Families waved goodbye to their loved ones serving in the Navy on Wednesday morning when about 400 sailors were deployed from Florida's Naval Station Mayport just 13 days before Christmas.
“It’s a hard time,” sailor Brandon Sanderson told Jacksonville's ActionNewsJax, pausing as he was overcome with emotion. “Sorry. Seven months though, seven months. We’ll be back.”
Tearful goodbyes from the pier were a common sight.
Sanderson was one of the approximately 400. He left warm wishes with his four daughters, wife and mother Wednesday morning.
“Our whole family, church family at Christ Church we’re just praying for him,” said Sanderson's wife. “And (we) look forward to him coming home soon. We’re just counting the days.”
They’re deploying in support of maritime security operations, crisis response and theater security cooperation. They’ll also provide a forward naval presence in Europe and the Middle East. Sanderson said these days are never easy, but he remains focused on his mission.
“Make it all back alive,” he said. “See our family, friends, loved ones and everything, and get on about our day.”
More than 4,500 sailors and Marines will deploy in the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group, and 22nd Marine Expeditionary Group will deploy next week to meet the ship.
“Gotta be there to support one another,” said Sanderson. “That’s why we’re here, (to) support the country, support one another.”
The group is flying the flag in eastern Burke County because it believes the University of North Carolina is trying to hide the toppled Confederate statue, Silent Sam, by placing it inside a building.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans erected the flag to honor those from Burke County who fought in the Civil War.
The organization said it will place huge flags along major highways in North Carolina for every Confederate memorial removed in the state.
“This is our repercussion for this,” Burke Tigers Sons of Confederate Commander Elgie McGallird said. “As long as they keep desecrating and taking our memorials down, we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing.”
A Navy chief petty officer and his wife welcomed their newborn son to the world – on the side of I-95 in Jacksonville, Florida.
The day before the baby was due, Amy Tetreault took her 3-year-old daughter to look for seashells at Fernandina Beach. She figured it was their last chance for some girl time before the baby came.
On the way back to St. Marys, Georgia – where the family lives – she started having contractions.
Her husband, Chief Petty Officer Paul Tetreault, was at home with their two boys. She called him and her midwife.
"I told her my contractions are every 5 minutes and they're about a minute long, do you think I should come in?" Amy said. "She said, 'Oh no. You sound alright. You don’t need to rush in.' I was like, 'Uh, OK. I'm kind of nervous.'"
She said she got home and got in the tub, but the contractions kept getting more intense.
She asked a friend to come watch her three children while she and her husband got ready for the trip to the UF Health Birth Center in Jacksonville.
They had to stop for gas because her tank was empty from the trip to the beach.
"Of course there's no gas pump open. He's like doing laps around and around, and I'm like 'Can you hurry it up?' And all of I sudden I felt a pop – my water just broke."
Paul quickly put $7 in the tank and they got back on the road. They made it to Jacksonville and were just a few miles from the hospital when Amy turned to her husband.
"I was like, 'Oh boy, I can feel his head,'" she said. "Luckily, it was right when we were getting on the off ramp so he pulled into the grass and put it in park."
Her husband ran around the car to his wife's side.
"She was like, 'Don’t pull the baby!' I was like, 'I'm not!'" he said. "Waited, then maybe three seconds later the whole baby comes out – just like the three other births, arms flopping."
Paul caught the baby and said he was thankful he started crying immediately – meaning he was breathing.
"(Paul) just handled the business, got up, handed him to me, hopped back around and kept driving," Amy said.
Amy says she doesn't remember snapping a selfie right after the birth. She found it on her phone a few days later.
"It was definitely a bonding experience. It was weird how through it all I was never nervous or scared," she said. "Compared to my last three births in the hospital, I never expected it to go as smooth as it did."
Baby Austin was 7 pounds and 13 1/2 ounces – a happy, healthy baby boy.
"It was nice the way – I mean a little crazy – but nice the way we had the baby. Because it was on her terms, the baby's own terms and we just did what had to be done," Paul said.
Paul Tetreault is stationed at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay.
Thieves in Washington state stole more than $5,000 worth of building materials from the construction site of a disabled veteran’s future home in Maytown, Thurston County.
“When you feel like you’re not really worthy of a home in the first place and then you come out here and you find somebody’s broken into a box and stolen a bunch of materials, you know, from your project that have been donated for free – that just makes me feel even worse,” said Sgt. Jereme Sawyer.
The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office said the theft happened at 4022 150th Ave. SW.
