that those who returned from the search and rescue detail believe Bowe is guilty of treason. For them, a desertion conviction may very well seem light weight. It is also disturbing that we gave up 5 jihadists for Bowe, and while I question if that was wise, there may be one ray of light coming forth all these years later, and I’ll get to that in a minute.

To add to the strangeness of this adventure are Bowe’s comments about himself. Interestingly, there are over 25 hours of interviews with him that are on film, something that would have made me nervous if I were his JAG lawyer. And then there’s the blog, wherein he talks about his motives for leaving his post.

“I was trying to prove to myself, I was trying to prove to the world, to anybody who used to know me … I was capable of being what I appeared to be,” Bergdahl says. “I had this fantastic idea that I was going to prove to the world I was the real thing.”

Ok, I don’t know what he means by that, or what led him to completely change his tune and plead guilty. I do know that he has had problems that caused him to be rejected by the Coast Guard, and unfortunately, the stereotypical statement that the Army will take anybody looks like it wants to be true. So what is the one blessing that has come out of this mess?

It is this: human intel, one of the most important components of any campaign, and apparently, Bowe is a veritable treasure trove of the stuff, and his years of living with the enemy are finally going to be put to good use. He is able to give great detail with regard to a number of important factors such as teaching our soldiers how to survive being confined in small places. Bowe was able to make detailed sketches of the cage in which he lived, and a replica has been made for training. Basically, S.E.R.E. Training , which means Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape has been able to be updated, which is enormously helpful. Understanding how the enemy works is important, and I am glad that something good is coming out of this, one of the oddest cases in the history of American military justice.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
We have been involved as a country for several months now in various controversies about the national anthem, kneeling, protesting, the NFL, and the latest proof that our 1st Amendment protected freedom of expression is alive and well in America is broadcast on radio and TV day to day. In America, we are free to protest, and our soldiers, first responders, law enforcement officers and officers of the court see to it that peaceful protest is protected. There is nothing new about this, and it is one of the things that makes the American Experiment so amazing.

However, suppression of patriotic expression took on a new twist this past week when a Georgia surgeon aboard a Delta flight from Philly to Atlanta, which was also transporting one of the bodies of the 4 soldiers recently killed in Niger, was told she could not join other passengers in singing the Star Spangled Banner in his honor. The name of the fallen was Staff Sgt Dustin Wright, and the name of the physician who wanted to honor him by singing the national anthem with fellow passengers is Dr. Pamela Gaudry. Dr. Pamela is from Savannah. She and her fellow would-be singers were told that other passengers from other countries who might be on board could be made “uncomfortable.”

“I couldn’t put up with that,” Gaudry told The Associated Press in an interview Monday. “I wouldn’t be offended if I was in their country.”

Not one to make trouble or a scene, she decided to be quiet until she got off the plane, but she had time to think about what happened while she rested her head on the seatback in front of her. As soon as she de-planed, she recorded a six-and-a-half-minute video on her phone and put it on Facebook. Just three days ago there were more than 778,000 views.

What is so odd about this incident is that the pilot announced over the loudspeaker at the beginning of the flight that Dustin’s body was on board, and there was a virtual groundswell amongst the passengers in response. Dr. Gaudry began asking other passengers if they could join together in singing the national anthem, and they enthusiastically agreed. I have been on flights when soldiers were honored, and there was never any concern about anything or anyone but the brave who were on board.

They started to sing, and then the chief flight attendant came back to Dr. Gaudry’s seat, knelt down, and told her that it was “against company policy to do what you are doing.” As recorded in her viral video, Gaudry later went on to ask the flight attendant, “The national anthem? And there’s a soldier onboard?” The flight attendant reiterated that they could not sing the national anthem, and that it was against company policy. One of the most poignant parts of her “recorded confession” was when Pamela said, “I just did the most uncourageous thing in my life today.”

Anthony Black, a spokesman for Atlanta-based Delta, declined to comment on the specifics of Dr. Gaudry’s incident, but he did say, “There is not a policy about singing the national anthem, period.”
What is Delta policy is that it is not allowed to release the identity of a fallen soldier to other passengers during the course of the flight, and that makes sense from an operational security standpoint. You never know who is on board, or their possible connection to the deceased.

