This Week at War: America is Behind You
The Stream's weekly look at the sacrifices of U.S. troops and military families at home and abroad.
With thousands of American troops still at war in Afghanistan and around the Middle East, more details are emerging about the surprise February 25 U.S. airstrike in Syria.
The Washington Post reports that one Iranian-backed militia fighter was killed and two others were wounded in last week’s air assault. The Wall Street Journal reports that two F-15E airstrikes had actually been planned before President Joe Biden called one off due to the presence of Syrian women and children.
The remaining airstrike was reportedly carried out by American fighter jet pilots at around 1:30 a.m. Syria time. It appears to have targeted a border station used by Iranian-backed militias to cross into Iraq, according to both newspapers.
President Biden, whose war powers are currently being debated by Congress, ordered the strike “in response to a Feb. 15 rocket attack on a facility housing U.S. forces in northern Iraq that killed a civilian contractor and injured several others, including a U.S. service member,” according to The Washington Post. Previous rocket strikes also targeted the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and Balad Air Base.
On Wednesday, yet another rocket attack hit a base housing American troops in Anbar province. No U.S. service members were wounded on Ain al-Asad Airbase, according to USA Today, but a civilian contractor reportedly passed away after a cardiac episode suffered during the strike.
The deadly attack raised security concerns ahead of a visit to Iraq by Pope Francis, who decided to go ahead with his historic trip. The pontiff arrived in Baghdad on Friday, calling for “an end to the acts of violence and extremism.”
VIDEO: Pope Francis is welcomed by Iraqi President Barham Saleh as he arrives at the presidential palace in Baghdad, on the first papal visit to Iraq pic.twitter.com/TTAIGUrJLb
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) March 5, 2021
There are about 2,500 U.S. service members stationed in Iraq, with a few hundred more risking their lives in Syria. Thank you to all our brave troops at war in the Middle East, as well as their families here at home. America is behind you!
Top U.S. military officials are weighing whether to make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for all U.S. service members, according to Military.com.
“Obviously, we’re thinking about what happens when they become FDA-approved,” said Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby. “It would change the character of the decision-making process, about whether they could be mandatory or voluntary.”
The Military.com report notes that “so far, the military has acquired nearly 1,276,000 doses, and given almost 1,145,000 shots. About 735,000 of the shots were initial doses, and 409,000 were second doses.”
As of Thursday, there had been 163,574 coronavirus cases inside U.S. military ranks, according to Pentagon statistics. Of those infected, 123,429 had recovered, 1,407 had been hospitalized, with 24 tragically passing away from the disease. We pray for their families.
Veterans ‘Do Good’
A new YouTube series is showcasing the central role played by veterans during hurricane rescue and relief efforts in Louisiana.
“The citizen-led relief we saw in action after the hurricanes shows that people are hungry to help those in need,” said Rob Gaudet of the Cajun Navy Foundation in a statement provided to The Stream. “The ‘Do Good’ series verifies that when neighbors offer neighbors efficient, fast help, with no red tape and very little overhead, they can’t be stopped.”
The new series, which is co-hosted by two military veterans, will donate all YouTube revenue to a group of charities. Please be sure to watch “Do Good” on YouTube starting this Friday!
A group of Maryland National Guard soldiers is back home after spending the last nine months at war in Afghanistan.
Welcome home, warriors! Thank you for stepping forward to serve our country in wartime.
Tom Sileo is a contributing senior editor of The Stream. He is co-author of Three Wise Men, Brothers Forever, 8 Seconds of Courage and Fire in My Eyes. Follow Tom on Twitter @TSileo and The Stream at @Streamdotorg.