u.s. service members

Service for service members

Since the creation of the first Army Chaplain position in 1775, clergymen have been part of the U.S. military. Chaplains provide service members with spiritual counsel and conduct religious ceremonies. In this photograph, Chaplain Lt. Commander McElroy conducts mass while a Marine keeps watch.

Vietnam….A Marine stands watch in an observation tower as Lieutenant Commander McElroy, the 3rd Battalion, 26th Marines chaplain, holds mass on Hill 950.

Learn more about “Remembering Vietnam.”

Arlington National Cemetery 

U.S. Army Capt. Ed Arntson of Chicago, Illinois kisses the grave of Staff Sgt. Henry Linck, who was killed in Iraq in 2006. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Memorial Day is a United States holiday observed on the last Monday of May. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. Service Members who died while in the military service. First enacted by formerly enslaved African-Americans to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War, it was extended after WWI to honor Americans who have died in all wars. (Wiki)

Alcohol ban for US troops in Japan
A Marine is under arrest for drink-driving after a deadly crash stokes resentment on Okinawa.

All U.S. service members in Okinawa have been restricted to their bases and residences and banned from drinking alcohol in response to a fatal traffic accident in the prefectural capital over the weekend, U.S. Forces in Japan announced Monday.

“The new restrictions follow an accident Sunday morning in Naha… . Alcohol may have been a factor,” USFJ said.

The announcement follows the arrest of a marine who was reportedly involved in an accident that resulted in the death of a Japanese man in Naha.

In addition, U.S. service members elsewhere in Japan are prohibited from purchasing or consuming alcohol on or off base until further notice, the U.S. military said in a statement.

The travel and drinking bans are the latest imposed by the U.S. in reaction to offenses committed by its personnel on the island prefecture. In May last year, U.S. officials in Okinawa banned off-base drinking after a civilian employee was arrested for allegedly murdering a Japanese woman in Uruma.

On Sunday, Pfc. Nicholas James-McLean, 21, was reportedly found with a blood alcohol level exceeding the legal limit after his 2-ton military truck collided with a minitruck at an intersection in Naha at around 5:25 a.m.

The driver of the minitruck, identified as 61-year-old Hidemasa Taira, was confirmed dead at a hospital. The marine was arrested on suspicion of negligent driving resulting in death.

A witness reportedly told the police that the military truck ran a red light and hit the minitruck as it was attempting to make a right turn.


Life and Death in the Korengal.

Baker Company, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division in the Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan, August 2009.

(Photos and article by Sergeant Matthew Moeller, 22 AUG 2009.)

KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan — As bullets started to rain down on Baker Company’s position, a Soldier sighed, and said, annoyingly, “Well here we go.”

Over the next twenty minutes the service members fired everything from bullets to curse words at the invisible enemy attacking from the surrounding hills.

“Just once I’d like to come out here and not get shot at,” said an exasperated U.S. Army Sgt. Graham Mullins, of Columbia, Mo., using a four-foot stone wall for cover. “Just once.”

Near the end, two F-15 fighter jets pummeled the insurgent forces with 500-pound bombs, and an eerie silence fell across the battlefield. For the U.S. service members, it was just another morning in the notorious Korengal Valley. 

Nicknamed “The Valley of Death,” the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, Soldiers have called the isolated valley, in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, home, since arriving in June.

“This place is definitely its own monster; there are a lot of other dangerous places in Afghanistan, but I would say this place lives up to the hype,” said U.S. Army Capt. Mark Moretti, Co. B. commander, and New Windsor, N.Y., native.

“It’s all just a waiting game,” said a Co. B Soldier, during a ‘routine’ patrol. “We come out here, and wait for them to open fire on us.”

Seeing some of the toughest fighting in Afghanistan on a daily basis, many Baker Co. Soldiers find humor in the idea that many of their fellow Soldiers are envious of their assignment, who often refer to the almost constant battle as the 'infantryman’s dream.’

“I would tell them to seriously reconsider their thinking positions,” U.S. Army Spc. Guadalupe Gardenias, a B Co. Soldier, said, laughing.