Someone broke the lock off a storage container sitting in front of Sawyer’s future home and stole nine windows, worth more than $5,000.
Miller Construction contractor Carey Miller broke the news to Sawyer on Tuesday.
“The handle was open and, obviously, there was no lock on it, so you could tell someone had been in the container,” said Miller.
Sawyer has been through a lot.
On April 3, 2012, an IED exploded under him when he was in Afghanistan.
“I lost both of my limbs, obviously. Both of my eardrums blew out. My left eardrum was 100 percent; my right eardrum was 25 percent. The blast threw me back,” he said. “It gave me a traumatic brain injury because I hit my head so hard and it also gave me two bulging discs in my lower spine."
Since then, the retired Army veteran has overcome the unthinkable. Now, he has to deal with even more.
Construction workers said they want to track down the person who stole from Sawyer.
“I’d honestly look them in their eyes and ask, ‘Did you know this home was being built for a troop, a wounded warrior?’ And I’d love to see their expression, and I’d pretty much go from there because if I didn’t see a tear, I’d probably make a tear,” said Chris Greenwood, Site Worx Northwest owner.
“I feel like I need to take some form of action, but what do I do?” said Sawyer.
Homes for Our Troops is the organization funding the building of the home. Many materials are also donated by local businesses.
“Homes for Our Troops is going to be a big part of my life that will allow me to even become a first-time homeowner,” said Sawyer.
Those who’d like to help can donate to Homes for Our Troops. Anyone with information is asked to call the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office at 360-704-2740.
You can help make it a perfect Christmas for those who defend our country.
It’s called Trees for Troops, and for 14 years, the group has delivered Christmas trees to military families -- 17,400 last year alone and 208,720 overall.
The trees went to 70 military bases in America, as well as four international bases.
So, how can you help?
You start by visiting select tree farms across the country and buying a tree for yourself and at the same time buying one for a military family between this Friday and Monday. Then the trees will be delivered to bases all over the country.
Donations are also accepted.
Click here for a list of participating tree farms and where the trees will be delivered.
Someone stole the cane a disabled veteran uses to get around, and it was all caught on camera.
Surveillance video shows the man entering a Georgia restaurant with the cane and moments later, another man appears to take it.
"I had to learn how to walk all over again," said the Army veteran, who asked WSB-TV not to use his name in this report. He told WSB-TV's Matt Johnson that the chronic pain in his feet makes it nearly impossible to walk without a cane.
"I'm in pain 24/7. There's nothing I can do about it," he said.
For the past eight years, the Army veteran relied on a cane his daughter gave him as she battled cancer, not knowing if she would live or die.
"It came from somebody who had all she could pray over, much less worry about me getting a cane, so it's been that special to me all these years," he said.
She's now cancer-free, and the cane made from a palm tree grew to be a symbol of her survival.
He never expected to be without it until last Sunday.
Surveillance video shows the Marietta grandfather walking gingerly toward a bathroom in a Calhoun Kentucky Fried Chicken while a man at the register watches.
Minutes later, the man in black walks out of the bathroom with the cane and props it against the wall. He picks up his order, appears to pick up the cane and walks out of the store.
Without his cane, the victim said he felt weak.
"A lot of leaning up against the wall, leaning up against people," he said.
He watched the video that workers at the KFC on Highway 53 showed him.
"It was beyond anger; it was disappointment," he said.
He filed a report with the Calhoun Police Department and now even has a replacement cane.
He doesn't want anyone in trouble; he just wants what's his.
"I would cry, and it would be tears of joy rather than the tears I've shed over its loss," he said.
He hopes whoever is responsible will return the cane to the KFC or to the Calhoun Police Department.
Ray Chavez, the nation’s oldest veteran survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor, died at his California home Wednesday morning, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. He was 106.
Three years ago, fellow Pearl Harbor veterans recognized Chavez as the oldest survivor of the attack by the Japanese in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941, the newspaper reported. Chavez was a quartermaster on the USS Condor at the time of the attack, KSWB reported.
“Ray Chavez was a very active member for years (of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association) and I admired the man,” Stu Hedley, 97, a retired Navy chief petty officer who served on the USS West Virginia at the time of the attack, told the Union-Tribune.
Chavez was born in San Bernardino, California, in 1911 and grew up in San Diego, the newspaper reported. In 1938 he joined the Navy and was assigned to the USS Condor at Pearl Harbor.
At 3:45 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941, Chavez’s crew was sweeping the east entrance to the harbor when they spotted the periscope of a Japanese midget submarine. After depth charges were dropped to sink the sub in 1,500 feet of water, the next few hours passed uneventfully.
