Service & Sacrifice: Fire in the Sky

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

U.S. forces fire 120mm illumination rounds using an XM905 advanced mortar protection system from a fire base in the al-Shadaddi region of Syria on February 14, 2023.

By Tom Sileo Published on February 18, 2023

Middle East

American military forces serving in the Middle East are still dealing with serious threats from Iran and multiple terrorist groups.

On Thursday, U.S. Central Command announced that four U.S. troops and a military working dog were injured during an operation targeting a senior ISIS leader in northeastern Syria. Three of the four wounded service members are being treated at a U.S. military hospital in Germany. Please pray for their full recovery.

The ISIS terrorist, Haza al-Homsi, was taken out during the battle. “Hamza al-Homsi oversaw the group’s deadly terrorist network in eastern Syria before he was killed in the raid,” U.S. Central Command said. A separate Thursday night raid in the same area of northeast Syria reportedly killed an “ISIS assassination cell leader.”

On Tuesday, the U.S. military shot down an Iranian-made drone that was believed to be spying on a northeastern Syria patrol base that houses American troops.

“On February 14th, at approximately 2:30 p.m. local time, U.S. forces in Syria engaged and shot down an Iranian-manufactured UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) attempting to conduct reconnaissance of Mission Support Site Conoco, a patrol base in northeast Syria,” U.S. Central Command posted on Twitter along with two photos of the drone that can be seen below.

“These activities are attempts to detract from our partner forces’ Defeat-ISIS mission,” U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Matthew McFarlane added. “The coalition retains the right to self-defense and will not hesitate to take appropriate measures to protect our forces.”

The Stream has long been reporting on the drone threat being faced by the roughly 900 U.S. troops still serving in Syria and approximately 2,500 in neighboring Iraq. Complicating matters, “the U.S. and Iran both carry out counterterrorism missions in Syria, although the two countries support different groups,” Fox News reported this week. “The U.S. backs a Kurdish-led group known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, which leads an autonomous government in northeastern Syria, and Iran supports the central government in Damascus.”

Despite ongoing threats, the U.S. is providing humanitarian aid to Syria — thanks to a six-month license granted by the Treasury Department to work around sanctions, according to the Military Times — and neighboring Turkey. The U.S. military sprung to action after a devastating series of earthquakes killed more than 40,000 people in the two countries last week, delivering nearly 6,000 tons of equipment and supplies in Turkey alone.

“The role of U.S. military forces during this disaster relief mission is to rapidly respond to this natural disaster with critically needed capabilities and life-saving equipment, delivering assistance to aid areas the government of Turkey deems most necessary,” a report by Staff Sgt. Gabrielle Winn said earlier this week. “According to 1st Lieutenant Joseph Flemming, 728th AMS flight commander of resource and readiness, the 728th AMS Airmen have played a critical role in downloading cargo and equipment for the relief effort to those in need throughout the country.”

Please pray for all earthquake victims, as well as U.S. troops braving tough working conditions and ongoing threats throughout the Middle East.

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve almost certainly heard about the series of unidentified objects being shot down by the U.S. military after a Chinese spy balloon first appeared over the United States earlier this month. Speculation about the objects is abound, whether centered on Chinese spying or even aliens.

As The Stream‘s Albert Perrotta explains in The Brew, President Joe Biden finally spoke about the troubling subject on Wednesday:

“First he discussed the three objects knocked out of the sky in Alaska, Canada and over Lake Huron, respectively. ‘We don’t yet know exactly what these three objects were. But nothing right now suggests they were related to China’s spy balloon program or that they were surveillance vehicles from any other country.’”

Vox added that “a U.S. program studying UFOs may have helped detect the initial balloon.”

Aviation Week also reports that “a small, globe-trotting balloon declared ‘missing in action’ by an Illinois-based hobbyist club on February 15 has emerged as a candidate to explain one of the three mystery objects shot down.” NORAD and the National Security Council are reportedly looking into the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade’s theory.

Late Friday, the U.S. military announced it was giving up the search for the objects shot down over Lake Huron and near Deadhorse, Alaska.

Whatever the cause and no matter what mistakes have been made by government officials, it is comforting to know that the brave men and women of the U.S. military are protecting our homeland. Thank you to each and every one of this nation’s volunteer warriors for keeping us safe.

Coming Home

A group of U.S. Marines returned to North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune this week after successfully serving a deployment to Japan.

Military Homecoming from Japan

A U.S Marine embraces his son after returning home from a Japan deployment to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina on February 16, 2023.

Welcome home, heroes! Thank you for serving our country overseas.


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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