Living in conditions that rival the third-world villages they patrol, the tiny U.S outposts dotting the valley walls are in stark contrast to other American mega-bases in Afghanistan, such as Bagram Airfield, which offers everything from personal internet to American fast food restaurants. 

Here, if a resupply helicopter gets cancelled, Soldiers miss not only letters from home, but risk having to ration their food.

At the Korengal Outpost, Soldiers use outhouses and hope to shower once a week to conserve water. At nearby Restrepo Outpost, Soldiers lack any running water, and eat field rations for every meal.

“The conditions out here are tough, and it’s a tough fight,” said Moretti. “But given the chance, I don’t think anyone would want to leave.”

Despite daily gun battles, poor hygiene and tortuous terrain, the men of Baker Co. seem content living their life in the “Valley of Death.” When asked if they would take an easier assignment, the answer was always the same. “Not unless everyone else came with me." 

To these Soldiers the debate back home about the war in Afghanistan means little. To them, it’s the brotherhood, born in combat, keeping these Soldiers motivated to stand shoulder to shoulder.

"Before I came into the Army a lot of people would talk about brothers in arms, and I thought it was kind of cheesy, but being out here, I can definitely say that it brings us a lot closer,” said Gardanias. “Cause no matter what we say, or what we do, nobody besides us is going to know what we went through, and what it was like.”


U.S. military combat camera service members practice ambush techniques during Fleet Combat Camera Pacific’s Winter Quick Shot 2015 joint field training exercise in the Angeles National Forest near Azusa, Calif., Feb. 25, 2015. Quick Shot is a semi-annual exercise that improves combat camera service members’ abilities to operate in a tactical environment. 


Last week I hitched a ride with the USO and travelled all over the world. Okay not ALL over the world but a pretty decent chunk of it. Chris Daughtry, David Wain, and I visited our U.S. service members in Italy, Djibouti, Bahrain, Afghanistan, and Germany. We met a whole lot of different people who all gave us such warm welcomes! All the guys and gals were great - I can’t say enough about them.

Overall, it was an amazing experience. Keep our service members in your hearts and/or prayers this holiday season!


U.S. Navy service members, attached to Coastal Riverine Squadron (CORIVRON) 2, conduct insert extract training with the Belize Special Boat Unit during Southern Partnership Station 2014 (SPS-JHSV 14). Southern Partnership Station 2014 is a U.S. Navy deployment focused on subject matter expert exchanges with partner nation militaries and security forces. U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet employ maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations in order to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships that foster regional security in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Andrew Schneider/Released)

U.S. service members, attached to Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, rest after an extensive firefight took place during an operation in the Nejrab district, Kapisa province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2014. USSF assisted ANASF and Commandos on an operation to disrupt insurgent freedom of maneuver in the area. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Connor Mendez/Released)


U.S. Navy service members, attached to Coastal Riverine Squadron (CORIVRON) 2, conduct insert extract training with the Belize Special Boat Unit during Southern Partnership Station 2014 (SPS-JHSV 14). Southern Partnership Station 2014 is a U.S. Navy deployment focused on subject matter expert exchanges with partner nation militaries and security forces. U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet employ maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations in order to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships that foster regional security in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Andrew Schneider/Released)

Gone but never forgotten.


To all those lost,

We left behind remember you,

Honor your memory and sacrifice

With gratitude.

This our burden to bear

And we perform our solemn duty

Without remorse.

In observance of annual tradition, all current Tomb Sentinels lined up at the Tomb at noon today to lay a wreath in honor of all fallen service members.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr, 25 DEC 2013.)

As he was cocking it to shoot it, Alek just yells, ‘Spencer, go!’And Spencer runs down the aisle… [and] tackles the guy.
—  Anthony Sadler, a senior at Cal State Sacramento, who helped his two friends – both U.S. service members – stop a gunman on a high-speed train to France. The Americans are being praised as heroes, as well as the Briton and Frenchman who helped them.

To our brothers and sisters in the Missouri National Guard:
We are writing to you as active-duty U.S. service members and veterans, most of us having served in the Iraq war.
You have a choice you can make right now.

The whole world is watching the Ferguson police with disgust. They killed an unarmed, college-bound Black youth in broad daylight, and subsequently responded to peaceful, constitutionally-protected protests with extreme violence and repression.