He told the Union-Tribune that he was asleep in nearby Ewa Beach when the Japanese bombing raid began around 8 a.m.
“My wife ran in and said, ‘We’re being attacked’ and I said, ‘Who’s going to attack us? Nobody,’” Chavez told the newspaper. “She said that the whole harbor was on fire and when I got outside I saw that everything was black from all the burning oil.”
Chavez, who said the only Republican he ever voted for was Dwight D. Eisenhower, caused a minor stir in May when he was invited to meet President Donald Trump at the White House for Memorial Day, his daughter, Kathleen, told the Union-Tribune. The night before his Oval Office visit, Chavez was interviewed at his hotel by a CNN reporter and said on a video aired nationally about Trump: “I didn’t vote for that guy.”
However, Chavez impressed the president the next day, and Trump praised the veteran during the Memorial Day services. The White House tweeted its sympathies on Wednesday.
Chavez also met Secretary of Defense James Mattis and toured national monuments in May, KSWB reported.
Chavez did not mention the attack for many years, his daughter said, until he went to Hawaii for the 50th anniversary of the attack in 1991, the Union-Tribune reported.
“War. Being in right in the middle of it,” Chavez told KNSD while recalling his military career. “It was quite a surprise. I saw everything. Smoke and fire.”
A female is one step closer to becoming a member of the elite Green Berets.
The woman is the first female to complete the Special Forces Assessment and Selection, a U.S. Army Special Operations Command spokesman told CNN.
The soldier’s name has not been released because of the sensitive missions assigned to Green Berets.
The woman will attempt the Special Forces Qualification Course, USASOC spokesman Lt. Col. Loren Bymer said.
The Army Times reported that several women have tried the Special Forces Assessment and Selection process, a 24-day program but, before now none have advanced.
The Green Berets is one of the Army’s only divisions that doesn’t have female members. Since being permitted to join combat groups, more than a dozen women have earned the Ranger tab, the Army Times reported.
Three women joined the Marines infantry in January 2017, as part of the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
One of the women, Cpl. Remedios Cruz was discharged in September after admitting to having had an intimate relationship with a subordinate, The New York Times reported. She and the lower-ranking Marine eventually married, the Times reported.
She faced charges of fraternization, adultery and accessory to larceny, but pleaded guilty to fraternization to avoid going on trial.
An officer who was in charge of a pretrial hearing found no probable cause for adultery and larceny charges but said that she should be administratively punished for fraternizing with the man she had married before the charges were investigated, the Times reported.
But her battalion commander said that all three charges should go to trial, despite the pretrial hearing’s findings. She was given the choice of going to trial, or accepting the plea agreement, admitting to fraternization.
Cruz, who was a sergeant at the time, was reduced to a corporal rank and restricted to base, The New York Times reported.
She is awaiting separation from the service, the Marine Corps Times reported.
The Army has about 740 women serving in combat roles that were restricted to only men in the past, The New York Times reported.
It was a long time coming – 56 years – but a veteran from Pennsylvania finally got something he's waited decades for: his high school diploma.
"It took a long time to get here because people asked why I didn't come before – well, I was too busy making a living," said James Neal. "My friend was talking about the class reunion; I said I never did that because I never graduated."
And before that he was busy serving our country, in Vietnam in the Navy.
But he had unfinished business.
As a junior, Neal withdrew from North Allegheny Senior High School and never got to graduate with his class of 1962.
When the school district recently heard about it, they set to work to change it with the help of a Pennsylvania law, "Operation Recognition."
"I am at the end of the law," Neal said. "It went from WWII to Korean veterans to Vietnam veterans. I guess the law will run out when the Vietnam veterans are gone."
Operation Recognition allows districts to give diplomas to honorably discharged veterans whose service in World War II, the Korean War or Vietnam interfered with their schooling.
One pilot was killed and another hurt when a military jet crashed Tuesday at Texas' Laughlin Air Force Base, officials said.
According to a news release, the Air Force T-38C Talon crashed at 7:40 p.m. Tuesday on the base. One pilot died, while the other was taken to Val Verde Regional Medical Center for treatment.
28 yr old Capt. John F. Graziano, an instructor pilot with the 87th Flying Training Squadron was killed in the crash according to the Air Force’s Air Education & Training Command.
Injured in the accident was Capt. Mark S. Palyok, also an instructor pilot. He was released from Val Verde Regional Medical Center on Nov.14.
The incident is under investigation, officials said.
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