With regard to her video, Dr. Gaudry said, “If it instigates a spiritual and patriotic feeling in this country, I’m thrilled.” She added, “I’m not real thrilled with the attention to myself.” It seems that the theme of this edition of Athens Now is doing the right thing and suffering the consequences, and what I particularly appreciate is that though she caved a bit in the moment, she re-thought her position and let everyone know the good, the bad and the ugly of what had just happened. In my opinion, that shows true courage, even if it came in the form of a second chance. In my book, Gaudry has guts.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
There is a brouhaha brewing over a confusing statement written on the inside crown of a West Point Cadet’s dress cover which states, “Communism will win.” A young Army soldier-turned-officer by the name of Spenser Rapone, who served honorably in Afghanistan and then graduated from the Academy in 2016, felt that it was important to express himself politically, and he is understandably in hot water. The slogan is bad enough, but wait, there’s more.

Here is what stands out to me. First, there is huge store put in the care of one’s dress uniform, especially for something as important as graduation. Spit and polish for the shoes, creases that are so sharp they could double as weapons and cut you, and brass that shines like gold on your cover’s medallion, your buttons, and your buckle. Soldiers spend hours getting ready for such a special occasion. In a word, you just don’t vandalize your cover, or officer’s hat. I don’t care if you used a permanent Sharpie to write the preamble to the Constitution on the inside of your cap, you are out of line, and I am glad someone is calling him on it.

Secondly, as West Point officer in your dress uniform, you carry yourself with proper decorum and grace. A fist, something that as a socialist I used to make fairly often more than 45 years ago, began to be used in 1917 by all manner of groups whose ideologies are not consistent with those of an American military officer. The Black Panthers used the fist, white supremacists used it, along with Mexican revolutionaries, Chinese government officials, the Communist Party of pre-WWII Germany, US Olympic Athletes in the 1968 Mexico City games, and others. I can’t tell you what is going on in this kid’s head and heart, all I know is that when I pulled the kind of stuff he has, I hated America, and I certainly could not make a pretense of taking an oath that I would defend the Constitution “from all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Maybe he can.

Spenser either does not know the true history of communism, or he secretly agrees with the actions of the nations that have killed many times more than the Japanese and the Nazis combined. You can’t have it both ways. It is estimated that in Russia alone, from 1917 until present day, the communist system has killed more than 61,000,000, and with their brethren in other countries committing “democide,” the number is close to 94,000,000. “Communism will win?” That’s your hope, US Army 2nd Lt. Rapone?

Enter Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who is so disturbed by the lack of action on the part of West Point that he is calling for Spenser’s censure or dismissal. Here is a portion of his letter to them:
“It is extremely concerning that someone who so often expressed such hostile views towards the United States’ system of government was able to obtain a commission,” he wrote. “(His) revolutionary ideas were harbored long before he was commissioned as an Army second lieutenant. Were West Point administrators or faculty aware of his views and behavior?”

Good question, Senator Rubio. I hope we get our answer sooner than later.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Floridian Air National Guard Senior Airmen Michael Davis and Lauren Durham were all set to get married on the beach this weekend. Everything was ready—the dream dress, the venue, the cake, the music, the wedding party, the guests, and the minister. However, Irma decided she would invade, and these two, who had been sweethearts since they were right out of high school, had to cancel their wedding because duty had not just called, it howled through the wind and waves of a hurricane. They had to mobilize with their fellow ANG members for disaster response, and reported to the Convention Center in Orlando. Their deployment was going to be indefinite, so they informed their families and friends that for the time being, Irma had nixed their nuptials.

However, while hanging in the hangar this past Sunday morning, and eating breakfast with their buddies, an idea began to emerge: “Why not get married today?” At first it seemed like a crazy, hare-brained far-fetched joke at best, and then there came that point of decision and intention that can only be summed up with a “Yeah, let’s.” Everyone then sprang into action. They set up chairs, and the wedding canopy was a rack of rubber rescue boats. Other “decorative details” included rescue vehicles, and just in case the bride or groom fainted, there was a bevy of paramedics on board. (That, of course, was only a joke and highly unlikely.)