Countless constitutional and human rights violations by these police have been documented over the course of the Ferguson protests; from attacking and threatening journalists, to using tear gas against peaceful protesters, including children.

Now, Governor Nixon has again activated the National Guard to “support law enforcement.” But you don’t have to follow their orders—you can stand with the protesters instead.
Our true duty

When we signed up, we swore an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States.

The police in Ferguson are violating that Constitution.
The First Amendment guarantees the right to free speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press.

These laws are, as we are taught our entire lives, our most cherished Constitutional rights—the whole basis for the “freedom” we are told makes us the greatest country on Earth.


A U.S. service member assigned to the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan (CJSOTF-A) demonstrates room clearing techniques to Afghan Commandos of the 6th Special Operations Kandak in Camp Commando, Kabul province, Afghanistan, Nov. 27, 2013. Members of CJSOTF-A continue to train and mentor Commandos to take security leads.(U.S. Army photo by SFC Brehl Garza / Released)

The Aftermath Of A Marine's Conviction In The Death Of A Philippine Trans Woman
Trans sex workers in Olongapo, Philippines still don’t disclose their trans status to clients, even though a U.S. Marine was recently convicted of killing a Filipina sex worker upon discovering she was trans. Since the conviction — for the lesser charge of homicide — locals are eager to reestablish normal relations with U.S. troops. But will sex workers remain vulnerable?
By Meredith Talusan

It’s close to midnight in early December on Waterfront Road in Olongapo, Philippines, which stretches along the water’s edge where U.S. military vessels dock. Dimly lit by yellow tungsten lamps, women’s figures in tight clothing — short dresses or body-hugging jeans — walk down the street, shadows covering their faces. The women tend to travel in small groups of two to six, as do larger figures that come into sight less frequently: foreign men, as it turns out, mostly white, a few black. There are rows of tiny lights on the ocean tonight, from a couple of U.S. military ships in the distance.

At the Olongapo Hall of Justice the afternoon before, U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton was sentenced to six to twelve years in Philippine prison for killing Jennifer Laude, a trans Filipina sex worker, in October 2014. His sentence was downgraded from the usual 20 to 40 years for homicide under Philippine law, in part because Laude failed to disclose to Pemberton that she was trans.

The courthouse is two miles north of Waterfront Road along Rizal Avenue Extension, which turns into Manila Avenue after a bridge over the Kataklan River, but not before passing a roundabout that leads to Magsaysay Drive. There, in a motel near the end of the block, is where Pemberton choked Laude to unconsciousness, then dunked her head in the shallow water of a toilet until she died.

There’s a hush after crossing the river now, as narrow streets full of people give way to broad avenues and wide sidewalks. This area used to be part of the Subic Naval Base, a major U.S. military facility that was closed in 1992, after a volcano eruption that resulted in widespread damage coincided with a wave of Philippine nationalism. The base was then converted into a tax- and duty-free commercial area called the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, with its U.S.-built facilities repurposed for commercial and business use. U.S. service members used to be able to roam around the area outside the former base during their leisure time, where a large number of bars, massage parlors, and other establishments that catered specifically to their needs awaited them. But since Laude’s death last year, the U.S. military has confined service members to the Freeport, and its long stretch of bars and restaurants, right next to the ocean.

“Why would I tell a man I’m trans? I need to say I’m a real woman or they wouldn’t want me.”

Now, a young woman, with hair halfway down her back, walks alone on Waterfront, in tight jeans and a shirt with quarter-length sleeves. Her figure is slim and taller than most of the girls on the street. At the very end of the road, off to the side, is an area that the city has fitted with fluorescent streetlights but has yet to be developed. “I take my customers there,” the woman says in Tagalog as she gestures toward the darkness beyond the road, “or we do it in their cars.”

Rose Ann claims she’s 17, but her voice hasn’t noticeably dropped. Her skin is dark, her face long and delicate, with a slightly upturned nose that gives her both a distinctive and proud appearance. It’s doubtful that anyone would identify her as any different from other young Filipina girls, except maybe that she’s taller and thinner than the norm.

