This Week at War: Angels in the Sky

The Stream's weekly look at the sacrifices of U.S. troops and military families in Afghanistan and around the globe.

A recent airstrike destroys an ISIS fighting position in the Mohmand Valley of Afghanistan's Nangarhar province.

By Tom Sileo Published on March 11, 2018


American fighter jets pounded ISIS and Taliban positions all around Afghanistan this week. According to NATO, several terrorists were eliminated in airstrikes conducted in the Jowzjan, Kunar and Nangarhar provinces on March 3 and 4.

The article cites a specific airstrike in the Darzab district of Jowzjan province, which NATO said killed nine ISIS-affiliated fighters.

Thank you to our country’s angels in the sky for protecting U.S. and Afghan troops, as well as civilians on the ground. We are grateful for your precision, skill and sacrifice.


The third American service member to die this year during the ongoing U.S.-led campaign against ISIS was laid to rest on March 4 in Hutchison, Kansas. According to the Department of Defense, U.S. Army Sgt. Christina Marie Schoenecker, 26, died in Iraq on February 19 in “a non-combat related incident.” The Baghdad tragedy is currently being investigated by the U.S. military.

According to The Hutch Post, which covered the fallen soldier’s packed funeral service, Sgt. Schoenecker volunteered to serve in 2009. The article goes on to explain that “Tina,” as she was known to family and friends, was a tough soldier who “also had a soft spot in her heart for others.”

You can read Sgt. Christina Marie Schoenecker’s full obituary here. Please join The Stream in praying for this departed warrior’s loved ones and fellow soldiers.

Honoring the Fallen

I also wanted to spotlight the story of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Jopek, who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq back in 2006. On Tuesday, according to WJFW-TV in Wisconsin, a local brewery named a new beer in honor of the fallen soldier. The Sawmill Brewery is located in the soldier’s hometown of Merrill, Wisconsin.

“The whole community came together to make this a reality for a fallen solider, which is amazing,” Chris Burger, a brewer who once served alongside Staff Sgt. Jopek, told WJFW.

I interviewed Staff Sgt. Jopek’s father, Brian, in 2013. As you can read about here, the father was actually deployed to Iraq when his son volunteered for Army service. In a tragic irony, Ryan was not old enough to legally consume a beer when he was killed in action on Aug. 2, 2006, by an enemy improvised explosive device near Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit.

Thank you to The Sawmill Brewery for helping to keep this fallen hero’s selfless legacy alive.

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Coming Home

It’s hard to imagine your loved one risking his or life in a foreign country. For the last several months at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, 150 military families of U.S. Army paratroopers were wondering, worrying and praying as their husbands, wives, sons and daughters served in Afghanistan.

On March 4, the long wait finally came to an end when 150 hero Devil Brigade warriors came home as part of a wave of 82nd Airborne Division soldiers returning from Afghanistan in the coming weeks. As the below photo demonstrates, almost no feeling can match knowing that your hero has returned safely from a war zone.

Soldiers Home from Afghanistan

U.S. Army paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division’s Devil Brigade return to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, from Afghanistan on March 4, 2018.

Welcome home, heroes!


Tom Sileo is a contributing senior editor of The Stream. He is co-author of three books about military heroes: 8 Seconds of CourageBrothers Forever and Fire in My Eyes. Follow Tom on Twitter @TSileo.

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