The bride and groom wore matching uniforms, their only option. The difference was that Michael had on a “tux shirt,” one of those black T-shirts that are designed to look like the front of a tuxedo, which had been miraculously produced by his buddies in spite of the fact that all the stores in Orlando were closed. The bride also wore no makeup, nor wowed the crowd withan elaborate hairdo, but somehow someone found some orange flowers and made a bouquet for her. The couple’s best friend happened to be a notary public, and he officiated.

Now, a cake was another matter entirely. When I was in Iraq and we had to avoid population dense environments such as the D-Facs (which is Armyspeak for Dining Facility, formerly known as Chow Halls or Mess Halls) due to a large increase in the threat level, one learned that certain MREs, (Meal, Ready-to-eat) had specific trade-offs. The vegetarian burrito MREs, while not the meal of choice for a steak-and-potatoes kind of guy, had real-live M&Ms in the package, and they were often the first to be pirated off of the pallet on which the MREs were stacked. Michael and Lauren decided that the Skittles in their MREs would have to do, and that was going to be the wedding cake, at least for now.

As much fun as I had imagining this totally impromptu celebration, what got to me, as it always does, was the attitude of the newlyweds. It never crossed the minds of either Michael or Lauren to try to get out of their duty because of their wedding.
“Service before self,” Michael said, “and it will be a great story to tell our kids one day.” I hope that when the waters recede, they get to have the wedding of their dreams, should they still want it. Mazel tov, dear Airmen, and thank you for your service!
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Yvonne Dempsey
On Monday, August 28, the citizens of Athens gathered at the Alabama Veterans Museum to welcome a patriotic French lady who has devoted many years to honoring the sacrifice of American soldiers. Madame Jocelyne Papelard-Brescia lovingly cares for the graves of American soldiers buried in France and strives to “perpetuate their memory and honor their sacrifices.”

It was France’s Marquis de Lafayette who so bravely fought alongside Gen. George Washington against the British in the American Revolution. He and the French naval forces were instrumental in the British surrender at Yorktown and winning the war. Lafayette was hailed a hero during his visit to the states in 1824. He is buried in Paris under soil from Bunker Hill. When the U. S. entered WWI, his grave was the first place that Gen. Pershing visited.

America, in return, sent her military to France in WWI and WWII. She lost many brave men on foreign soil, never to return home. France is the final resting place for thousands of America’s sons. Many heartbroken families have been left to grieve from afar, unable to visit the graves of their loved ones. However, these soldiers’ sacrifices have not been forgotten thanks to the efforts of Jocelyne.

Jocelyne began her mission with two soldiers by placing flowers on their graves, praying, and researching to discover more about the American soldiers; she has since then personally ‘adopted’ many more. In a Sunday morning edition of a local newspaper, Jocelyne told about her mission and urged others to join her in honoring these Americans and adopting them. The response was immediate and in 2014, the U. S. Memory Grand Est France Association was formed to “pay tribute to the American soldiers dead and missing.” She is responsible for the adoption of 1700 soldiers’ graves.

As president of the organization, Jocelyne is dedicated to remembering these American soldiers through events, memorial dedications, and ceremonies. She works to ensure that French students are taught about the great sacrifices of the American soldiers. Through Jocelyne’s tireless research, she is able to link stories and put faces to the soldiers lying in the graves. Each one has a place in her heart. “These are my boys. They are my pride and joy.”

Jocelyne has worked to provide funds to 16 families to visit their loved one’s graves and attend events in their honor. She travels extensively throughout our country visiting soldiers’ families, attending events, and doing research. When Jocelyne visited our city, she was accompanied by the Thornton family, an Alabama family whose loved one’s grave was adopted by Jocelyne. From here she will be traveling to South Carolina and several other states to meet families, attend events, and research her “boys.”

While in Athens, Jocelyne got a good dose of Southern hospitality and good food. Jerry Barksdale told her, “You can’t leave Athens without eating some fried catfish.” So several of us headed to catfish Cabin. And here is where the story gets really good and you know that God was in charge.

I sat directly across from Jocelyne and enjoyed talking with her. Jerry was seated to her left and encouraged her to try the fried catfish filets. She enjoyed the hushpuppies, which she had never eaten before. Mary Winn, co-owner, came by our table to talk with us. Sandy Thompson, Al. Veterans Museum director, introduced Jocelyne to her, telling Mary about her. Mary couldn’t believe it; she had an uncle buried in France! And at Epinal, the very cemetery where Jocelyne’s boys are!

