This Week at War: Uncompromising Respect
The Stream's weekly look at the ongoing sacrifices of U.S. troops and military families around the world.
Iraq and Syria
U.S. Central Command officially announced on Wednesday that 42,471 square miles of territory once held by ISIS has been liberated from terrorist control.
“As a result, 7.7 million people no longer live under (ISIS) oppression,” according to the Centcom statement.
Despite the indisputably magnificent progress by American and coalition troops, the fight continues. According to Centcom, there were 18 strikes targeting terrorists in Iraq between April 7-20. The results included the destruction of eight ISIS buildings, three tunnels and two caves, according to the new data.
There was no reported military activity in Syria during the same time frame, which marks the first time I can remember no coalition strikes being disclosed in several years of reading these Centcom reports.
Despite the reduced level of violence in both countries, please continue to pray for our brave men and women in uniform. The struggle against ISIS in Iraq and Syria isn’t over until every single American warrior is out of harm’s way.
A stark reminder of this ongoing reality came on Saturday when a 22-year-old U.S. Army soldier, Spc. Ryan Dennis Orin Riley, lost his life while serving in Iraq’s Ninawa Province. While the tragedy is classified as a non-combat incident that’s currently under investigation, the Kentucky native’s passing is devastating for his family, friends and fellow soldiers.
“We are deeply saddened by Ryan’s passing. Our hearts go out to his family as together we mourn the loss of our brother-in-arms,” said U.S. Army Col. Derek Thomson, as quoted by the Louisville Courier-Journal. “As we grieve this tragic loss, we will also draw strength from his memory as his mates continue to build the capacity of the Iraqi Army and enable the defeat of ISIS.”
Three more Gold Star families are grieving as their loved ones are laid to rest. All three U.S. Marines made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan earlier this month.
Funeral services for U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman are underway in New York ahead of the fallen warrior’s April 30 burial at Arlington National Cemetery. The 43-year-old Marine Corps hero was also a longtime firefighter who’s being saluted by fire departments in the numerous states where he lived and served during an extraordinary life and career.
Local first responders lined the route to pay their respects as a procession carrying the remains of Staff Sergeant Christopher Slutman, a U.S. Marine and New York firefighter, traveled from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to New York, for his funeral. https://t.co/4M7gIADZEI pic.twitter.com/xaBy3IH78Z
— ABC News (@ABC) April 22, 2019
“He came to us and said ‘This is what I want to do,'” the fallen hero’s father, NYPD homicide detective Erik Hendriks, told the newspaper. “It was his decision, and we didn’t stand in his way.”
Memorial services for U.S. Marine Sgt. Benjamin Hines, 31, started Wednesday in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.
“Everyone who met Ben was always greeted with his welcoming smile, uncompromising respect and infectious sense of humor,” according to Sgt. Hines obituary. “He was always a selfless individual who put the needs of others before his own.”
Please pray for the Riley, Slutman, Hendriks and Hines families as they say goodbye to their – and our country’s – fallen heroes.
There is nothing more uplifting than a photo of a U.S. service member greeting his or her family after returning safely from an overseas deployment. The below image is no exception.
Welcome home, hero. Thank you for your dedicated service to our nation.
Tom Sileo is a contributing senior editor of The Stream. He is co-author of three books about military heroes: 8 Seconds of Courage, Brothers Forever and Fire in My Eyes. Follow Tom on Twitter @TSileo.