Service & Sacrifice: ‘Act of War?’

A snapshot of the burdens being shouldered by brave U.S. troops and military families around the world.

A U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone prepares to launch from Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates on March 10, 2023.

By Tom Sileo Published on March 17, 2023


Top U.S. military officials are calling Russia’s Tuesday takedown of an American MQ-9 Reaper drone “dangerous and reckless.”

“The two Russian jets dumped fuel on an unmanned U.S. MQ-9 aircraft conducting routine operations in international airspace, and one Russian jet struck our MQ-9 aircraft, resulting in a crash,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Wednesday. “And this hazardous episode is part of a pattern of aggressive, risky and unsafe actions by Russian pilots in international airspace.”

On Thursday, the U.S. military released footage of the incident, which clearly shows Russian fighter jets targeting and tampering with the MQ-9 Reaper.

Speaking alongside Secretary Austin on Wednesday at the Pentagon, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was asked whether Russia forcing down a U.S. military drone constitutes an act of war.

“As far as an act of war goes, I’m not going to go there. Incidents happen and clearly, we do not seek armed conflict with Russia,” Gen. Mark Milley said. “And I believe that at this point we should investigate this incident and move on from there. But we will continue to exercise our rights in international airspace.”

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The two senior military leaders also commented on Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine.

“Right now, there is intense fighting in and around Bakhmut and the Russians are making small tactical advances but at great cost,” Gen. Milley said. “Elsewhere, the front line remains relatively static, with significant exchanges of artillery but no significant maneuver gains by either side.”

“Ukraine matters,” Secretary Austin added. “It matters not to just Ukraine or to the United States. It matters to the world.”

More than 100,000 U.S. troops are stationed around Europe to deter Russia, strengthen NATO and train with allied soldiers. Please keep these brave men and women in uniform and their families in your prayers.

Middle East

A recent visit to northeast Syria by Gen. Milley to meet with deployed U.S. troops sparked controversy in the Middle East, especially in neighboring Turkey. On Wednesday, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs spelled out the reasons for his trip.

“It was nothing more than a routine troop visit to determine the task, purpose, mission, to go out and check on that, see how we’re doing, and to assess things like force protection, etc.,” Gen. Milley said. “We’ve got, you know, almost 1,000 troops in Syria and they are at risk; they are attacked from time to time with various types of munitions by various actors that are in the area of Syria.”

For years, The Stream has been reporting on the aforementioned risks faced every day by valiant U.S. service members in Syria. We must always keep praying for their safe return.

As politicians in Washington debate whether to repeal open-ended 1991 and 2002 authorizations for U.S. military involvement in Iraq, this coming Sunday marks the 20th anniversary of the second U.S. led invasion on March 19, 2003. Two decades later, approximately 2,500 American service members are serving in Iraq to combat ISIS and support the Iraqi government.

I will have some further thoughts on the Iraq war’s 20th anniversary in a special Sunday Military Photo of the Day. In the meantime, please keep all Gold Star families and Iraq war veterans in your prayers. We deeply appreciate their many years of sacrifices.

Together Again

A new class of U.S. Marines recently completed Basic Training on Parris Island in South Carolina. If you’ve seen the movie Full Metal Jacket or spoken to any current U.S. Marine or veteran, you already know how much these young men and women had to endure in order to finish boot camp and graduate.

Military Boot Camp

New U.S. Marines reunite with their loved ones after 13 weeks of rigorous training on South Carolina’s Parris Island on March 9, 2023.

Congratulations to all of these new United States Marines and thank you for volunteering to defend our freedom. Have a safe and happy St. Patrick’s Day!


Tom Sileo is a contributing senior editor of The Stream. He is the author of the recently released Be Bold and co-author of Three Wise MenBrothers Forever8 Seconds of Courage and Fire in My Eyes. Follow Tom on Twitter @TSileo and The Stream at @Streamdotorg.

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