When Mary showed us a picture of her uncle, Joseph Graham, a surprised Jocelyne cried out, “I know him! I know him!” She told Mary that she knows exactly where he’s buried. Needless to say, it was quite an emotional revelation. Jocelyne remembers the superintendent of the cemetery, Mr. Anderson, showing her Joseph’s picture and telling her of his family’s visit 4 years ago. We could only marvel at how wonderfully God works in our lives. There are no coincidences. God has it all figured out. He enabled Jocelyne to travel from France to our small town of Athens where she unexpectedly met a family member of one of her American soldiers. Now she has her own story to tell.
By: Yvonne Dempsey

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
In a week when we have had historical statues being pulled down, political races heating up, and North Korea rattling its saber, it’s refreshing to have this edition of All Things Soldier be relatively fluffy. In The Stairwell is an a capella all-guy singing group comprised of United States Air Force Academy Cadets. The unusual name of the group comes from an Academy tradition of relegating new cadets to gather in the Academy’s stairwell for social gatherings. Being “sent to the stairwell” is a combination of punishment, discipline, and a privileged spot, and clearly it has great acoustics. For years they have performed on and off the Academy campus, and slowly began to gain a reputation as a solid performing group.

Stairwell was first formed in 2004, and they have gone on to gain national notoriety through the Season 12 series broadcast of NBC’s America’s Got Talent. As of Wednesday night when we went to print, they had advanced to the semi-finals. I have been cheering them on all season, in part because I have become unexpectedly acquainted with the parents of one of the contestants.

While their vocal production is impeccable, one of the things that makes them so endearing is the awkwardness of their choreography. It is this combination of clumsiness and charm that I don’t think could be an act. It is just who they are, and America has gone wild over them. Another thing about them that has captured our hearts at least in the South is their unfettered patriotism. They absolutely love the prospect of potentially being in harm’s way in the service of their country. “We love America and we love to sing” couldn’t be more powerful or simple.

It makes me wonder, what if we joined them? What if we just decided that we were not afraid to love America, warts and all, and we were not afraid to sing in the shower or on the street? What if we chose to believe that for this great nation it is worth being in danger, and if our dance is a bit dumb, who really cares? At the end of the day, we could say that we danced, and no one stopped us.

For my part, it is my hope that In The Stairwell does well in the finals, though they are up against some stiff competition from a variety of other contestants. They have also been humble and genuinely sportsmanlike when dealing with winning. It is what I would expect from those who are being trained to be “officers and gentlemen,” and it is a joy to behold.

Lastly, the bond of pure loving unity that has been forged by In The Stairwell as a result of the years that they were having to hangout “in the stairwell” is powerful. These guys genuinely care about each other, and win or lose, I do believe that they will remain friends forever. They are of every color and background, with a common purpose that I hope becomes infectious.
By: Ali ElizabethTurner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
The technical definition of “treason,” according to the United States Constitution is as follows:

“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”

On Wednesday, August 02, 2017, Terrence Joseph McNeil, an Ohio resident who admits to being a supporter of ISIS, pled guilty for urging the beheading of American soldiers on several social media sites. He posted names, addresses and pictures of close to 100 members of our military. He will be spending 20 years in prison for confessing to “the solicitation to commit a crime of violence” and five counts of “making threatening interstate communications.” While he had no prior criminal record, he had been removed from Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr due to the violent content of his posts. He also published the name and address of the Navy SEAL who allegedly fired the kill shot that took out Osama bin Laden.

Another post said the following, and displayed the pictures of several members of our armed forces:

“O Brothers in America, know that the jihad against the crusaders is not limited to the lands of the Khilafah, (Caliphate) it is a world-wide jihad and their war is not just a war against the Islamic State, it is a war against Islam…Know that it is wajib (translated to “necessary”) for you to kill these kuffar! (unbelievers) and now we have made it easy for you by giving you addresses, all you need to do is take the final step, so what are you waiting for? Kill them in their own lands, behead them in their own homes, stab them to death as they walk their streets thinking that they are safe…”

It never ceases to amaze me how jihadists are always trying to get everybody else to do the killing!