When asked if she knew Jennifer Laude, Rose Ann says that Laude once told her she was beautiful and asked her to hang out with her crew, but she felt too young and intimidated by sex work. She saw Laude at local hangouts every once in a while, but did not speak to her except for that one time. Rose Ann recalled that single interaction with the beguiling transgender woman who was dark like her after she’d heard from a friend that she died.

Even though Pemberton killed Laude after finding out that she was trans, Rose Ann insists that she needs to keep her transgender status from U.S. service members who pay her for sex.

“Why would I want to tell a man I’m trans?” she asks, aghast. “I need to say I’m a real woman or they wouldn’t want me.”

Other trans sex workers, along with many locals and members of the LGBT community, confirm Rose Ann’s account: Trans sex workers in Olongapo keep their status secret from service members as a matter of course. These workers have operated in Olongapo even after Laude’s death, taking businessmen from Korea, China, and other countries as customers when U.S. ships were prevented from docking there. In the verdict’s aftermath, local officials and residents are eager for U.S. troops to come back and bring money into the city as they once did. The mayor’s office has convened a task force to prevent violent incidents involving trans women and U.S. military service members from occurring in the future, which encourages trans sex workers to disclose their trans status early on. But, because disclosing would inevitably lose them clients, there’s little sign of meaningful change to the conditions that led to Laude’s death at the hands of an U.S. military service member.

For her part, Rose Ann exhibits a confidence beyond even her stated age. She asserts that what happened to Laude won’t happen to her.

“I evaluate their character,” she says, her chin jutting out defiantly as she discusses her customers. “I only go with the gentlemen, and I only give blow jobs. I don’t let them touch me down there.”

But Rose Ann also occasionally goes to motels with customers, where other trans workers have reported finding it more difficult to hide their status, as Laude did the night she died. Rose Ann says she makes sure to be near a phone so she can call in case there’s trouble.

According to a number of other trans women who saw her at the bar the night she and Pemberton met, Laude also took this precaution, and even made sure to bring a friend whenever she had a customer. On being informed of this, Rose Ann expresses a fatalism common in the Philippines, a country that is both deeply Catholic and prone to superstition.

“It was simply Jennifer’s hour,” Rose Ann says. “That was why she died.”

Jennifer’s mother, Julita Laude, does not live in Olongapo, but in the far-flung province of Leyte. She took a ferry and a bus for more than 20 hours to see her daughter’s killer get convicted. She spends a quiet afternoon in her daughter Michelle’s apartment following the verdict, after enduring a battle with Pemberton’s camp the previous night about where the Marine would be detained following his conviction. That fight ended when Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde ordered Pemberton to be housed at a military camp near the capital, separate from other Philippine prisoners but under local guard.

Julita sits on a brown floral-print couch in Michelle’s modest one-bedroom duplex. Despite the conviction, she is far from satisfied, not just because of the short length of Pemberton’s sentence, but also because of the judge’s decision to keep Pemberton away from Philippine jail.

“It’s like if I wore the mask of a younger woman then he killed me when he found out that I am old.”

“We already know he’s a killer, and he still gets special treatment,” she says, her eyes welling up with tears. She also confides that there has been strife between her and Jennifer’s eldest sister, Marilou, over Julita’s decision to use some of the money from Jennifer’s bank account to pay for renovations on her house in Leyte, where she lives with her second husband. She’s concerned about how the money from the judge’s verdict, about 4 million pesos, or around $100,000 – a substantial sum by Philippine standards – would affect her relationships with her children.

Julita’s face shifts from sadness to anger as she recalls another aspect of the case: the judge’s decision that Jennifer’s failure to disclose her trans status was a mitigating factor, which led to Pemberton’s lighter sentence. While Judge Ginez-Jabalde ruled that “[t]here is no lawful aggression that justifies [Pemberton] to defend his honor,” throwing out Pemberton’s claim that he acted in self-defense when he choked Laude, she also wrote, “The mitigating circumstance of passion and obfuscation is present in this case.” The family’s head attorney, Harry Roque, later expressed his anger over this part of the verdict, asserting that Pemberton’s action was “a hate crime against the LGBT community.”

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