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Top Military and Vet Stories of 2013

By Rick Rogers
Rick Rogers Media

There were no shortages of big military and veterans’ stories in 2013 that are sure to reverberate well into 2014 and beyond.

From the Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden cases to the continuing fight of veterans to win disability benefits to the boogeyman of sequestration to military sexual assaults to gays and lesbians gaining legal standing in the ranks, it’s been an eventful if not historic year.

Here now are my top military and veteran stories of the year:

  1. Sequestration or Much Ado About Very Little, Part I. The sky was supposed to fall after a congressional committee failed to agree on spending cuts to defense and domestic programs and thereby allegedly triggered across-the-board cuts known as sequestration. The action was supposed reduce Pentagon funding by $500 billion in the next decade. While sequestration caused a great deal of hand wringing and some cancelled air shows, the real affect on the military has been minor as Congress has restored many of the cuts. There’s a reason why the defense lobby spent $136 million to sway Congress in 2013.
  2. While many won’t lump the Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden cases together, I see many similarities. Both involved young men, presumably acting alone, who decided to breech national security by divulging classified information entrusted to them. Both exposed secrets that many Americans found illuminating, and both were relatively low-ranking workers given access to enormously sensitive data. The cases likely foreshadow a recurring tale as the public’s right to know runs up against government secrets in the Internet Age.
  3. Gays and lesbians finally win the right to serve openly in the military — or Much Ado About Very Little, Part II. Let’s be clear: Gays have served in every military the world has ever known, be it Roman, Greek, Persian, German or American. Granting them official status in the U.S. military simply bows to an open secret. Considering that up to 75 percent of military-aged men and women are ineligible for service for one reason or another, the country needs all the qualified men and women it can attract – regardless of sexual orientation. On this issue, the troops were far ahead of their commanders. They simply shrugged when asked about serving with the gays they were already serving with while their generals painted dire scenarios that never played out.
  4. Military Sexual Assault is without question the blackest scourge in the ranks, and despite the Pentagon’s best efforts – I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt here – the problem continues to fester. In the interest of full disclosure, I believe it also a somewhat over stated crime. That said, Military Sexual Assault cases reportedly jumped more than 50 percent last year. Even if that figure is off by half, it’s still a stinging indictment that suggests a force gone off the rails. This issue isn’t going away. Women are the fastest growing demographic in the military, and legislators are justly hounding the military to reverse this cancer that kills morale and undermines accountability.
  5. The backlog of veterans’ benefit claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs would rank higher on the list had the VA not whittled it down dramatically. Last spring the number stood 900,000. Now the number roughly 400,000. Still too high, but a vast improvement.  That this is a lesser of a story is a good thing.
  6. A legal Stolen Valor Act measure gets signed into law. President Bush the younger signed the original Stolen Valor legislation into law several years ago. Problem was the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. That decision quickly sparked new legislation making it a crime to lie about war exploits for personal gain. This time the legal ducks appear in a row. Impostors beware.
  7. Distinguished Warfare Medal – AKA the Drone Medal –- shot down. The year saw one of the most ill considered medals in recent memory epically fail. It wasn’t that former Defense Sec. Leon Panetta’s approval of the so-called Drone Medal was a bad idea so much as placing it above the Bronze Star earned in combat was an indefensibly horrible idea that only a politician could even consider with a straight face. Such a medal would’ve meant that some joystick jockey stateside could earn a more prestigious medal than someone who suffered the privations of combat and actually put their neck on the line. Thankfully, Sec. Def. Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam veteran who knows what real combat is, stepped in and did the right thing.
  8. Short run for the kabuki theatre production of the Syrian chemical weapons bluff. The Obama administration painted itself into a corner by stating the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons would invite military intervention by the United States and other western powers. After multiple reports surfaced suggesting these weapons of mass destruction were used, the United States faced a credibility dilemma. Thank the Russians for saving the United States from the equally unsavory prospects of either attacking Syria or the embarrassment of inaction by securing a WMD deal.

Agree or disagree, give me a write and tell me what you think.

Rick Rogers is a longtime defense reporter and columnist who lives in San Diego. He can be reached at Rick.W.Rogers@gmail.com

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One Response to "Top Military and Vet Stories of 2013"

  1. Madden says:

    Hi,That nice post Tks

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