On Wednesday, August 02, 2017, Acting U.S. Attorney Avida A. Sierleja said, “This defendant was dedicated to attacking members of the military here in the United States. This kind of fanaticism is dangerous and will be aggressively prosecuted.”

But is this actual “aggressive prosecution?” While I am glad that Mr. McNeil was found guilty, on a certain level I don’t think putting a radicalized Islamic ISIS-supporting man in general population is going to make our soldiers any safer. Islam is growing at an alarming rate in our prisons, especially amongst African-American inmates. So now this guy has all the time in the world to make disciples who could “answer the call” years before McNeil himself is eligible for parole. I would not be at all surprised if the reason he pled out in the first place rather than stand trial was to make sure he put himself in a position where he literally had a “captive audience” that could be flipped and recruited to help usher in the Caliphate. It would not be the first time. At the very least I hope he gets put in solitary so he can’t vent his venom at chow time or over gin rummy.

In 1953, the Rosenbergs were executed for espionage because they sold secrets to the Soviets. I think it’s a safe bet that if social media had existed back then and McNeil had “tumbld” and “tweeted” his treason, he would have met the same fate, and probably not many soldiers would have wept. “Trolls” that commit terrorism – who saw that coming?
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
One of the things that stood out to me as well to Iraqis when I was in Baghdad from ’04 to ’07, was the medical and humanitarian care that was given by our troops to civilians, the injured, and even the enemy. The same is true in Israel, something that has been well documented, even by people who live in nations that want to destroy her. The care provided by the IDF is so well known throughout the Middle East that, for example, residents of devastated Syria leave at nightfall to sneak to bases in the Golan Heights to get treatment and help. They go back under cover of dark so they are not detected, which, ironically, could lead to their death. The IDF op is called Operation Good Neighbor, and the looks on the faces of the “treaters” as well as the “treated” says it all.

As one male medic replied when asked why he did it: “To help someone whose life is in danger, to do this simply without a motive or agenda, to help because you can.” A female medic said, “It’s very fulfilling to know that you can make a change.” Another female medic’s answer was, “It really is [a] feeling of purpose, both of purpose and of value of human life.” A burqa-clad Syrian woman whose identity had to be concealed said, “I arrived in Israel through the border in order to take care of my child, and no matter how much we thank Israel, we still owe her. We thank them very much because they take care of our injured and help our children.” But the one that gets me the most is a little Syrian girl who is coloring with crayons and for safety’s sake has to keep her back to the camera. Her tender little voice says, “I love Israel a lot. I wish I could be here.” I ran into this in Iraq more than once: Arabs who loved Israel and wanted the freedom to be able to say so.

It is also well known that Syria has been using what are known as “civil war spillover” tactics, i.e., they pretend to be fighting only their civil war while they launch attacks on Israel, and yet the citizens of Syria know that it is the Israelis who will help if they get caught in the crossfire.

So, why am I bothering to write about another army’s medical and humanitarian efforts? I have two reasons. The first is that I am very tired of the continual Hamas propaganda that accuses the IDF of war crimes, though Hamas and others are the ones using women and children as human shields when Israel defends itself after being attacked. It is astonishing to me to read the comments of people, Americans in particular, who believe those accusations and never bother to check to see if they’re true. “Fake news” is real, and Israel is not immune.

The second is to discuss some new battlefield medical technology that is being used by the Israelis that saves lives by stopping bleeding through the use of balloons. It is called Resuscitative Endovascular Balloon Occlusion of the Aorta, or REBOA, and is used when a person is about to bleed out from a traumatic aortic injury. A catheter balloon is placed into the aorta and then inflated, which stops the bleeding. I have no doubt that soon, when the IDF is fully trained in this procedure, Syrians are going to be some of the ones who will benefit. Why? Here is a quote from an Israeli doctor by the name of Yitzhak who is excited about REBOA: “In Israel, we tend to be busy with trying to live fulfilling lives or dying at the hands of our enemies. IDF medics risk their lives to give correct care to everyone, including wounded Syrians across our border, humanitarian aid to people all over the world and even medical care to our enemies.” I don’t think we’ll be hearing a comparable quote from a Hamas doc any time soon.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner